I said yesterday that I was hoping for a classic match to light up the men’s tournament and that’s exactly what we got on Day 11 of the US Open. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the night match featuring Juan Martin Del Potro and Novak Djokovic, but the prior clash between David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic that went the distance before the Spaniard toughed it out.
Del Potro came within a couple of points of winning my bet yesterday when he served for the second set at 5-4, but Djokovic’s defence was at its brilliant best and the defending champion was able to hold off the forehand bombs from Delpo to grab a 3-0 win. It was a bit of a sickener, as Delpo had been ahead for the whole set and also took an early lead in the second set tie break, but the Serbian was too strong at the vital times in the match.
It’s the turn of the ladies to star on Friday at Flushing Meadows. It’s semi-final day and Maria Sharapova takes on Victoria Azarenka in a marquee clash of heavweight hitting and ear splitting shrieking. Those of a delicate disposition and those whp value their hearing should be ready to be a bit handy on the volume control, as these two will crank up the noise to insufferable levels from the off.
This will be their 10th career meeting. Azarenka leads 5-4 overall and 4-2 on hard courts, but Sharapova won their most recent encounter on the clay of Stuttgart. It’s a repeat of the Australian Open final from earlier in the year and I have a feeling that we may be in for a similar result, although perhaps with not quite the same scoreline as the 6-3, 6-0 we saw that day.
Both players had to dig deep in their previous rounds, with Azarenka having to go to a final set breaker to defeat an opponent she’d always dominated in defending champion Sam Stosur. Sharapova was blitzed by Bartoli in the opening set of their match until a timely rain break halted the eccentric French player’s progress. Those early games showed how vulnerable Maria can be sometimes against players who can match or better her power.
The often windy conditions that gust around Ashe can cause the Russian problems on serve and she delivered 11 double faults against Bartoli, which hindered her throughout the match. She hasn’t advanced this far in New York since she won here in 2006 and the wind is certainly at least a minor factor in her poor results here since.
For her part, Azarenka hasn’t been overly impressive on serve either. For such a tall player her first serve speeds this week haven’t been good enough in my opinion. She may well get away with it against Sharapova, but Serena Williams will cause her major problems if she progresses to the final. Azarenka was serving quicker at the start of the year when she put Sharapova to the sword in Melbourne. I’ll be on the world number one tonight, so hopefully the serve won’t hinder her too much.
Sharapova hasn’t been close to taking a set from Azarenka in their four most recent hard court meetings and I haven’t seen much from her this fortnight to make me think she can turn that around. The bet for me is for Azarenka to take this with a handicap of minus 3.5 games at a price of 1.84 and hopefully finish things fast before anyone’s ear drums become damaged.
Back Azarenka -3.5 games to beat Sharapova at 1.84