Hold Fire and Keep Faith in Czechs
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1pt Tomas Berdych v Nicolas Almagro to feature two or more tie-breaks at 9/2 (William Hill).
2012 has been another superb year for men's tennis and this weekend's Davis Cup final seems likely to finish it on a high note.
As the prices show, there's not much to separate the Czech Republic (4/5) and Spain (11/10) ahead of their clash in Prague.
A slick indoor hardcourt has been chosen by the hosts to maximise their chances but the fact that holders Spain are no better than 11/10 shows the defending champions can hardly be written off simply because they have been forced off their beloved clay.
Selection-wise the match is easy to call. David Ferrer, who arrives in fine form, and Nicolas Almagro will play singles for Spain, while Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez will combine for the doubles.
For the Czechs, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek are almost certain to play all the rubbers, as they have done for many a year now.
Ferrer holds a winning record against his two singles foes but Almagro trails against both.
Ferrer and Berdych will start hot favourites in Friday's opening singles rubbers and a 1-1 scoreline following the first day's play seems likely.
If that's the case, Saturday's doubles will be crucial.
Berdych and Stepanek boast an 11-1 win-loss record as a pair in Davis Cup but they will be up against Granollers and Lopez, a duo who as recently as Monday won the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
A key factor here could be the surface. London's O2 Arena played fairly slow, the ball gripping the court. Prague's venue of the same name has already been described as "the fastest court of the season" by Ferrer, whose compatriots haven't had too long to adjust and certainly have had no actual matches on it.
The surface could also have big effect on what is likely to be a huge fourth rubber on Sunday - Berdych taking on Ferrer.
Ferrer has played the better tennis of late, but Berdych's big serve-forehand combination on a fast surface could be lethal.
Both rubbers three and four could go either way but the court speed may work in the hosts' favour, hence the reason they are slight favourites for the tie as a whole.
In terms of an overall outcome, it's certainly hard not to sit on the fence. A case can often be made for the underdog in Davis Cup ties but this one clearly is so close that backing the outsiders isn't a get-rich-quick policy.
Hopefully many of you took my recommendation back in February and backed the Czechs then - they were 25/1 at the time.
An each-way punt means a profit has already been made.
You could lay some of that off on the Spanish to lock in a profit but, unable to take a strong view on the final either way, I'm prepared to sit it out and hope the Czechs come through.
In terms of match betting, there's some possible value to be had in the Berdych-Almagro rubber.
Both players can serve big. Berdych's serve has long been regarded as a significant weapon, but the deceptive Almagro also lifts his speed over 130mph at times and he has been serving well of late. Such 130-plus deliveries will be hard to return if the court plays as fast as Ferrer and co are predicting.
Five of the pair's 13 sets have gone to tie-breaks this season, including one at the US Open which is one of the faster surfaces on tour these days. At the Australian Open, three sets went the distance.
For this clash, William Hill offer 9/2 that two or more sets go to a breaker. That looks a tempting price given the circumstances and worth a small play.