Andy Schooler is back to preview Friday’s French Open men’s singles semi-finals and he’s picked out bets at 11/4, 9/2 and 13/2.
For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record
Diego Schwartzman v Rafael Nadal (1350 BST)
Having put up Schwartzman at 75/1 in the outright preview, we stand just one win away from a decent payout.
The problem is he’s now got to beat the greatest claycourt player of all time and must do so off the back of a five-hour war in the previous round.
The good news – and one of the reasons I tipped him in the first place – is that the Argentine beat Nadal less than three weeks ago, in the Rome Masters.
It was his first victory over Nadal in 10 attempts but he played very well that day, making the most of slow conditions which undoubtedly hindered the Spaniard.
It’s been sluggish in Paris, too, although Nadal has far from struggled. He’s reached this stage without dropping a set, his most hard-fought match coming in the last round when Jannik Sinner served for the first set and was right in the second at 4-4 before tailing off.
Sinner did trouble Nadal for a good part of that match with his power. Schwartzman doesn’t bring that weapon to the table here but showed in Rome he’s more than capable of matching Nadal from the baseline.
He’s a great retriever and returner and, like his more famous opponent, is capable of turning defence into attack quickly.
Nadal has a poor serving day in Rome, getting just 43% of his first serves in play, but of those which did find their target, Schwartzman still won more points than he lost (52%). On Nadal’s second serve he won 56% of the points.
His own serve is certainly attackable so expect plenty of breaks, as was the case in his five-set battle with Thiem.
I do feel Schwartzman can replicate his Rome display, at least to some extent, and he’s clearly capable of troubling the second seed.
However, Tuesday’s lengthy match is a big concern. Given the amount of tennis is Schwartzman’s legs from that epic, the fresh Nadal will surely be happy to grind his opponent down. Long rallies early on to wear him out for later in the match will be just fine.
I’d expect the match to be close fought in its early stages, maybe for a couple of sets, but I can then see the fatigue beginning to show and Nadal taking over.
I can easily see him romping through a third, fourth or fifth set 6-0 or 6-1. That puts me off getting into the total games market but instead I’ll take the 11/4 about Nadal winning by three sets to one.
A straight-sets win for the 12-time champion looks too short at odds-on given what we saw in Rome and, in the form of his life, Schwartzman looks capable of claiming a set.
I’ll also throw some small change at a couple of bets in the sub-markets.
First, back Nadal to serve the most double faults at 9/2.
He’s done this in three of their 10 previous meetings with three ties. On clay, it’s been one ‘win’ apiece and two ties.
An excellent returner, Schwartzman will attack the second delivery and put Nadal under pressure on that shot.
Yes, in general the Argentine produces more DFs (he’s 17-8 ahead in the tournament count) but the price difference isn’t borne out by the pair’s history.
Secondly, let’s try Schwartzman to be leading 2-0 after two games.
OK, it’s not a bet with a long shelf life but again the price of 13/2 looks too big.
Schwartzman has landed this bet in three of his five matches so far and also held break point in Thiem’s opening service game on Tuesday before the Austrian banged down three aces in a row.
Clearly Nadal has extra quality but he’s not always the fastest starter and with Schwartzman’s impressive return record, I think this looks worth a go.
Novak Djokovic v Stefanos Tsitsipas (not before 1600 BST)
This has the potential to be a real barn-burner but from a betting perspective I’m rather put off by the fact that Djokovic was again dealing with a neck problem in his quarter-final.
The world number one has tape on his neck from the start against Pablo Carreno Busta and required regular physio treatment during a first set which he lost.
Yet the problem eased as the match wore on, Djokovic eventually winning in four sets.
By the end, he was back in the groove but if he plays against Tsitsipas as he did for most of that contest then the Greek will fancy his chances of an upset.
Tsitsipas found himself two sets down in his first-round match here but has now won 15 sets in a row. His serve and forehand are firing and importantly he knows he can beat the best as he’s done it before.
The only player in 2019 to beat Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer, Tsitsipas has two wins against Djokovic in their five meetings and I doubt he’ll come in with any negative thoughts.
I do feel he’s capable of winning this match but also have to admit that if Djokovic does manager to rediscover his top form, it won’t happen.
In the past, Djokovic has managed to shrug off injury issues from match to match but his neck has long been a problem now and something which seems to flare up from time to time.
It has to be a concern for anyone betting on this match.
In the circumstances, the underdog might be worth a punt at 5/2 but it’s not for me.
Another bet with potential is for Djokovic to serve the most aces at 9/2.
He’s done so in two of their five matches (one tie) with one of his ace ‘wins’ being in their only previous claycourt encounter – in Madrid last year.
The Greek managed just a single ace that day despite the relatively quick conditions.
Still, Djokovic won’t be serving too many aces if his neck is still bothering him so on this occasion I’ll sit this one out and just enjoy what could be a cracking match.
- Preview posted at 2020BST on 08/10/2020