The 2012 edition of the Western & Southern Masters is certainly providing me with some great material for my end of season review. The notebook was out again on Thursday as Juan Martin Del Potro and Viktor Troicki played out perhaps the weirdest match of the year.
Delpo suffered an injured left wrist in the opening games and, after a visit from the trainer, was unable to do much more than slice on his backhand side. Most players would then have tried to expose that weakness, but Viktor Troicki’s suspect tennis brain didn’t quite figure that out – and when he did, he then choked.
That was just the entrée to Andy Murray losing in straight sets to lucky loser Jeremy Chardy, with the kind of tepid performance that we were led to believe was a thing of the past.
But the best was yet to come. In the night match, Nikolay Davydenko produced eight double faults and 16 unforced errors on the way to a 0-6 first set scoreline against Novak Djokovic. The Russian then made the 29th retirement or withdrawal of his professional career – this time it was due to a ‘sore shoulder’.
Hopefully the quarter-finals will be contested by players that actually want to be here and maybe, just maybe, one or two of them will actually be in a good enough condition to see out their matches.
Another who may not be in tip top shape is Serena Williams, who is surely there for the taking by Angelique Kerber today. With little ATP value around, the 3.40 about a Kerber win looks well worth risking against the American, who has never done well in Cincy. Williams was complaining yesterday about fatigue after a laboured win over Urszula Radwanska.
In past years in Cincy, Serena has withdrawn (2011), lost in round two (2009) and made the semi-finals (2006). Rest is clearly on her agenda ahead of the US Open, which she’ll be desperate to win after losing in the final last year.
Kerber is hardly in peak condition herself but she may not have to do too much and is certainly not facing the Serena that we’ve seen in the last few months. It's always risky to back against Serena, but this looks an opportunity to do so and grab some value.
Another match that interests me is that between Mardy Fish and Roger Federer, which could be a little closer than the odds suggest. Fish loves it here in Cincy and he came close to beating Fed in the final here two years ago, so the 1.11 on a Swiss victory looks very short to me.
The American has improved as this event has gone on and he’s one of the few players that genuinely appears to love playing in Cincinnati. I think that Fish will push Federer close and he could even take a set, but the solid play looks to be to take the American with a 4.5 game start at 1.80.
That head start would have been easily enough in their Cincy final of two years ago and with the American likely to play above himself here, it should be a solid call.
Back Kerber to beat Williams at 3.40
Back Fish +4.5 games to beat Federer at 1.80