Friday was another profitable day at the Winston-Salem Open. The first of the men’s semi-finals went pretty much the way I expected with Isner proving too much for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at odds-against.
Isner created 10 break points in the match but was only converted one, due to some pretty awful play and last-ditch Tsonga defence. Two of those break point chances were match points that Tsonga saved to take us into a final set tie break, but Isner improved his impressive breaker stats by easing through it 7-3.
But the second semi-final, despite being the better spectacle, was ultimately disappointing for my wager; after taking an early 3-1 lead, Sam Querrey lost six of the next seven games to Tomas Berdych. It was a much-improved effort from Berdych, who looks to finally have found some form as we head into the US Open, a tournament where he has historically struggled.
Despite banging down 18 aces, Querrey was punished on second serve where he won just 11 of 40. Berdych won five of 18 break point chances, which was enough to set up a final between the home favourite Isner and top 10 star Berdych. It all begins today at 5.30pm UK time and the Czech will start as the narrow favourite for this at 1.75.
It will be the fourth career meeting between the pair. Berdych leads 2-1, but they haven’t met for over two years and their previous two meetings were both on clay. Berdych hammered Isner at Roland Garros in 2010, but Isner won their only hard court meeting in Washington back in 2009.
Berdych seems to have improved as the week has gone on, and despite looking a bit drawn the Czech should have too much for the American if he plays as he did last night. Isner was pretty poor off the ground against Tsonga and his 24 aces and 82% first serve stats kept him in it despite being pretty wild off both wings.
The concern for Berdych supporters is that he doesn’t win many titles; he has just seven his whole career and he’s lost four of his last six finals. Isner is no title winning machine either, though, with only four to his name at tour level. In addition, Berdych edges the win percentage in finals by 57% to 50%.
Isner will obviously have to serve at his best to win this and even that may not be enough against a player who looks to have regained some confidence this week. As ever in an Isner match, the overs are always worth thinking about, but he’s only played two tie breaks this week, which must be a record for him.
Berdych has a decent 60% winning mark in tie breaks over the last 12 months, but he may not need one this time, as the Isner second serve is vulnerable. Even a poor returner like Tsonga won over 50% of Isner’s second serve points last night and if the same happens this evening Berdych should have enough to edge this one.
Back Berdych at 1.75