Our Andy Schooler landed two winners from two bets on Friday – now check out his picks for Saturday’s semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals.
Daniil Medvedev v Rafael Nadal (2000 GMT)
Medvedev played some excellent tennis in the group stage, winning all three of his matches in straight sets and losing serve just once.
Only Novak Djokovic (one of his victims this week) and Roger Federer had done that before in London so it’s not something to be sniffed at.
However, now he faces a much different test against a player who has won all three of their previous meetings.
The first of those in Montreal last year brought a dominant Nadal display but the two since have both been tight – five sets in the 2019 US Open final and then here 12 months ago when Nadal prevailed 7-6 in the third having saved match point at 1-5.
Maybe that has left some mental scars on the Russian, who has now won his last eight matches, although it’s not something I’m really expecting.
What I am more concerned about is how his game matches up against the left-handed Nadal.
The Medvedev cross-court backhand has been in fine working order this week but here that shot will be going into the Nadal forehand and the Spaniard can create some outstanding angles with that weapon.
And if you’re not convinced by what is admittedly one part of a multi-faceted game, take a look at Medvedev’s career record v lefties – he’s won only 55% of his tour-level matches against left-handers which compares poorly to his overall win record of 65%.
Clearly Nadal is part of that reason but even if you take him out of the equation, Medvedev is still only at 61% v lefties.
I definitely think it’s a factor in this match and at the prices I believe Nadal is a spot of value.
He’s played better than most expected this week. On another day he might well have beaten Thiem in straight sets (instead of losing 7-6 7-6), while he looked set to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 2-0 until the Greek broke out of the blue at the end of set two.
Perhaps his usual killer instinct has been a bit lacking with some big points not going his way - Nadal has saved only two of the five break points he’s faced - but there’s little doubt which of these players is mentally toughest.
If Nadal does get ahead in this match, Medvedev will have to deal with adversity for the first time this week and we’ve seen throughout the year how he can begin to unravel when things aren’t going his way.
For me, Nadal at 23/20 to return to the final is the bet, albeit not one I place with huge confidence.
Dominic Thiem v Novak Djokovic (1400 GMT)
It’s a mouthwatering order of play at the ATP Finals on Saturday with the two singles semi-finals both seeing the old guard under pressure from players just below them in the rankings.
First up in the afternoon session is this contest for which world number one Djokovic is the favourite, despite having lost four of his last six against Thiem.
The tightness of their recent matches shows how difficult it is to call this one – four of the last five have gone to a final set with the other comprised of two tie-breaks.
Admittedly three of those four Thiem wins have come on his favoured clay but the other was in this very arena 12 months ago when he eked out a final-set tie-break victory.
The Austrian absolutely leathered the ball that day, Djokovic admitting afterwards that his power hitting had just been too good.
It was only just though and when they met again two months later it was the Serb who won their Australian Open final, 6-4 in the decider.
Thiem was highly impressive in defeating Rafael Nadal earlier in the week and if he plays at that level, Djokovic will certainly have a job on his hands.
Were he to win, Thiem would become the first player since Juan Martin Del Potro at the 2016 Olympics to beat both Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament.
However, his chances of doing so may have taken a hit following Thursday’s defeat to Andrey Rublev in his final group match. It was a dead rubber so the loss was not too concerning, although you have to wonder whether he can simply flick the switch back on.
At the prices, I’d edge towards Thiem (7/5) but the outcome looks tough to call and there appear to be much better offerings in the sub-markets.
Certainly the 3/1 about the first set going to a tie-break looks big.
Five of the pair’s last eight meetings have seen the opener go the distance, including both matches at this venue.
Thiem has already played two opening-set tie-breaks this week (four in total). Outside the match with Rublev, he’s served very well.
Such is the quality of Djokovic’s returning that he doesn’t play as many breakers but clearly the Thiem serve is one he’s had difficulty with in the past.
The top seed looked better on serve against Alex Zverev on Friday and was teak tough on the break points he did face, saving all three.
In short, 3/1 is worth backing.
There are also a couple of serve-stat bets worth pursuing.
First up is Djokovic to serve the most aces, something which looks overpriced at 11/4.
He’s managed this in five of the duo’s previous 11 matches, including three of the last four. There have also been three ties – Betfair and Paddy Power’s markets void bets if they end all square here.
Last season at the O2, Djokovic won the ace count 9-6.
As I wrote ahead of the Djokovic-Zverev match when the latter easily landed an aces bet for us, that head-to-head record is the key factor when considering the value in this market so 11/4 looks worth a poke.
Finally, Thiem to serve over 1.5 double faults is worth backing, even at 4/6.
OK, this sort of price isn’t for everyone but Thiem has done this in 10 of their previous 11 meetings. The make-ups have been: 5-4-4-2-5-3-1-3-3-5-3.
He’s also landed the bet in all three matches in London this week (3-2-2).
Up against arguably the greatest returner of all time, the Austrian’s serve is almost certainly going to come under pressure at times and I’d be very surprised if at least two double faults didn’t spring from his racquet.
Posted at 0700 GMT on 21/11/20
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