Thursday provided a timely reminder of the vagaries of women’s tennis betting when my opening wager of the day fell one game short from match point up.
Lucie Safarova was never likely to have made serving for her first major final look easy at 7-5, *5-4 against Ana Ivanovic, but after throwing in three doubles faults and several unforced errors in the game she made it look virtually impossible.
That was the end for my unders bet and typically she broke Ivanovic in the next game and went on to make no mistake the second time of asking.
And it became even stranger later when Serena Williams trudged onto the court suffering with some kind of illness and produced a performance that certainly suggested some sort of health issue.
Indeed, Williams declined her post-match press conference, instead releasing a short note saying she was off to see the tournament doctor. All-in-all a fitting ‘welcome back’ to WTA for me.
It’s back to the men’s singles on Friday and the semi finals, the first of which being home hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga taking on Stanislas Wawrinka at 12:00 UK time.
Stanislas Wawrinka vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Stan the Man will be going against the crowd for the third straight time on Friday when he faces Tsonga after being the pantomime villain against Roger Federer and Gilles Simon in the last two rounds.
He won’t be bothered though and should be the one to advance to the final and meet the winner of Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray, which follows this match.
You have to go back to 2011 for the last underdog to win in a French Open men’s semi final and that was when Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic, though that’s not to say it couldn’t happen here.
Two five set semi finals are rare, with Federer vs Juan Martin Del Potro and Robin Soderling vs Fernando Gonzalez back in 2009 being the last time that both semis went the distance in the same tournament.
This pair have form for long matches though, with five of their six career meetings coming on clay and five of the six ending in a deciding set – either over best-of-three or best-of-five.
The last time they met was on clay in the Davis Cup final at the end of last season when Wawrinka was on great form and carried Switzerland to the win virtually on his own.
Both of their prior clashes here in 2011 and 2012 went to five sets, but Wawrinka is a different player since those matches took place.
It’s usually tricky with Wawrinka to predict how he will fare given the ups and downs that regularly blight his matches, but at this tournament he’s been pretty much faultless so far.
He kept up an excellent level against Federer in the quarter finals and didn’t face a break point in three sets against the former champion, and if he produces that form again he should win this with something to spare.
Even Tsonga’s most ardent supporters will admit that there has been an element of fortune about his run here, with both Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori producing their worst tennis of the season by far in their clashes with the Frenchman this tournament.
“I’m not sure what happened. I was a little bit lost. I was doing everything wrong, almost,” is how Nishikori described his early efforts against Tsonga, while Berdych had plenty of tape on his back against the Frenchman.
“Definitely I was way far from my best tennis that I can play and it's definitely a very disappointing loss for me,” was what Berdych had to say and it’s asking a lot for three top-10 players in a row to be very much below par in consecutive matches.
That doesn’t do Tsonga justice however, as he has played very well for the most part, but the backhand to backhand duel looks certain to be won by Wawrinka, whose forehand was great against Federer too.
Perhaps most importantly for Wawrinka he has looked up for the fight this fortnight and there doesn’t seem any reason why he wouldn’t carry on in that vein against he opponent he knows he can beat in these conditions.
The weather is set to be very hot at around 30C, which should mean the over 17.5 aces has a good chance at 1.87.
Tsonga and Nishikori hit 15 on a day that was so windy the roof blew off, so in quicker conditions and with Stan able to serve big too (and Jo being a poor returner) I would expect more on Friday.
That was over five sets though and I’m not envisaging this match lasting that long.
In the match itself I like the -1.5 sets on Wawrinka here at 1.79, with the Swiss ready to assume the role of pantomime villain once more.
Value bet: Back Wawrinka -1.5 sets to beat Tsonga at 1.79