Finally, the Western & Southern Open went to plan on Friday with a very nice payout on Angelique Kerber's win. The German overcame a wildly erratic Serena Williams to claw some cash back from the layers in what has been a tough old week in America’s midwest.
Williams never looked like she was here to win this tournament, but take nothing away from Kerber, who played a great game to win in straight sets. Her price actually drifted before the off so she turned out to be even better value in the end.
The last men’s quarter-final of the day also went the way I expected, with Mardy Fish just doing enough to beat Roger Federer with a 4.5 game start. It was a superb performance from Federer, who didn’t face a break point and played some lights-out tennis, particularly in the first set. It’s nice to be writing about some great performances for a change in a week where we’ve seen some shameful efforts in Cincy.
Saturday is semi-finals day and Novak Djokovic continues his quest for a first Cincinnati title with a re-match of the recent Olympic semi-final against Juan Martin Del Potro. The Argentine comes into their seventh career meeting having apparently recovered from an injury to his left wrist that left him unable to hit his two-handed backhand in his last-16 win over the hapless Viktor Troicki.
The Tower of Tandil appeared to be in near-perfect physical condition and back to his destructive best against Jeremy Chardy, an opponent whose game matched up to Delpo’s perfectly as far as the Argentine was concerned. Djokovic, for his part, was too solid once again for the limited Marin Cilic, recording a straight sets victory to set up what could be the match of the day at the Lindner Family Tennis Centre.
Del Potro has won their last two matches after losing the opening four in their personal series, but this will be their first meeting on an outdoor hard court since the US Open back in 2007. These are quick conditions in Cincy and we’ve seen in the past that if Delpo is firing and injury-free he can hit through anyone - even one of the game’s best defenders like Djokovic - on a hard court .
The big man was immense in that Wimbledon win a couple of weeks ago, but Nole will be looking to impose his authority ahead of New York. Djokovic is looking to become the first man since Andy Roddick in 2003 to do the Rogers Cup/Cincinnati double – and of course A-Rod went on to win in New York that year as well, so Novak has another record in his sights.
Value seekers will no doubt be on Delpo at around 3.80 and Nole does seem short enough at 1.25, but Delpo's wrist problem worries me, meaning I've looked at the alternative markets. We're really betting a little bit blind on this with Delpo's fitness unknown, but assuming he's OK the best bet seems to be the over 21.5 games at 1.80.
Following that match is the all-Swiss affair between Federer and Stan Wawrinka, which I can’t see being anything other than a fairly comfortable win for the world number one. Wawrinka has an awful record against his Davis Cup team-mate; he's 1-12 in matches and 3-27 in sets played between them.
Stan tends to beat himself before he’s even walked onto the court against Federer and in his first Masters 1000 hard court semi he’s been handed the worst match-up he could have wished for. It’s hard to see Wawrinka, who is not the toughest mentally, somehow coming good against his nemesis in a match like this, so the choice really is how many games will Federer win by.
Generally, Federer wins these meetings with something to spare and in these quick conditions, which suit him more than his opponent, the -4.5 games is the bet at 1.80.
Back over 21.5 games in Del Potro v Djokovic at 1.80
Back Federer -4.5 games to beat Wawrinka at 1.80