Tournament favourite Novak Djokovic is out and there's all to play for in the Australian Open. Can Andy Murray or Roger Federer take advantage? Sean Calvert tells us more...
"Federer's lack of wins over top-five opponents lately and the obvious factor of his age mean that I can't see the Swiss being a value bet at 1.88 and preference in a nasty-looking betting contest is for the overs."
It was a great night for backers of my pre-tournament tip of Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday, as the Swiss took down Novak Djokovic and move in to 6.86/1 second favourite in the men's singles.
There was over £1.9 million matched on Nole at 1.11/10 or shorter against Stan in a market where £16,315,339 of the £17,048,355 matched was on Djokovic. Confidence wasn't high in the Swiss, clearly, but those who kept the faith have been rewarded with a great opportunity to either lay or let it ride.
A maximum of two from Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal will make the semi finals in Melbourne this year and while Rafa looks highly likely to take his place in the last four the remaining spot is less certain.
Murray faces Federer for the 22nd time in total on Wednesday and it's a very tough match to call, with the Scot still inching his way back to fitness and match sharpness, while the Swiss has impressed with some of his best tennis for a while.
That said, Federer was aided rather significantly by a terrible display from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round on Monday and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had the Frenchman grabbed the second or third sets.
Murray for his part has cruised through an easy draw with only a failure to see out a 3-0 win over Stephane Robert blotting his copybook thus far, but the big question remains. How fit is Murray?
I said in my tournament preview that it was worth laying Murray to win his quarter at a short price under the circumstances of the Brit returning from back surgery and I still think that was a decent call. I would say that Federer has been put in a tad short though at 1.8810/11 and I'd have had Murray as the favourite.
Federer's lack of wins over top-five opponents lately (two from his last 11, both over Del Potro) and the obvious factor of his age mean that I can't see the Swiss being a value bet at that price and preference in a nasty-looking betting contest is for the overs.
Murray's belligerence will probably overcome the rational part of his mind and he'll fight on for as long as he possibly can however fit he is, while Federer knows time is running very short on a chance for another major win.
The Scot has only ever retired from matches twice on the ATP Tour, while Federer never has, so I think it's better to back a longer match than either of the players at their current match odds.
If Murray is fully fit I would expect him to win, but it's not a gamble I'm prepared to take, so it's the over total games for me.
Nadal has also been struggling a bit with his fitness, but a nasty-looking blister on his hand is unlikely to be anything other than a minor annoyance, which is also what Dimitrov may well prove to be in their quarter final.
I remain sceptical about Dimitrov's stamina, despite his assertions of working hard in the off-season with taskmaster coach Roger Rasheed, and he admitted to feeling tired after his easier than expected win over Roberto Bautista-Agut in the fourth round.
Dimitrov has caused problems for Rafa in their three career meetings and Nadal wasn't at his best against Kei Nishikori, who caused the Spaniard plenty of problems and was perhaps unlucky not to take at least a set against Rafa.
Interestingly, Dimitrov has won the second set in each of those three meetings and he's a 6.05/1 shot to do so again here, while Rafa has always ended their matches much the stronger of the pair, which isn't too surprising.
Similarly to playing Federer, Nadal will look to make things as uncomfortable as possible for Dimitrov on his single-handed backhand and it should be noted that Rafa has an outstanding record against such players.
Against right handers with a one-handed backhand Nadal has won 29 of his last 30 matches (the exception being Steve Darcis at Wimbledon) and he hasn't lost one to such a player on a hard court since Federer at Indian Wells in 2012.
I would give Grigor a shot of causing problems over three sets, but I can't see him taking more than one at the most over the longer distance and another relevant stat is that Nadal hasn't lost to a player under 23-years-old in a completed match since Djokovic way back in 2009 - 34 matches ago.
It's worth trusting Dimitrov to take one set and the 3-1 Nadal win at 4.216/5 or the over 34.5 games at 2.01/1 look the ones here.
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