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Gael Monfils v Novak Djokovic
I has been a while since the last time there would have been a run like this in a Grand Slam. When a Semi Finalist has only won two completed matches to get into this Round. Unheard of. Yet, considering Novak Djokovic has had a couple of injury worries heading into the tournament, he has stated he is glad to have been given the help of one walkover and two retirements to aid him.
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Overall, we simply don’t know how Djokovic is feeling. There are suggestions he would not have played this tournament if it had not been a Grand Slam event. He has yet to be truly tested, but there have been signs that his serve is still a problem for the World Number 1. In my opinion, I do think Djokovic is at his most vulnerable in any Grand Slam event he has played in recent years.
While I have no doubt that whoever awaits in the Final would not be overawed by Djokovic and the challenge he brings, Gael Monfils is a different story. The Frenchman is arguably playing the best tennis of his career. Yet, he is in just a second Semi Final at this level and the first since the French Open in 2008. He has played in a Quarter Final at the Australian Open this season and it was only a couple of years ago that Monfils was 2-0 up in sets against Roger Federer before missing match points and going down in five sets in the Quarter Final.
Monfils has been serving well, but has to accept that Djokovic is going to get more balls back in play than any other player on the Tour. He can’t let that frustrate him. Monfils can take advantage of the Djokovic serve if there are still some troubles on that shot for the favourite.
That serve has been broken in every match he has played beyond one set in this tournament. So I think Monfils should be stronger than when they met in the Semi Final in Toronto. That match came after Monfils won the tournament in Washington in the week prior to Toronto, so fatigue might have played a big part in the way that match went down as the Monfils second serve was dismantled by Djokovic.
While he has spent more time on court, Monfils should be fresher for this match than in the Toronto Semi Final. He has come through with the confidence of winning every match without dropping a set. He has given Djokovic trouble when producing his absolute best on the court and Monfils is close to that level. Yet, there are doubts that Djokovic’s fitness could also play a part in this Semi Final.
Monfils looks a big price to simply win a set in this one and I will be looking for him to do so.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Gael Monfils +2.5 Sets @ 1.86 with Unibet
Stan Wawrinka v Kei Nishikori
The second Semi Final looks like another where you can get the popcorn out. A match with plenty of big shots and drama involved. Both players have had to come through difficult Quarter Final matches and their previous matches have been competitive. I would say this is a tough one to pick between Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.
Overall, Nishikori as the favourite is a surprise. Would have guessed Wawrinka was favourite when in this Semi Final. Yes, Nishikori beat him in Cincinnati and also two years ago at the US Open. However, between those matches there was a really straightforward win for Wawrinka at the Australian Open.
The Swiss player does have the heavier groundstrokes. However, Nishikori is the more consistent player of the two which makes this a very intriguing match. If Wawrinka is feeling the ball off his racquet, as he was against Juan Martin Del Potro, he is going to be tough to stop. My lean is that he is peaking at the right time.
Two years ago we saw Nishikori dig deep until he had nothing left by the time he reached the Final. He has not been pushed outside of the match against Andy Murray, but there are no real physical issues to prevent Nishikori finding his best tennis. His win over Wawrinka in Cincinnati will boost the confidence, but I think Wawrinka is in stronger form at this moment than he was a couple of weeks ago.
I also think the Nishikori serve can be vulnerable at this level of tennis. There are enough factors to back the underdog in this one. You can’t always tell which Wawrinka will turn up day to day, but he has looked like he is more focused after coming close to exiting the tournament against Daniel Evans last week. In conclusion, I do think he can win this one outright and move into another Grand Slam Final.
The keys for Wawrinka will be to serve well and use patience on the court to curb the unforced errors that Nishikori will feed off. The Japanese player will get into the zone, but punishing the serve will put more pressure on him and Wawrinka is capable of doing that in a four set win.
HANDICAP BETTING PICK: Stan Wawrinka +1.5 Games @ 2.00 with Eastbridge Sports Betting Brokerage
Prices correct at time of writing.