The remaining spots in the semi finals of the Australian Open 2015 are up for grabs on Wednesday, with the number one ranked players in the men’s and women’s games in action at Melbourne Park.
Like many punters, I fell victim to Tomas Berdych on Tuesday, with the Czech number one blitzing a very much below par Rafa Nadal in straight sets and to compound the misery there was a very uncharacteristic display from Simona Halep too.
Berdych was excellent in a destruction of a struggling Nadal, but Halep was equally as poor as the Spaniard in a match that for the second year running at the Australian Open she lost by putting too much pressure on herself.
Nothing was working in the Halep game in a performance reminiscent of last year’s against Domi Cibulkova, who plays tonight against Serena Williams for a place in the semis.
But for me Serena is no ‘sure thing’ for that one and I prefer siding with Novak Djokovic in his last eight clash with Milos Raonic.
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic
In the cool, evening conditions on the Rod Laver Arena that are expected on Wednesday it seems to me to be a tall order for Raonic to take two sets from the world number one.
Djokovic does sometimes become frustrated playing against big servers and has been beaten by Ivo Karlovic already this season, but I think that 1.32 about the Serb winning this one either 3-0 or 3-1 is a fair enough price.
Had this match been played in warmer conditions in the day it might well have given the Canadian more of a chance, but Djokovic has been helped by the weather and scheduling here and his extra class should tell in favourable conditions.
Raonic has made some improvements to his game over the off season, appearing to be fitter and leaner and also adopting a more aggressive approach on return of serve and it will be fascinating to see how far he’s come in this 08:30 UK time clash.
In the past Raonic hasn’t been good enough to get a win over the Serb, but he has made him work very hard – most notably on clay in Rome last year and three of their four meetings have involved at least one tie break.
The over 1.5 tie breaks at 2.80 is a reasonable-looking bet if you fancy Raonic to push Djokovic close and to four or five sets, while the 3-1 to Djokovic at 3.75 is one for the long shot shortlist.
Over best of five sets Djokovic has a 30-3 record against the big servers on my list and 11-1 on outdoor hard, with the one loss being to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga here back in 2010.
In no other best of five match on outdoor hard has he been made to go the full five sets and I would expect that to continue on Wednesday.
I really don’t like the idea of betting in the Venus Williams vs Madison Keys clash, as the level of either player can vary wildly on any given day, with Keys due one where she peppers the back fence more than the court.
Serena Williams vs Dominika Cibulkova
This looks a possible upset in the making if Domi can reproduce the form that she has shown for most of this tournament and found again in a hard fought win over Vika Azarenka in the last round.
Conditions here really suit Cibulkova, with the low bounce and skiddy surface allowing her to use her flat shots off both wings to full effect and she rarely has to deal with the ball bouncing too high for her in Melbourne.
She made the final here last year, but was understandably nervous in that championships match, but the Slovak has nothing really to lose here in a match she’s not expected to win and she can swing freely.
Williams will need to step it up from the level we’ve seen from her so far, but she’s more than capable of doing that of course, and from her point of view this is the right time to do it.
The world number one has had few problems dealing with Cibulkova in the past and the power of her hitting has taken the time away from the Slovak, but Serena has been outplayed for spells in this tournament.
Garbiñe Muguruza did it in the last round, as did Vera Zvonareva and Elina Svitolina, so unless there’s a decent improvement there’s no reason why Cibulkova can’t make this close on her current form.
Williams has started slowly in three of her four matches here so far and the 3.65 about Cibulkova winning set one is a decent long shot, and the +5.5 games on the Slovak at 1.88 looks good value too, with a comfortable Williams win not something I expect to see in this one.
Sure thing: Back Djokovic –1.5 sets to beat Raonic at 1.32
Value bet: Back Cibulkova +5.5 games to beat Williams at 1.88
Long shot: Back Cibulkova to win set one at 3.65