It's semi-final day at the Monte Carlo Masters this afternoon, and with the Rafa Nadal procession to the title seemingly in full flow, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, looks at today's action...
"Nishikori was a menace on return against Cilic, creating 14 break point chances in 15 return games, and looks to be getting back to somewhere near his best."
Gasquet capitulates from strong position in deja vu
We have certainly been victim of some tough breaks this week, with Richard Gasquet being the third consective underdog to lose for us from either a set and break up, or a break up in the final set, and yesterday's capitulation from 4-3 to 5-7 in the final set against Alexander Zverev was something of a deja vu moment for the veteran Frenchman when playing top 10 opponents.
Nishikori improvement not picked up by the market
Having got through this, Zverev now faces Kei Nishikori in the second semi-final today, with the Japanese player - in all truth - deserving to oust our outright selection, Marin Cilic. In fact, Nishikori was a menace on return against Cilic, creating 14 break point chances in 15 return games, and looks to be getting back to somewhere near his best.
This statement is borne out by Nishikori's service/return data this week, which sees him winning 66.0% of service points and 43.3% on return (109.3%) while Zverev has managed a lower combined percentage (105.6%), but the market is bullish on the young German, making him a [1.69] favourite to make the final.
My model rather disagreed. Zverev, despite a lot of wins on the surface, doesn't have close to elite-level clay data, winning numerous tight matches, and I actually make Nishikori the favourite, at [1.83], to be celebrating victory this evening.
On this basis, this is more than enough value on Nishikori at [2.42] to make him today's recommendation.
Dimitrov next in line for tough Nadal test
Prior to this, fresh from his 6-0 6-2 demolition of Dominic Thiem, the King of Clay, Rafa Nadal takes on Grigor Dimitrov, who edged David Goffin in two competitive straight sets in the early match yesterday.
Unsurprisingly, Nadal is a heavy favourite to win, with the Exchange making him a current [1.09] to continue the Bulgarian's head to head misery, which sees Nadal having taken 10 of the 11 previous encounters - Dimitrov's one victory was on hard court.
Quite incredibly, Nadal has broken opponents almost 50% of the time on clay in the last 12 months, aptly demonstrating his sheer dominance over the competition right now on this surface, and realistically, it's difficult to dispute that price this afternoon.
Nadal dominant in outright market
At the start of the week, many on social media thought that the outright market price of around [1.60] on Nadal was far too short - as the week progressed, it's actually looked like value. He's currently now into just [1.21] to take the title tomorrow evening, making him a projected [1.11] against the winner of Zverev and Nishikori tomorrow.
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