The only singles match on Friday's schedule at the Australian Open is the men's semi-final between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, gives his thoughts...
"If we dial down to more recent meetings - say the four from the start of 2017 onwards - Thiem has an even greater edge, winning 8% more service points and holding almost 90% of the time."
Thiem and Zverev in surprise semi-final
With Rafa Nadal and Daniil Medvedev both eliminated from the top half of the draw, we see a rather surprise men's semi-final on Friday with the aforementioned Thiem and Zverev fighting it out to see who faces Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final.
Thiem, whose general weakness in quicker conditions was illustrated in him never previously getting past the fourth round here in Melbourne, and Zverev, who really struggled at the ATP Cup warm-up event prior to this tournament, weren't expected by many to make the latter stages - particularly when Thiem was 2-1 down in sets to Alex Bolt in round two.
Djokovic a huge favourite to beat either player
However, here they are, and Thiem is the 8/151.52 market favourite to get the win. Whoever progresses will be a rather heavy underdog to Djokovic in the final - the Serb is just 2/71.29 to lift the trophy at the time of writing after he defeated Roger Federer in straight sets in their semi-final, with Federer succumbing after he had an excellent chance of taking the opening set, failing to serve it out prior to losing the tiebreak.
Historical match-ups give edge to Thiem
When I initially looked at the market prices, I thought Thiem looked a little short and based purely on 12 month combined service/return points won percentages, this would be the case with Thiem having just over a 2% combined edge, and a similar advantage when looking at six month data as well.
Despite this, I think the market is justified in having a little more faith in Thiem with him having a 6-2 head-to-head lead over Zverev, and while a couple of those victories were when Zverev was making his way up the rankings, Thiem does have a nice statistical edge in their career matches as a whole, winning over 6% more service points in their career meetings.
If we dial down to more recent meetings - say the four from the start of 2017 onwards - Thiem has an even greater edge, winning 8% more service points and holding almost 90% of the time. Zverev winning in the low 30%s of return points should be of real concern to those who think he can cause an upset tomorrow.
I think it's fair to add a little weighting to the head to head as well, which makes Thiem's price much more reasonable. Given this, there's no pre-match edge here, but I'm looking forward to a fascinating match with probably the overwhelming motive of both players being to win, and win without expending a ton of energy. With a fresh Djokovic looming in Sunday's final, a five-setter wouldn't do the winner any favours whatsoever.
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