World Tour Finals, London
Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer – O2 Arena at 18:00 live on BBC 1
For the second time this week and for the second time in consecutive seasons, Novak Djokovic is set to face Roger Federer at the O2 Arena in the World Tour Finals. Last season was an anti-climax as Roger Federer pulled out of the Final due to injury which meant he focused on the Davis Cup Final, but this year both players look in strong form and the Final should be very good to watch.
Both Djokovic and Federer came through their Semi Final matches in straight sets and both looked very good in their wins over Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka respectively. The edge on that form has to be given to Novak Djokovic who was very, very good, but Roger Federer might have the mental edge having beaten Djokovic in the Group a few days ago.
How much am I going to stake in that result? Not that much actually because Novak Djokovic admitted he had been very loose in the second set to let the match get away from him. The fact is that that wasn’t an elimination match so Djokovic might have let his focus wander, but that is not likely to happen in the Final.
It is a big Final for Federer too who can still take over as World Number 2 for the end of season Rankings if he wins the tournament and Andy Murray isn’t successful in the Davis Cup next week. However, Federer hasn’t looked himself the last couple of matches (not talking about the new-look bearded Federer) and he has won through sheer will.
That isn’t enough against the World Number 1 who I think will be much better in all aspects of his game than he was in his straight sets loss to Federer. As I said earlier in the week, the conditions should suit Djokovic more than Federer and he has won three in a row at the O2 in the World Tour Finals which backs up that belief.
I thought Djokovic would win 75, 64 earlier this week and I was wrong… However, I think he is the right favourite here and I will look for Djokovic to just be a little more solid all around and take his chances this time around. Federer might not be at 100% when it comes to his health as I still think he could be suffering from a cold he had on Thursday and I think Djokovic wins the title with an impressive win to round up an impressive 2016 season.
Tennis Handicap Betting Pick: Novak Djokovic -3.5 Games at 2.28 with Unibet
Prices correct at the time of writing.
Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal still holds the head to head advantage over Novak Djokovic, but it is the World Number 1 who has won seven of their last eight matches against one another. That includes straight sets wins at the Monte Carlo Masters in April, the French Open back in May and in Beijing last month.
I don’t think you can doubt that Rafael Nadal is in much better form than in those matches earlier in the season, but he was quite convincingly pushed aside by Djokovic in Beijing when the Spaniard won just four games.
I would be very surprised if this Semi Final is not a lot closer with Nadal producing some very strong tennis to win all three Group games. On the other hand Djokovic has not quite looked up to his very best the last couple of matches, although he had Friday off while Nadal was having to dig deep to beat David Ferrer in three sets.
It is a match up that Djokovic has enjoyed in recent matches as his more consistent length has made it very difficult for Nadal to stay in the extended rallies. His serve is also under-rated and I think Djokovic will have the higher number of break point chances in this one and Nadal is perhaps not fully restored at his top level to challenge the World Number 1.
In the last eight matches, Djokovic would cover this number of games in a victory over Nadal six times including in all three matches they have played this season. A couple of years ago Djokovic also beat Nadal by a five game margin in the Final here at the World Tour Finals and I think he will have a little too much for the Spaniard again.
After some battling rallies, I think Djokovic comes through 64, 63 in this Semi Final.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Novak Djokovic – 4.5 Games @ 2.06
Roger Federer v Stan Wawrinka
Last year at the O2 Arena, Roger Federer beat Stan Wawrinka in what had to be the most controversial match between a pair of friends. Wawrinka and Federer’s wife Mirka got into something on the court which saw both players meet up and hash things out backstage at the conclusion of the match in anticipation of their Davis Cup Final exploits that were to take place later in the week.
Both men have put that incident behind them, but you know the cameras will be fixed on Mirka and Wawrinka in this match as the media perhaps hope to catch a second coming together. It is unlikely though with the respect Wawrinka and Federer have for one another and this could be a very intriguing Semi Final on Saturday evening.
There are questions that both will need to answer- Stan Wawrinka had to play Friday night and it was a tough win for him over Andy Murray although he did get it done in two sets. However, it will be interesting to see if he can recover physically, while Roger Federer had been suffering with a cold on Thursday and will hope to be in better shape come Saturday.
In their three matches this season, all of them have seen the winner dominate. Federer has won two of those and Wawrinka has won one, but each win has come in straight sets and I do favour Federer in this Semi Final. Last season’s Semi Final was very competitive, but Federer played the big points not as well as he would have expected and he can make things a little more straight-forward this time around.
Federer will need to serve better than he did against Kei Nishikori, but that might be possible with the additional focus with this being a more competitive match for him. I am also thinking he will be feeling better by this moment and Federer can find his way to a 63, 64 win and a rematch with Novak Djokovic in the Final.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Roger Federer – 3.5 Games @ 1.91
Prices correct at time of writing.
Odds provided by Eastbridge Sports Betting Broker.
Rafael Nadal v David Ferrer
Watching Rafael Nadal over the last couple of months of the season has been like watching him at something like his best. He isn’t quite up to the level that saw him win numerous Grand Slam titles and reach World Number 1, but the length in the groundstrokes is getting much better and there is no doubting that the confidence is returning.
Nadal is quite an open book with the media and while he was criticised earlier in the year for admitting his confidence isn’t where it should be, he has been a lot more positive more recently. Other players have also noticed with Roger Federer telling the press that he is expecting big things from Nadal in 2016 and I am with the 17 time Grand Slam Champion on that.
The Spaniard has already won this Group and now faces compatriot David Ferrer who knows this is his last match of the year. With a match against Novak Djokovic to come on Saturday, I do wonder if we will see a full effort from Nadal in this one, although the competitor in him is unlikely to ‘tank’.
Matches between the pair have been gruelling affairs in the past and that will be a worry for Nadal with that match against Djokovic twenty-four hours later in mind. However, I think it will focus him to get this job done and keep the confidence rolling and I think Nadal understands the importance of keeping the wins coming.
One element that has changed recently is that Nadal has been more likely to pick to serve first in his matches and that is a key here. If he gets to serve first, I really do think he wins this one 63, 64, but even if Nadal serves second I do think he will have too much for Ferrer on the form both have shown this week.
Handicap Betting Pick: Rafael Nadal -4.5 Games at 2.01 with Matchbook
Stan Wawrinka v Andy Murray
The Davis Cup Final was casting a big shadow over Andy Murray’s preparations for the World Tour Finals and I think that tournament might be at the forefront of his thoughts on Friday too. While Murray can still qualify for the Semi Final, he suffered what looked a slight niggle against Rafael Nadal at the end of that match on Wednesday and I do wonder if that plays on his mind on Friday.
The fact is that Murray is also going against Stan Wawrinka, a dangerous player who had a very good win over David Ferrer to preserve his chances of qualifying for the Semi Final too. That win was impressive as Wawrinka came from a break down to take the first set and then dominated, but he has to focus from the beginning of this match.
Wawrinka has had the better of his last couple of matches against Andy Murray but this is the first time they have met in over two years which is quite remarkable considering they have been top ten players in that time.
My feeling is that this tournament means a lot more to Wawrinka than it does to Murray and that niggle he felt against Nadal is likely to be in the back of his mind. Murray knows how big the Davis Cup Final is as a tournament he probably never really expected to have a chance of winning and it is easy to think that the focus is on next week considering Murray even talked about pulling out of this one a couple of months ago.
On the other hand, Wawrinka made it clear after the loss to Nadal that this tournament does mean a lot to him and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Swiss Number 2 won this match outright. A rematch of the controversial Semi Final against Roger Federer from last season would make great viewing, but I will take the safety of the games from this one.
Hanidcap Betting Pick: Stan Wawrinka +2.5 Games at 1.92 with Unibet
Prices correct at the time of writing.