Thursday at the Winston-Salem Open began in perfect fashion as Steve Darcis brought my odds-against bet home in double quick time. The little Belgian took his fifth consecutive set against Tomas Berdych, befuddling the Czech by taking the sting out of his shots. It worked for long enough for my +1.5 sets wager to come in before the Berdman, who doesn't look in the best of health to me, took over and won the last two sets comfortably.
Friday is semi-final day in North Carolina. Last year both favourites were beaten at this stage of the tournament, as John Isner took down Andy Roddick and Julien Benneteau defeated Robin Haase. There's a feeling that today's matches could go the same way; you have to wonder how much the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Berdych can be bothered now that they've got some match practice under their belts.
Isner and Sam Querrey are the underdogs today, and have incentive to do well on home soil. Isner is defending his title and seeking ranking points here, while Querrey has a shot at the US Open Series prize, so motivation is surely with the underdogs today.
The first match today is Isner v Tsonga, which takes place at around 8pm UK time tonight. The big American looks the value at around 2.20. He leads their head-to-head 2-1 and his serve should give him the advantage given that neither player is a great returner. Isner has won 68% of his tie breaks over the last 12 months, compared to Tsonga's 57% - a stat that could be telling.
The overs looks worthy of consideration as well, as both of their best-of-three-set meetings have gone the distance, with totals of 35 and 36 games played. The total games mark is set at 25.5, though, for this one and I think it will work out better to back Isner outright than play that market.
I prefer the overs in the second semi-final between Berdych and Querrey. This pair haven't played each other since 2008, when Querrey thrashed the Czech in New York. This clash should involve plenty of huge hitting, big serving and very little in the way of court craft or subtlety. You would expect the world number seven to come out on top in a ball bashing contest, but as I said earlier I am entertaining severe doubts over his motivation to win an ATP 250 event the week before the last major of the year.
Both players had three set matches last night and Querrey has had a lot of tennis lately, having played five tournaments in the US Open Series so far this summer. Berdych should be the fresher and I'm leaning towards him, but I don't fancy the 1.55 much, taking into account his recent poor form. The total games mark is set at 23.5 and I think the overs is the best value wager in this match.
Back Isner to beat Tsonga at 2.20
Back over 23.5 games in Berdych v Querrey at 1.95