Dan Evans put up a good fight, but was ultimately outgunned in the end by Andrey Rublev on Thursday, which was disappointing in what were meant to be very difficult windy conditions in Adelaide.
We do have one outright still going at this semi final stage though and that’s Hubert Hurkacz, who, after blowing a slew of chances to beat Feli Lopez in straight sets, eventually got it done in three in Auckland.
Hurkacz is now favourite to land the Auckland title, but that means little really and especially considering that we had 17 semi finalists last season and only two went on to actually win titles.
On this occasion Hurkacz is a 1.62 chance to beat Benoit Paire – the man Hurkacz defeated in the Winston-Salem final back in August – in Friday’s semis and I’d like to think he’ll achieve the same result again.
After all, Paire has now played three three-setters this week and the same last week in the ATP Cup, so he’s played 18 sets in less than a fortnight, but as I’ve said a few times this week now Paire is a very dangerous underdog.
I said yesterday that he had every chance against John Millman and he came from a set down (the fourth time he’s done that already this year) to beat the Aussie and record his 10th win in his last 11 matches when priced as underdog between 2.0 and 2.39.
I’d hope that Hurkacz will be the fresher man on Friday, but you never know with Benoit, who was on fine serving form against Millman (13 aces and 68% first serves in, winning 79% of them).
Should Hurkacz win that he’ll face the winner of John Isner versus Ugo Humbert and if ever a match looked destined for a tie break or three it’s this one.
Both men have been untouchable on serve lately, with Humbert unbroken against Denis Shapovalov and Marco Cecchinato, while Isner hasn’t been broken yet this week.
Humbert has held serve 94.2% of the time at main level in 2020 so far and broken 17.4% of the time, while Isner is doing nothing on return, holding 91.3% of the time and breaking a measly 2.9% of the time.
Indeed, this pair played out two breakers in three sets on grass in the Newport semi final last summer, with Isner unbroken that day and Humbert holding 94.3% of the time, so it’s no shock to see a price of 1.22 about tie break played.
Isner has been a little fortunate to progress, holding off nine break chances from Kyle Edmund on Thursday, with the Brit winning seven more points overall and not winning a set.
“I know I was a bit fortunate to win today and that's how tennis goes,” Isner said of the Edmund win and he’ll need better to defeat Humbert, whose own level has seen him priced up as only very marginal underdog here compared to that Newport clash.
Isner was a 1.50 chance that day, while now he’s 1.89 and so while Humbert is in with a real chance here it’s a game of likely very few chances and a bit of a coin toss, as the odds suggest.
It doesn’t seem to be any value at all in backing Humbert at 1.92 and overall it looks a day of little obvious value.
In Adelaide Lloyd Harris has been serving very well so far this week, firing down 1.31 aces per game in his three main draw matches and holding 91.7% of the time, but Tommy Paul has been even better.
While it’s true that both men have faced opponents more comfortable on clay this week so far Paul has held serve 96.3% of the time and not yet been taken past 10 games in any set he’s played.
And it’s Paul that has the better main tour stats over the past year – both solely in the main draw and also including qualies, so I can see where this price of 1.68 about Paul comes from.
Paul has a 65.5% win percentage and a hold/break total of 106.3 in all main tour matches (including qualies) on all surfaces in the past 12 months (109.2 in the main draw only), while Harris has won 47.5% of his main tour matches (including qualies) and with a hold/break total of 99.8 (97.4 main draw only).
So, the prices look about right there, while maybe there could be a case made for Felix Auger-Aliassime against Andrey Rublev, who may take it a bit easy so close to Melbourne after two long weeks of tennis and a bit of jet lag, too.
Rublev served remarkably well again versus Evans, winning 82% of his first serve points (12 aces) and perhaps best of all, winning 58% on second serve against the awkward Evans on a windy day.
That’s impressive, but FAA looks like he’s getting back on track now, too, after a crushing victory over Alex Bolt on Thursday and perhaps the young Canadian simply has more left in the tank after a spell out through injury at the end of last season.
I was happy to take Rublev on in the conditions that were expected on Thursday in Adelaide, but it’s not set to be that windy on Friday and in any case Evans had the sort of game that is effective in the wind, while FAA relies more on power than guile.
It looks a very tricky day and I’m not risking any wagers on Friday, instead watching Hurkacz go for us in Auckland.