Looking to continue his stellar record in a profitable column, Jack Houghton thinks that Andy Murray can overcome his semi-final fatigue and serve more aces than Djokovic on route to winning his second grand slam. And given how closely matched Djokovic and Murray are, it's more than likely we'll see a tie-break, too.
"The effects of punishing semi-finals are often over-emphasised when predicting the likely winner of a grand slam."
If you followed the recommendations laid out at the start of the tournament, I hope you were able to trade out of your position on David Ferrer for a nice profit. Put up at 34.033/1, Ferrer traded as low as 11.521/2 during Djokovic's fourth-round struggle against Wawrinka, where the Serbian took 22 games in the deciding set to progress to the quarters. My lay was matched at 16.015/1, which, even after the disappointing third-round exit of Philipp Kohlschreiber (the other back-to-lay recommendation), leaves me showing a small profit in the Tournament Winner market, with a pre-tournament lay of Djokovic still open.
Recommended as a lay at 2.0621/20, that opposition to Djokovic looks potentially costly. Now trading at 1.608/13, the market certainly sees him as the most likely winner. I don't. There has been very little between them in recent matches, so the price discrepancy is hard to fathom.
One factor that punters are likely to be overplaying is fatigue. Djokovic barely did more than warm up against Ferrer in his semi-final, whereas Murray was on court for a punishing four hours. Djokovic, the reasoning goes, will be much fresher, whereas Murray will be spent. The effects of punishing semi-finals, though, are often over-emphasised when predicting the likely winner of a grand slam.
I've had a couple of goes at proving this statistically, but have run into problems deciding whether it is the amount of sets, or the time on court, that should be the determining factor; and even when settling on the latter, have struggled to isolate fatigue from the variety of other factors that determine the outcome of a tennis match. Anecdotally, though, it feels as if arduous semi-finals have a limited bearing on the outcome of finals. Let's not forget that Murray came through a four-hour struggle against Berdych in New York to beat Djokovic in the final of last year's US Open.
So, at the odds, my money is on Murray to win the match, but significantly more value can be found in the side markets, which have proved a lucrative battleground in recent years. I've been writing this statistical preview of the ancillary markets for the last seven men's grand-slam finals, going back to the French Open in 2011, and, out of 27 recommended bets, 12 have won, returning a profit of 20.16 points to recommended stakes. Here's hoping the success continues.
To date, head-to-head, Murray has served more on 14 occasions (82 per cent), to Djokovic's two (12 per cent), with one match ending in a tie. All this tells you that Murray should be 1.211/5 to serve most aces, with Djokovic at 8.5015/2. With Murray available at around 1.402/5, then, there's value to be had in supporting the Scot.
In a total of 45 sets they have played, Djokovic and Murray have contested seven tie-breaks, or one every 6.4 sets played, making them the most-likely match up of the world's top four to play a tie-break. Assuming they play four or five sets in Monday's final, that translates to odds of 1.558/15 that we'll see a tie-break, and 6.4011/2 that we won't. At around 1.705/7 then, "Yes" looks value, and I'll be having an interest.
With a head-to-head score of 10-to-seven - where Djokovic holds the slight advantage - it's clear that there is very little between the two players, and if you ignore their early matches, when Djokovic, presumably, held an advantage of experience over the rookie Murray, then the two have been virtually inseparable.
Despite how closely matched the two appear, though, they have not tended to produce especially competitive matches. Of the 57 sets they've had available to play in their matches, they've used 45, or 79 per cent of them. Applying this to Sunday's final, we might expect to see three or four sets, but, perhaps against expectations, are unlikely to see five. Given I'm prepared to risk supporting Murray, I'll be backing him to win 3-1 at 6.806/1.