It was a poor day for the underdogs in Paris on Friday, with all four defeated quite comfortably and only one tie break in sight as the favourites eased into the semi finals.
Cristian Garin started poorly against Grigor Dimitrov, but recovered to serve for set two (failed) and serve for a tie break in that same set (also failed), but his slow start cost him in set one.
The last eight underdogs have now all lost in the Bercy quarter finals and only two of the last 11 betting underdogs have won in the semi final round here – a stat that looks likely to become two of the last 13 later today.
Grigor Dimitrov and Denis Shapovalov are two that I said were fair outright options at the start of the tournament, but in a way I’m perhaps a bit glad that I didn’t go for them in the end.
Both appear doomed to semi final defeats and I’m not sure I can take any more of those this season.
Grigor Dimitrov is first up at (not before) 13:00 UK time and faces a Novak Djokovic who’d really done his homework on Stefanos Tsitsipas before Friday’s quarter final.
Tsitsipas started poorly in that one and was never to recover, but Djokovic was very good and said of the match: “One of the best performances I had this season without a doubt, and against a great player, a player I lost against some weeks ago in Shanghai So I spent quite a bit of time preparing for this match, creating a strategy and tactics for Stefanos, and it worked well.”
The Serb is probably after the year-end number one ranking and it’s hard to see a motivated Djokovic losing to Dimitrov, who he’s beaten eight times from nine meetings.
That said, Dimitrov did lead Djokovic by a set and a break in their last clash in Cincy in the summer of 2018 as a 4.31 chance, before falling away in a tournament that Djokovic went on to win.
The Bulgarian also took the opening set in his only indoor hard meeting with Djokovic, which was here in Paris in 2016 as a 5.77 shot, so there is certainly hope that Dimitrov can do something if he finds his best form.
The backhand slice could work quite well for Dimitrov in these indoor conditions and we know that on his day Dimitrov can be a handful for pretty much anyone when he’s striking the ball well.
The head-to-head stats don’t make pretty reading for Dimitrov though, with Djokovic holding serve 86,1% of the time against the Bulgarian, who’s only held 71.4% of the time versus the Serb in their nine clashes.
Djokovic wins 10% more second serve points and almost 10% more return points than Dimitrov in these matches and perhaps the only bets of interest here are the 2-1 to Djokovic at 4.0 or the set one to Dimitrov at 4.20.
Following that at (not before) 15:30 UK time is Denis Shapovalov taking on Rafael Nadal in a third career meeting and a first on indoor hard.
Shapo has been in great form lately and what he said about the pressure being relived by winning his first main level title in Stockholm looks about right.
“I feel like with that title with Stockholm, it kind of gave me a sense of calmness, relief,” he said. “I've just been able to enjoy the last couple weeks of the season and, because of that, I feel like I've been able to play really well.”
And the stats agree, with Shapo holding serve 87.5% of the time and breaking 28.1% of the time in his last 10 main level matches for an impressive total of 115.6 and if he finds that level today he’ll be a match for Nadal.
The Canadian will be boosted by having beaten Nadal from a set down in their only prior clash on a hard court, which was at home in Montreal in 2017 as a 9.57 chance in what Nadal called “probably the worst loss of the year.”
Shapovalov’s serve has been firing these past few weeks and he won 92% of his first serve points last night against a very good returner in Gael Monfils and 82% against Alexander Zverev.
Nadal also won 92% of his first serve points against Tsonga last night and he’s never been broken by a fellow lefty on indoor hard at main level (he’s only faced three: Mannarino, Bemelmans and Lopez).
If Shapo is as relaxed as he says he is and serves as well as he has been I think this could be a decent match and over 22.5 games at 2.12 appeals here, as does 7-6 to Nadal in set one at 6.50 and Nadal 2-1 at 3.85.
0.5 points win over 22.5 games in Nadal/Shapovalov at 2.12