Note: this article was published prior to Rafa Nadal pulling out of Wimbledon
It's been a painful few days for me at Wimbledon 2022, with my big-priced outrights losing matches they should have won and instead of Taylor Fritz being in the semi finals (he was 1.11/10 in-play in the quarter finals) it wasRafael Nadal who advanced to take on Nick Kyrgios only to pull out and Novak Djokovic versus Cam Norrie.
Starting with the defending champion then and Djokovic takes on Norrie in what should be a pretty comfortable win for the Serb.
Norrie was rather fortunate to escape with the win from his semi final clash with David Goffin, with the Belgian the better player for most of that contest.
I'd expected the regularly injured Goffin to really struggle in that match after an epic five-setter the previous round against Frances Tiafoe, but Goffin could have won all of the first three sets of that match before fading in the fifth.
Norrie won that one, as he so often does, on physicality but it's hard to see that style of play working against someone like Djokovic.
Indeed, Norrie's record against the better players on tour is awful: 4-23 versus top-10 ranked opponents (at the time of the match) and 2-22 versus the current top-10 ranked players.
You have to respect what Norrie has achieved given the ability that he has and he's really made the most of his talents, but he's very unlikely to come close to beating someone like a Djokovic in a major semi final.
The stats tell the tale for Norrie: in those 24 career matches versus the current top-10 ranked players, his hold/break total is just 80.3 and his combined service points won/return points won total is 89.7.
Norrie's record against the better players on tour is awful: 4-23 versus top-10 ranked opponents and 2-22 versus the current top-10 ranked players
Compare that to his last 50 main level matches against all opposition and the difference is huge: a 107 service hold/break total and a combined service points won/return points won total of 104.
If we're generous and take only Norrie's last 12 months stats at main level versus the current top-10 players, they're still poor: 2-12 win/loss, a hold/break total of 85.7 and a combined service points won/return points won total of 93.
Rarely do the elite players lose to lower ranked opposition in matches that matter and the last time that Djokovic lost a major semi was not really unexpected - versus Dominic Thiem in the 2019 French Open.
Prior to that, he lost to Kei Nishikori in the 2014 US Open, which was a surprise, but Nishikori was playing great tennis at that time and had the game to test the better players.
I don't see that in Norrie and Djokovic to win this 3-0 looks the bet here. He's not going to want to waste any more energy after that struggle against Jannik Sinner and Norrie may well get the brunt of that here.
Big-priced bettors may look to the set one score of either 6-2 or 6-1 to Djokovic, with Norrie a possible nervy starter in what's a very big match for him, but the only viable bet here for me is the Djokovic 3-0 at 1.574/7.
That can be the first leg of a big-priced double and the second leg (small stakes, as there's a lot of guesswork involved for obvious reasons) is to chance Rafa Nadal against Nick Kyrgios.
Anyone who watched Nadal come back from what looked like the brink of retirement against Taylor Fritz won't have been too surprised in the way he fought like a lion in spite of being hampered by an abdominal injury and I know which one of he and Kyrgios I'd like fighting for my life.
Fritz should have seen off a seriously underpowered Nadal, but for me he played it all wrong, waiting for Nadal to either miss or just fade physically.
The backhand down the line followed by an approach to net was the play, but he refused to do it and it ended up costing Fritz (and me) dearly.
We don't know yet if Rafa will even play against Kyrgios due to that injury, but it's very possible that he could play with some sort of medication and for me this puts Kyrgios into a position mentally that he's never been before.
Now, instead of being the underdog, fighting and loving it against the elite players with (seemingly) nothing to lose, he's now expected to beat an injured opponent and make a major final for the first time in his career.
How will he handle it?
I can see him melting down at some point in this match if Rafa does show up in reasonable shape and remember, it's not certain at all that the Kyrgios body can handle much more tennis.
Nadal was a 1.241/4 chance when this pair last met at a major in Melbourne in 2020, with Nadal winning in four sets and a 1.330/100 shot when they clashed this season at Indian Wells when Nadal edged it in a final set breaker.
Now he's odds-against 2.35/4 to beat Kyrgios and I don't mind taking a chance on the set betting market here, as that voids on a retirement, and the value has to be with Nadal.
I'll take him to win this 3-1 at 5.59/2 as the second leg of a small stakes double that would pay 8.64 if successful.