THE first titles of the 2018 ATP World Tour season will be decided on Saturday in Doha and Pune and there’s semi-final action in Brisbane too.

We’ve got four matches to think about and I won’t be having a wager in the Brisbane semi-finals, with one semi final a real pick ‘em and the other involving a young player having a career week at home.

Alex De Minaur has shown his potential in bundles this week in Brisbane and after bagelling a disappointing Michael Mmoh on Friday he takes his chance against Ryan Harrison for a spot in the final.

And you’d have to give the 18-year-old from Sydney a reasonable chance against Harrison, with De Minaur already having taken care of Steve Johnson and Milos Raonic.

Raonic was a tad rusty, but Johnson just couldn’t pit De Minaur away, with the youngster getting a lot of balls back into play, and Harrison will need to play well to win this.

De Minaur isn’t the strongest of servers and if we look at his record in the Australian Open wild card play off and here in Brisbane we see that he’s played only two tie break sets in his last 20.

No tie breaks is an option there, but it’s tough to know how De Minaur will shape up in this situation.

Grigor Dimitrov has beaten Nick Kyrgios in both of their previous meetings and with two men going head-to-head that hold serve 87.2% and 91% of the time respectively the chances of a tie break here are pretty high.

It’s Kyrgios that has the better hold/break total over the last 12 months on outdoor hard at main level, with 109.3 compared to the 107.8 of Dimitrov, but he’s found Dimitrov tough to break, only twice in breaking the Dimitrov serve in the five sets they’ve contested.

As ever with Kyrgios there’s so much that can go wrong with him either physically or mentally (or both) that he’s a nightmare to bet on and that was in evidence once again versus Alexandr Dolgopolov when he started poorly and dropped the opener 1-6.

After coming back to win it in three Kyrgios said: “That's just me, I guess. Very unpredictable. I don't really know how I'm going to come out.”

Cheers Nick. As helpful as ever. I think I’ll give that one a miss.

Gael Monfils vs Andrey Rublev

As annoying as it was that our 66-1 outright Peter Gojowczyk wasted his chances to take Monfils into a decider in Doha in the quarters it became even more frustrating that Lamonf was then given a free pass into the final.

Slated semi-final opponent Dominic Thiem withdrew on Friday with a fever, so without really playing anything like his best tennis Monfils is into the final and with the advantage of a free day while his opponent was battling it out.

After four months out of action due to injury Monfils, unsurprisingly, looked well of the pace against Paulo Lorenzi in his opening match and he wasn’t a great deal better in another three setter versus Jan-Lennard Struff either.

Gojowczyk had set points to also take a tired-looking Monfils into a decider and the German would surely have had a reasonable shot at nicking it, but his tactic of coming into net a lot backfired due the lack of quality in his volleys.

I doubt there’ll be too much net play in the final in what will be a classic battle of the aggressor versus the defender, with Rublev’s pretty much all-out attacking game up against the speed and quality of Monfils.

This is not Monfils at his best though by any means and when Gojowczyk found his spots his flat hitting tore holes in the Monfils defence, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Frenchman copes with a heavier hitter in Rublev.

The other factor to consider here is the truly atrocious record that Monfils has in finals, with the Frenchman having won only six of his 26 finals (23%) and in all those 26 matches he’s won only one in straight sets (and that was against his pal Richard Gasquet).

So, just on that stat alone I couldn’t possibly back Monfils as a 1.57 favourite here and Rublev has to be the bet.

I was happy to bet Guido Pella against Rublev on Friday at the prices, which were too heavily weighted towards Rublev, and we came within a single point of landing a 2.70 winner there, but the Russian looks a decent bet today.

I don’t think fatigue will be much of an issue this early in the season and don’t forget Rublev won Umag as a lucky loser playing seven matches in so doing – on the clay, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Monfils will make this a really interesting test for Rublev with all the variety in his locker, but Rublev’s shot choices are much better these days and against a less than in form Monfils he’s in with a great chance of another title here.

Over in Pune, I said at the start of the week that Kevin Anderson looked the likely winner of that event and while it’s good to see Gilles Simon back in a final again surely Anderson will have too much power.

Anderson has won all three of their priors and at this stage of Gillou’s career it’s hard to see him coping with the weaponry of Anderson in fairly quick conditions.

Not many would have fancied the Frenchman to come back from a 1-6 set one loss to Marin Cilic and end up winning in three, but we’ve seen Cilic falter many times when in control of a match and Simon was able to put the Croat off by cleverly varying his play.

Whatever Simon has tried against Anderson in the past it hasn’t been enough and that big advantage that Anderson has on serve has always proven too much and should be again.

Best bet

  • 1 point win Rublev to beat Monfils
  • (69-50, Unibet)
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