As is so often the case after a very good day the previous day, things didn’t quite go our way on Friday in Moscow and Stockholm.
Dusan Lajovic gave up after losing an opening set tie break against Adrian Mannarino at the Kremlin Cup, while Sam Querrey forgot how to serve after winning the first set versus Pablo Carreno Busta in Stockholm.
Querrey made just five (five!) first serves in set two of that match, which successfully turned the momentum right around and he ended up scoring one fewer point than PCB in the decider after only remembering that he had a first serve after going a break down in set three.
There was better news on the outright front though, as Filip Krajinovic continued his good form in Stockholm to ease past Yoshihito Nishioka and into the semi finals.
Our 33-1 each-way pick now enters the deciding match territory that has been so painful for us this season, with our outrights having lost an incredible 11 of 14 deciding matches in 2019 so far.
Indeed, Krajinovic was one of them when he was beaten from 1.22 in the Budapest final as a 33-1 shot with myself sat shivering courtside as our outright mentally imploded in Hungary.
That was against the power of Matteo Berrettini on a cold, windy day on the clay and this time it’s the more solid game of Pablo Carreno Busta that stands in the way of an each-way payout on Krajinovic.
Krajinovic has a good record against the players I have in my database as ‘baseline grinders’, with the Serb winning eight of his last 10 against them and he’s 13-9 win/loss overall in those matches (4-1 on indoor hard).
His only clash with PCB came years ago at Challenger level on clay and Krajinovic won that one at a similar price to today when PCB was top seed, but it has little bearing on today’s encounter.
Both men play a similar style and I’m hopeful that Krajinovic will be the fresher man after PCB had a long Asia swing and has played 16 matches since the US Open, where Krajinovic has played only half as many.
Given PCB’s mediocre indoor stats his price of 1.60 looks short and I’m going to let this one ride and hope that for once our rotten luck in the latter stages of outrights abates.
Krajinovic is certainly playing well enough for us to take a chance on him beating an opponent like PCB on indoor hard.
First up in Moscow is a repeat of last year’s Kremlin Cup semi final between Adrian Mannarino and Andreas Seppi and a look at the stats from that match is a big clue as to what’s likely to happen here.
Mannarino just makes himself hard to beat by refusing to miss on this slow surface and making the opponent be the aggressor and Seppi didn’t like it a year ago.
It’s not natural for Seppi to be the attacking force in his matches and consequently he hit 12 winners and 47 unforced errors in two sets, while Mannarino hit five winners and 32 unforced errors in that semi final.
In short he made Seppi go for too much and the one very noticeable stat about his career series with Mannarino is that all eight matches have been decided in straight sets and none of their 16 sets have been a tie break.
Seppi’s record in semi finals is poor at 9-21 win/loss, winning only 3 of his last 15 and twice losing to Mannarino in semi finals (here last year and Antalya in 2017).
Seppi’s record in semis isn’t great, but Denis Shapovalov’s is woeful, not only losing all seven that he’s played, but failing to win a single set in any of them, so he must have enjoyed watching Yuichi Sugita against Janko Tipsarevic last night.
An absolute baseline war between that pair ended with Tipsy’s emotional retirement speech and Sugita barely able to walk due to what looked like cramp in the final set breaker.
Surely this is the time for Shapo to finally win a semi final, with the Canadian likely to be facing a fatigued opponent after he took on an injured one in Cedrik Marcel Stebe on Friday.
Maybe the luck is on his side this week, but he only defeated Sugita in a final set tie break when they played indoors in Basel two years ago, but in today’s circumstances he’s likely to be too strong, even though the price on Shapo is very short and takes this into account.
I’m tempted by Sugita +1.5 sets at 2.50 at these prices, given Shapo’s no-shows in semi finals so far, but instead I’ll take another chance on Jannik Sinner.
The young Italian has been touted as a future star for some time now and we had joy when we backed him against Gael Monfils the other day as a big underdog.
Now he takes on Stanislas Wawrinka in the Antwerp semi final and this is a repeat of their US Open clash of a couple of months ago when Wawrinka was able to edge past the youngster in four sets.
Stan was only 14 points better over four sets and Sinner actually won 61% of his second serve points that day, so he was more than a match for Wawrinka off the ground, with Stan’s 15 aces and stronger first serve helping the Swiss out.
In these indoor conditions Sinner has been serving well, too, winning 80% on his first ball against both Monfils and Frances Tiafoe and holding serve 93.7% of the time in his three matches.
He’s also won 62.5% on his second ball this week with his very aggressive game helped by the indoor conditions and this should be a really entertaining affair if both men are on form.
Stan had to tough it out against Gilles Simon on Friday and versus Feli Lopez on Wednesday, but he’s held serve 97% of the time so far, so I like the set one tie break here at 4.10 and tie break played at 2.18, as well as the over 2.5 sets at 2.38.
Finally, Andrey Rublev seems likely to be too strong for the current level of Marin Cilic in Moscow, while fitness issues concern me about Andy Murray against Ugo Humbert.
Humbert had a late night on Friday against Guido Pella in a 2.5 hour battle, so he may not be at his best either, but if Humbert really goes for it this could be interesting for the underdog.
0.5 points win over 12.5 games in set one of Wawrinka/Sinner at 4.10
0.5 points win over 2.5 sets in Wawrinka/Sinner at 2.38