World Tour Finals, London
Novak Djokovic V Andy Murray at 08:30 live on Eurosport & BBC2
The men’s singles final concludes the Australian Open and it is without doubt that the two best players in the event have made it to this stage.
Both players won their first five matches in straight sets, but Murray advanced from his semi-final with Tomas Berdych dropping just one set, whilst Djokovic required five sets to dispatch defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
Ordinarily, following a five-set victory, the victor frequently struggles in the next round, due to extra physical demands that a five set match brings. However, there are several factors why this should not have a big impact on Djokovic.
Firstly, he is arguably the fittest player on tour, and secondly, with a 6-0 final set, his victory over Wawrinka lasted 210 minutes – a mere four minutes more than Murray’s triumph over Berdych (206 minutes).
Djokovic has a combined 4.4% edge on the hold/break stats, holding significantly more (89.1%) than Murray (82.3%) on hard court in the last 12 months. Murray (33.3%) breaks more than Djokovic (30.9%), however.
This 4.4% edge would make Murray some value at just over 3.00 in the market, but for this match we need to make further adjustments to model prices.
Djokovic has a dominant 15-8 head to head lead, and in Grand Slams, he has won 4 of their 5 clashes, with Murray’s five set victory in the final of the US Open his solitary win. Djokovic has also won eight of their last nine head to head matches. Clearly this history is highly significant and must be accounted for.
This is also the case for both players’ historical Grand Slam final records. Djokovic, for a player that has been world number one for a considerable time over the last three years, would probably be disappointed with a 7-7 career record, but that still eclipses Murray’s 2-5 record. Fitness and mentality are probably the key reasons why he has this edge.
These adjustments to my original model price changed my price on Djokovic to 1.33, making the current 1.50 some value.
Not even accounted for is the fact that Murray has an awful record in the last 12 months when priced over 3.00, losing all seven of those matches. Djokovic claimed four of those victories. All Murray’s five defeats (from seven matches) priced over 3.00 in Grand Slams have come via a 6 games margin, or bigger. These statistics support the argument that in big matches against elite opponents, he almost always comes up short.
Historically Djokovic’s head to head matches over Murray have featured a high percentage of dominant set wins for the Serb, and even in best of three set matches, Djokovic has won by a minimum of 3 games in six from seven wins since Murray broke into the top ten (mean 4.29 game margin).
My model price, and this data, gives us confidence we can back Djokovic to cover a reasonable game handicap margin for this clash. I feel the 4.5 game line at 2.20 looks a good option, although I wouldn’t put readers of 5.5 games either at 2.71. The historical data illustrates that if Djokovic is to claim the title in Melbourne, he will do it by a decent game handicap margin.
Recommendation: Back Djokovic -4.5 games at 2.00
Price correct at the time of writing
Melbourne – Monday 26th January at 09:00
I feel the market has over-rated Radwanska for this match, with the statistics indicating that these two players have very similar levels of ability on hard court over the last 12 months.
Whilst the older Williams sister is the lower ranked player (current rank 18th), this is mainly due to her lack of participation in as many tournaments as her rivals, and she boasts a higher 12 month all-surface win percentage to Radwanska (74% to 68%).
This ranking differential is one possible reason for Radwanska being priced short at around 1.50, and another possible explanation is high market faith in her fortunes being turned around after appointing former legend Martina Navratilova as coach. So far any benefit in this respect is intangible, and impossible to quantify.
Furthermore, Williams was almost eliminated by the talented young Italian, Camila Giorgi, in the previous round, but showed her experience to prevail in three sets. It is of my opinion that the market severely over-reacts to these ‘almost shocks’ and this was illustrated in the recent match last week between Feliciano Lopez and Jerzy Janowicz, where the market favoured Janowicz significantly because of a big win over Gael Monfils in the last round, whereas Lopez barely scraped past Adrian Mannarino, who retired when leading.
Williams, however, is unbeaten in eight matches this season and defeated Caroline Wozniacki (in my opinion a better player than Radwanska currently) in the final of the Auckland WTA International tournament.
Williams is 27-8 on hard court (77%) in the last twelve months, whereas Radwanska’s 31-12 record (72%) is marginally worse. In these matches, Williams has held 73.4% and broken 45.2%, whilst Radwanska’s 69.8% and 48.3% are very similar indeed, illustrating that there is no quantifiable reason why Williams is priced so generously.
In ten matches priced between 2.00 and 2.99 since January 2014, Williams has taken at least a set in 8/10 matches, winning four of them. This +1.5 set handicap line is a position I like here, with Radwanska winning a mere 3/9 in straight sets when 1.50-1.99 as a starting price in the same time period.
This bet is available at 1.67 and it is clear that with the overall match value and historical stats both favouring Williams, that it is a position with high expected value.
PICK: Venus Williams +1.5 sets at 1.67
Price correct at the time of writing.
Apia International Sydney – Thursday 15th January at 07:30
I feel that Troicki is the better player in this match-up despite only being made as a very marginal 1.90 favourite by the oddsmakers. My model priced him at 1.55 so there is a considerable difference from the available market prices.
The Serbian boasts a 10-4 record on the ATP Tour in main draw matches since his return to tour in July 2014 after a ban for missing a drugs test, whilst Bolelli’s record in the last 12 months is worse, at 9-9. Troicki has won five from seven on hard court, whilst Bolelli gained five wins from his eight outings on the surface in this time period.
Looking at the stats from these hard court matches, Troicki has held 84.7% – around 5% above the ATP hard court mean – whilst Bolelli has a slightly better hold percentage of 85.4%.
Both have impressive service numbers, but there is a marked difference in the two players return statistics – Troicki is the better returner by some distance, breaking his hard court opponents 28.8% since his return to Tour. Bolelli’s figures are much lower at 16.7%. This data is also backed-up by Troicki creating 0.61 break points per opponent service game across all surfaces in the last 12 months at ATP level, with Bolelli creating just 0.40 per game.
Since this return to Tour, Troicki has also recovered a break deficit 50.0% of the time which is elite level – on this basis he should remain very competitive in sets even when a break down and should be able to turn around losing positions more than average.
Troicki has also been very strong when priced as a marginal 1.50-1.99 favourite since his return to action. Including Challengers (which he used to repair his damaged ranking) he has won 11 out of 13 in this price range, including a facile 6-2 6-3 win over Martin Klizan (when priced 1.77) in the opening round of this tournament. Eight wins were via straight sets, with two in three sets and one courtesy of a retirement.
Historically these matches where Troicki is slightly the better player have treated him very well indeed – he’s 68-27 in his career in this price range. He also took four from eight in straight sets in 2013, prior to his ban.
With high motivation to recover his ranking (currently at 94, from a career high of 12), Troicki will be looking to get towards the top 50 as quickly as possible to obtain direct entry for the March Masters events in America. Since his return, he’s treated every match with maximum effort and I feel he has a superb chance here.
Recommendation: Back Viktor Troicki -1.5 sets at 3.36.
Price correct at the time of writing.