In hindsight I chose the wrong bet to oppose Diego Schwartzman with on Friday in Sydney, with Andreas Seppi doing more than I had expected in defeating the Argentine in a couple of tight sets.
There was much better news elsewhere though, with our 25-1 outright in Auckland, Cam Norrie, outlasted Jan-Lennard Struff to make the final of the ASB Classic.
The weather put paid to the second of the men’s semi finals in Sydney, so we really only have one match to look at for Saturday, with Gilles Simon and Alex De Minaur having been forced to postpone their slated semi final.
Cameron Norrie vs Tennys Sandgren
Despite having found a big-priced finalist I’m a little annoyed that I didn’t go further with my pre-tournament idea that Sandgren could well spark back to life this week, as I mentioned in my Auckland preview.
Other than a hunch based on what I saw in the Sandgren versus John Millman match in Brisbane and Sandgren’s need for ranking points there was little else to back up that hunch, but here he is in the final after losing 14 of his previous 20 main level matches.
And it means that we’ll probably have to hedge our outright on Norrie to ensure a nice profit on the week, with the notoriously tough Australian Open coming up next.
The American is a tough one to judge at the best of times and I said earlier in the week when we backed him as underdog to beat Max Marterer that you just have to try and catch him when he’s up for it – which isn’t all the time by any means.
Sandgren and Norrie have clashed six times already in their careers, with Norrie winning the last three and leading 4-2 overall, with five of their six meetings coming on outdoor hard and the other on indoor hard.
The three that Norrie won were in Challengers in 2017 and if we look at the head-to-head stats of their six clashes the number that stands out is that Norrie has saved 70.5% of the break points against him, while Sandgren only saved 55.3% of the ones he faced.
Other than that Sandgren won slightly more second serve points (47.3% to 46.1%) and Norrie marginally better on first serve points won (70.5% to 68.5%).
So, just on those numbers it looks tight and so far Norrie has been the one to play the big points the better of two – hopefully that will continue on Saturday.
It’s Norrie that edges the battle in terms of their service hold/break numbers over the last 12 months against all opponents at main level on outdoor hard, with an impressive hold/break total for a player ranked 93 in the world of 106.1.
He’s on 84.2% holds of serve and 21.9% breaks in his last 21 main level outdoor hard court matches and that’s a couple of percent better than Sandgren, who weighs in with 85.6% holds and 17.6% breaks (104.2 total).
So, we can see why Norrie is slight favourite on numbers and the head-to-head and while both men are motivated this week (for different reasons) it’s tough to know how the emotion of playing a final in his hometown will affect Norrie.
After the win over Struff he said: “I mean, it feels incredible. I can't really describe it. I was really nervous in that last game – a couple of double faults and got slightly tight. Big thanks to the crowd for getting me through that. It is so special to get through to my first final and do it at home too. It means so much to me. I'm just playing on adrenaline.”
Sandgren said of his win over Philipp Kohlschreiber in their semi final in which he just proved the more aggressive of the pair: “Basically I just closed my eyes and swung, and a lot of the balls went in, so that was good.”
So, there we have it. Not much tactical play from Tennys in that one.
For Norrie it’s a similar sort of test to the one that Struff posed: an opponent who likes to serve big and dominate with his forehand, so more of the same from Norrie would be most welcome on Saturday.
I think we have to be a little cautious and not leave all our eggs in one basket, so five points on Sandgren at slight odds-against looks the sensible play.
5 points win (only if backed Norrie at 25-1 outright pre-tournament) Sandgren to beat Norrie at 2.08