TUESDAY turned out to be a good day for me really, with my longstanding wager on Marin Cilic moving through to the semi-finals of the men’s singles on a retirement from Rafael Nadal.
As we were on a set betting wager in the Cilic vs Nadal clash that was a void bet and I’m pretty happy about Cilic being favourite in the last four against Kyle Edmund, who, of course we backed to win Auckland when he withdrew.
As far as my outright tips for this event go, we just have Madison Keys remaining and she faces a tough test in the form of Angelique Kerber on Wednesday, but it’s winnable if she plays her best tennis.
It should be decent weather for the players again on Wednesday, with 25C in the shade highs, but windy once more, with wind speed peaking at around 27kph.
Tomas Berdych vs Roger Federer
The 26th career clash between the Swiss maestro and the powerful Czech looks set to be an interesting one and for me it’s likely to be closer than the odds of 1.16 on Federer suggest.
Berdych is coming into this match in prime form after suddenly finding his level of old from back in the days when he was always a danger for anyone at majors.
Much of this return to form can be attributed to the fact that he’s over the back problems that have plagued him for a while and he said as much after beating Fabio Fognini on Monday.
“I'm enjoying it a lot,” Berdych said. “I'm glad to be back in the shape that I am right now, which is finally healthy and that, you know, that makes the difference. I can play freely and I can have joy from the tennis. I can enjoy the time being on court. Yeah, the results are coming with that.”
We’ve seen, with Federer himself among others, how a debilitating back problem can lead to a real slump in form and a fit and confident Berdych on a fast surface should be a tough opponent for most.
He was a little fortunate in the sense that Fognini injured his right ankle early on in the match, but on the Berdman’s current form the Italian would have been second best anyway in all likelihood.
It could also be argued that round three victim Juan Martin Del Potro was a physically below par opponent too, but Berdych didn’t give Delpo or Fogna a sniff and if he serves well on Wednesday he could make Federer work hard for the win.
I’d expect it to be much closer than last year’s clash in Melbourne when was Federer was superb and Berdych was given a free lesson, but Fed doesn’t appear to be in quite the same form this time around.
And it should be noted that Berdych should have beaten Federer in Miami only six weeks after that Melbourne drubbing when the Czech led 6-4 in the final set tie break only to go on and lose the match on a horrible double fault.
He certainly out-hit Federer for a fair chunk of that match and it appears that Berdych is back to that sort of form, so I’m expecting a competitive affair this time.
If we look at the last-10 outdoor hard court meetings between them we find that it’s only 6-4 to Federer, who has held his own serve just 6.1% more often than Berdych in those 10 clashes.
Should the big Czech serve well enough to allow him to get on the front foot he’s hitting cleanly enough at the moment to go close here, but we have said these sorts of things about Berdych many times before.
He does struggle when he’s made to move quickly from side-to-side and hit on the move, which is where Federer (and particularly Novak Djokovic) have done well in the past against Berdych, but it’s easier said than done sometimes when Berdych is on.
Tennys Sandgren vs Hyeon Chung
Not the match I was expecting to write about in the quarter finals, but that third quarter always looked open, with Dominic Thiem not up to it in these conditions and Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic unlikely to be fit enough.
Thiem, having produced a great display following a tough five setter in extreme heat to beat Adrian Mannarino when we backed the Frenchman, annoyingly went on to lose in the match after when Sandgren took Thiem down in five.
The first thing that strikes me about Sandgren this fortnight, other than he’s hitting the ball very confidently and having a career week, is his first serve percentage.
All tournament it’s been between 71% and 77%, which is considerably more than the 54% he hit when he lost to Chung in a deciding set in Auckland the week before coming here.
That is remarkably consistent by anyone’s standards and if he keeps that sort of serving up (he’s held serve 94.8% of the time in his four matches this tournament) Sandgren’s price of 4.70 becomes interesting.
He has recorded a very high number in the ‘break points saved’ category this tournament though, with the American having fought off 83.3% of the break points against him, which surely won’t continue.
That’s what the layers think anyway, with Chung priced up at 1.20, which is shorter than the 1.28 that he was against Sandgren just a few weeks ago in Auckland.
It’s not as if that was a convincing victory either, with each man creating a dozen break point chances on their opponent’s serve, and 13 points between them in total.
The layers are assuming that Chung will carry on in this happy vein that he’s been playing at in the last few matches and while I’m a fan of Chung’s game he isn’t known for putting together back-to-back performances and going deep in tournaments just yet.
He got a walking bye in round one when Mischa Zverev turned up in no state to compete (and subsequently had most of his prize money removed), while Daniil Medvedev was barely much fitter after all his matches and Djokovic was less than fit as well.
The there are the major quarter final nerves to take into account too, with both men likely to suffer from this, and all told Chung seems a good deal too short for me here.
In addition to his fine serving, Sandgren has won 59.3% of the points on his second serve, and OK he had an injured Wawrinka in those figures, but if he keeps riding this wave it looks a big ask for Chung to cover a 5.5 game handicap.
made to move quickly from side-to-side and hit on the move, which is where Federer (and particularly Novak Djokovic) have done well in the past against Berdych, but it’s easier said than done sometimes when Berdych is on.