Men’s semi-final day at the Western and Southern Open saw the results that the tournament organisers must have been crossing their fingers for all week. Novak Djokovic clinically took advantage of a clearly below-par Juan Martin Del Potro, while Roger Federer dished out the predicted comfortable win over Stan Wawrinka.
I said yesterday that we were betting blind a bit with Delpo’s fitness and it was plain for all to see that he still can’t hit his two-handed backhand without pain. He admitted afterwards that he would have retired in different circumstances. Unfortunately for us, his stubbornness ended up in a losing bet.
Worse was to come. Federer was unable to take more than two of his 10 break point chances and he fell short by the frustrating margin of half a game on the handicap bet.
Federer faces Djokovic in the final, in what will be their 28th career meeting. Federer leads 15-12 overall but Djokovic has had the edge on hard courts in their recent meetings, winning their previous four outdoor matches on this surface.
From a betting perspective, 19 of their 27 meetings have been won by the pre-match favourite. Djokovic starts as a worthy favourite this time, having lost just two of 28 hard court matches in 2012. Federer has posted an impressive 24-3 record on hard this year, but he’ll have to play at least as well as he did in the victory over Mardy Fish on Friday, and far better than what we witnessed against Wawrinka.
This is the first time since rankings began back in 1973 that the number one and two players have faced each other in the final in Cincy. Whatever happens this evening, Federer will keep his world number one ranking going into the US Open.
Anything like a repeat of their most recent hard court match - at the US Open last year - would be welcomed by fans, and Djokovic will be hoping for better luck than he had 12 months ago when he retired in the final against Andy Murray.
Only one final here since 2004 has gone to three sets and the good folks of Mason, Ohio could be in for a treat today. I expect Djokovic to come out on top in this one. His record of saving break points this week is incredible; he has stunning defence on these hard courts.
Fed will have to play a near-faultless match to win, and his serve will definitely have to improve to test Nole. I was on the Swiss outright at the start of the tournament and so I hope I’m wrong in fancying the Serb today, but the fact that he’s won six of their last eight matches and Fed hasn’t won on outdoor hard since 2010 tips the scales in his favour.
Back Djokovic at 1.57