Day five at the Shanghai Rolex Masters was a little disappointing, with just the one winner on the day. Early risers would have been as frustrated as I was with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s physical condition, as he left the court after five games of his match with Tomas Berdych, suffering from a back injury. Although feeling below par, Tsonga was almost able to force the match to a deciding set. It was looking pretty good at 4-4 in the second set tiebreak until Jo threw in a crazy double fault and handed the match to the Berdman on a plate.
Next up was Andy Murray, who was at his most entertaining as he berated himself, damaged racquets, abused balls and eventually overcame his demons to defeat Radek Stepanek in three sets from a break down in the decider.
Then Tommy Haas gave his all in a high quality match with Novak Djokovic, but the Serb continued the kind of excellent serving he’s been displaying this week, which gave the veteran German little chance. It looked good for Tommy when he went 2-0 up in the second set, but Djokovic upped his level and ran away with it in the end.
Novak’s reward is a potentially testing semi final against Tomas Berdych, who has looked in pretty decent nick himself, but the head-to-head doesn’t make pretty reading for the Berdman. The Czech has managed just one win in 10 against Nole and that was on the Serb’s least favoured surface of grass.
In his favour is the fact that Nole has never made it past this stage of the Shanghai Masters. The surface is also perhaps more to Tomas’s liking and he’s taken a set from Djokovic in each of their last three completed matches. In fact, Berdych won the opening set on each of those occasions, so there could be some value in backing the Czech to win the first set here or to win on the set handicap at around 2.60
To delve further into the season’s stats, Berdych has taken at least a set from the Djokovic/Nadal/Federer triumvirate in five of his last six matches against them – the only exception being to Nadal on clay in Rome. It’s always a thankless task assessing the chances of Berdych purely because he can be so devastating in spells and pretty poor at other times, so you take your chances with him. There certainly isn’t much value in backing Djokovic 2-0 at 1.46 or outright at 1.16, so I’d rather go for the more expansive option of siding with Berdych +1.5 sets.
In the day’s other semi final it’s a very tight call between Federer and Murray. On the evidence of what I’ve seen so far this week I have to give the slight edge to the Swiss. Murray has looked understandably below par since his New York heroics and the fact that he’s been under the weather with a virus as well suggests that it’s well worth taking the 1.80 about the Swiss.
It’s a tight call, as Murray has had much the better of their Masters 1000 meetings over the years - and beat Federer in the final here in Shanghai in 2010 - but the courts this week seem quicker and that benefits Federer for sure.
Back Berdych +1.5 sets to beat Djokovic at 2.60
Back Federer to beat Murray at 1.80