Three semi finals are the order of the day on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday, as the 2015 Australian Open moves towards its completion.
Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are all in action today in Melbourne, where it’s set to be windy once again, which could affect bets involving Sharapova and Tomas Berdych to name just two.
Berdych and Murray face off for the 11th time in their careers and while it’s set to be windy it shouldn’t be anything like as bad as the hurricane level winds that wrecked their US Open semi final of 2012.
Of the two matches that I previewed on Wednesday, the Novak Djokovic/Milos Raonic clash went pretty much exactly as I expected, and it was a comfortable winner for my ‘sure thing’ of Djokovic to win minus 1.5 sets, but there was no such success in the Serena Williams match.
Williams, in her current state of ill health, produced her best display by far of the tournament and arguably the most impressive of the whole ladies event to crush Domi Cibulkova, who just couldn’t get into the match.
We start at around 02:30 UK time on Thursday with Sharapova taking on Kate Makarova and that’s one match that I’m not sure I like the look of as a betting proposition.
Makarova took down my bet on Simona Halep in the last round and while that was largely due to a woeful showing from Halep I’m never comfortable taking a short price on Sharapova if it is to be windy.
Maria’s service game can break down completely in these conditions and my ‘sure thing’ today has to be in the second women’s semi final.
Serena Williams vs Madison Keys
The ‘Williams double’ is on for Keys after she came back from a seemingly impossible position injured and 3-1 down in the final set of her quarter final against Venus Williams to take down the elder Williams sister.
But it does seem highly unlikely with the left thigh adductor injury that flared up again in the Venus match quite likely to hamper her movement again, which makes it a very tall order indeed that Keys can test even an ailing Serena.
It’s the first meeting between the 19-year-old and the 33-year-old and there’s obviously no comparison in terms of big match experience, with Keys in her first major semi and Williams into her 26th.
Williams has won 22 of her previous 25, with the last time she dropped so much as a set in a major semi final being when she was beaten by Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open. That was eight such matches ago.
It would be asking a lot for Keys to show her best in her first major semi, but carrying an injury it seems much too tough and the Williams 2-0 seems very likely, both historically and considering the injury to Keys.
Given the likelihood that Keys may struggle the over 12.5 aces seems likely, with Serena coming into great serving form and having hit 15 on her own against Cibulkova, while Keys will surely go for her serve to try and keep the points short.
Andy Murray vs Tomas Berdych
There are plenty of markets offered for this 08:30 UK time clash, which will see Murray attempt to make his fourth Australian Open final in what on the face of it seems like it will be a close match.
Berdych has had the best of the career series, with a 6-4 lead overall, but Murray has the greater experience, with 14 previous major semi finals to his name to Berdych’s four.
Hopefully, for the sake of the players and all of us watching, it won’t be ruined by the wind, but Rod Laver Arena offers better protection from it than the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium, so it shouldn’t be too much of a factor with any luck.
That said, Murray would have a clear advantage if it did get windy, such is the adaptability in the Scot’s game compared with the more mechanical Czech and Murray’s form so far this fortnight has made him probably a deserved, if narrow favourite.
As I’ve said before, my outright position is on Berdych, so I’m hopeful that he prevails, but matches between this pair are tough to call, with both players having the ability to win comfortably if they’re on their best game.
Under 1.5 tie breaks is an alternative ‘sure thing’ to the Williams bet, with only five breakers in 28 sets contested between the pair so far in this rivalry and 1.37 about zero or one tie break seems reasonable.
They don’t tend to play many close sets, with breaks of serve historically not too hard to come by, but I still think it will be a tight match, and the over minutes appeals rather than over total games.
The over 182.5 total minutes at 1.87 looks a good value bet, as does the under 26.5 total aces at the same price.
Murray is tough to ace regularly, as Nick Kyrgios found out, and I would expect a similar sort of match to Murray’s one with Grigor Dimitrov, which lasted over 200 minutes for four sets.
Sure thing: Back Williams to beat Keys 2-0 at 1.53
Value bet: Back over 182.5 total minutes in Murray/Berdych at 1.87
Long shot: Back under 26.5 aces in Murray/Berdych & over 12.5 aces in Williams/Keys at 3.50