Novak Djokovic v Ernests Gulbis
You have to be impressed with the run that Ernests Gulbis has made this week in Montreal, but his biggest challenge by far is next on deck for him. Gulbis is a player that does love to raise his level when playing the best players on the Tour and he has done that plenty of times in the past, but it would take something special for him to beat Novak Djokovic in the form the World Number 1 is in.
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The dismantling of Jack Sock in the Third Round was brutal and Djokovic has laid down a marker to the rest of the Tour that he has big intentions of winning the US Open which begins in two weeks time. Playing to the level he showed against Sock will be difficult, but Djokovic has the return game to keep the pressure on Gulbis.
I also do wonder how much fight the Latvian will show if he falls a set behind in this one as he is likely to be involved in qualifiers for Cincinnati next week. He might already consider this a successful week picking up vital Ranking points, but getting into the second Masters of the summer has to be important for Gulbis too.
Someone like Djokovic can take the racquet out of your hand whether you want to or not, but I do think Gulbis has the potential of just going away a little in this one. There is no guarantee that Gulbis goes to the qualifiers in Cincinnati as he doesn’t have a lot of points to defend there, but I still feel Djokovic will begin to find his eye on the return of serve which will lead to a 64, 62 win for the Number 1 Seed.
Djokovic will be able to get the better of Gulbis’ strongest shot in the backhand and I also expect the Serb to attack the forehand by changing direction from the backhand wing. That should eventually break down the Gulbis game and the Latvian is going to have to serve very big if he is going to make this a really competitive match in my opinion.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Novak Djokovic – 5.5 Games @ 2.11 with Eastbridge Sports Betting Brokerage
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Andy Murray
There is every possibility that this is one match that is held over until Saturday as they are scheduled last on the Centre Court in Montreal. With the rain expected this evening, both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray might be spending more time playing table tennis, as they did in the rain delay at Queens Club a couple of years ago, than actually the main event out on court.
I picked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to take a set off of Murray in their Davis Cup match last month and a little more focus from the Frenchman would have seen him do that as he dropped the first two sets 75, 76. Once again it is expected that Murray is going to win this one in straight sets from the layers, but I think Tsonga has played well enough this week to make this another competitive match between these players.
The key to the whole match for Tsonga is trying to get something out of the Murray second serve, the weakest shot in the British player’s game. Any extended rallies will favour Murray so Tsonga has to attack effectively on that shot if he is going to spring the surprise having beaten Murray in Toronto at this stage last year.
Aside from that victory for Tsonga, Murray has dominated the matches between these two in recent years and he has won 11/13 sets between them. However, very rarely is it an ‘easy’ win for Murray and I think Tsonga is inspired by having to defend his Ranking points from last year and can make this very close again.
The Tsonga backhand remains a big weakness in his game, but first strike tennis is the key for the Frenchman who should receive warm support throughout the match. Tsonga has the power to take a set off of Murray, but too often that hasn’t been the case in recent matches and I will instead use the games offered to Tsonga which will come off as long as he keeps this competitive throughout. Murray has played well this week, but this is the toughest challenge he has seen so far and he might have to dig very deep to get the job done.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga + 3.5 Games @ 1.99 with Matchbook
Prices correct at time of writing.