Friday proved to be a profitable day at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia 2012, with two of my three bets proving successful.
Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych both played up to their respective handicaps, while David Ferrer took rather too long, thanks to a tight first set, to take care of Richard Gasquet and foiled a clean sweep.
So, it’s semi finals day at the Foro Italico and as usual we have the top three players in the world on show as they bid to take their places in Sunday’s final.
First up is Rafa Nadal v Ferrer at 3pm UK time. This will be the 19th meeting between the pair, with Rafa holding a 14-4 head-to-head lead at the moment.
Ferrer last beat Nadal on clay back in 2004 in Stuttgart and he’s tried 11 times since then to get a win over his rival on the red dirt without success. But their most recent meeting in Barcelona in fairly similar conditions to those in Rome was very close with Ferrer pushing Nadal all the way before Rafa came through 7-6, 7-5. FC Barcelona fan Ferrer also pushed Rafa hard in the Catalan capital in 2008, which was the last time that he actually took a set from the world number three on clay.
Any wind today will probably favour Rafa, who is used to the elements having played in the wind often back home in Majorca, although it should also be noted that he didn’t cope so well with the gusts in Indian Wells.
Nadal was under pressure from Berdych yesterday and should have lost the second set, but there’s a steely look about him at the moment and it’s virtually impossible to make a case for Ferrer winning today.
We know that Ferrer will give his absolute all this afternoon, but although it’s unlikely to be enough, it should be sufficient for him to win with a 5.5 game start on the handicap at around 1.68.
The second semi final, which is scheduled for 7pm UK time, is the unmissable clash between the top two players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
This is certainly one for ‘popcorn tennis’ fans and if recent meetings at Slams and Masters events are any indication of what’s to come, tonight could be a classic encounter.
It will be their 25th meeting in competitive matches tonight, with the Swiss leading 14-10 overall and 3-1 in matches that have been played on clay. In each of those four matches, bar the one where Djokovic retired in Monte Carlo in 2008, both players have taken at least a set and this looks all set to be another tight clash tonight.
They met at the same stage in Rome in 2009 and Djokovic came through in three sets, but Federer won their last clay meeting – the classic Roland Garros semi final last year.
Federer hasn’t been tested so far this week after benefiting from a pretty comfortable draw, so it will be fascinating to see how he copes with an opponent with the tools to match him shot for shot for the first time on red clay for a year.
The match odds market is too tight to call, with the world number one available to back at around 1.75, but if you think that this one will go the distance, as I do, the bet has to be to back over the total minutes mark of 114.
If this match does go the full three sets, it’s pretty certain that it will take longer than 114 minutes – even their match on indoor hard in Basel that went to a decider took 115 minutes, so it surely will on clay with the longer points.
I can’t really split them, so the 1.87 for the over minutes looks like the bet in this one.
Back Ferrer +5.5 games v Nadal at 1.68
Back over 114 minutes in Djokovic v Federer at 1.87