I proved once again on Wednesday I can break down a tennis match in incredible detail and then make incredibly bad decisions about how to action that breakdown. Round the merry-go-round I go.
I figured I’d get this done now before I read/watch too many more narratives on these semi-finals and have my opinions changed.
One future cashed and a Novak/Fed final would end this tournament on a cheery note.
Do we have someone here who can upset Novak? These two have played ten times and Novak has won seven of them. But, crucially, they have played twice in 2019 and RBA has won both of those. Yet, here he is as a +800 dog? He was +400 in Doha and +350 in Miami. He won both, outright. He has combined with Novak and Rafa to drop only one set each at Wimbledon, he is holding his serve more often than Novak and Nadal and he has played a tougher collection of opponents (avg. 83) than Rafa (avg. 103) based on rank and he is not far behind Djoker (avg. 62). RBA is also not a guy that goes away in final sets… when he is not playing on clay. He has a ton of bad finishes on clay (leading credence to the notion that he is one of the few Spaniards who would consider clay his worst surface). RBA has not lost a final set worse than 6-3 on grass or hards in the last two years. If he is down two sets to love, he is not going to get crushed in the third set. And if the first two matches against Djoker this year are any barometer he won’t quit if he loses the first set either (he lost the first set both in Doha and Miami). Novak has only dropped one set so far and it was in a tiebreak. I think, despite being competitive, RBA will be hard pressed to steal a set. Novak has been broken five times this tournament and he has managed to win each of those sets (the one set he lost in a tiebreak was a break free set). Against Kohl, Novak was broken early in the first and second sets and stormed back to win each one. He did the same against Goffin in the first set, dropping an early serve before coming back hard. Against Kudla he was comfortably up a double break both times he was broken. Djokovic has made the semi-finals eight times at Wimbledon. He has never covered a -7.5 line. He has won five times, beating Rafa in five sets in 2018, Gasquet in straights in 2015 (76,64,64), Dimitrov in four sets in 2014, Delpo in five sets in 2013 and Tsonga in four sets in 2011. He lost the other three semi-final appearances. I suspect, based on his current form and a bit of ‘revenge factor’, that Novak may be able to finish this in straights. But it costs -175 and his history, as just laid out, actually suggests there is a massive chance he’ll drop a set. The Novak to win 3-1 is priced at +275. Given that he is only 1/8 at winning in straights in the semis and has dropped two matches this year to RBA, this seems like a solid bet. So the under 30.5 is out and I’m cheering for RBA to grab a set. Given that, another bet I like even better is RBA +7.5. If RBA gets a set, and as per his tendency to win at least three games in the final set as laid out above, there is high probability he covers the spread. And should he lose in straights, a 64,63,64 kind of scoreline is easy to see happening, as is a 75,63,64. In both cases, he covers. Lots of RBA love here, and with a Djoker to be a finalist future, these are also a bit of a hedge. Maybe I can middle this match right up!
Fedal 40! Oh baby. Book some time in front of the tv/laptop/phone for this puppy. What is there, honestly, to say about this match-up? It’s been broken down by hundreds of people forty fucking times. Nadal owns the head-to-head. It is largely due to clay matches. The last time they played at Wimbledon is was an epic. You may have heard about 2008? Rafa has re-discovered his appetite for grass (insert weed joke), making back-to-back semis. Despite the ass-kicking Nadal handed Federer last month on clay, all of their other match-ups in the past five years have been Fed wins. And the last three, in Shanghai, Miami and Indian Wells were true ass-kickings handed out by the Swiss. So, Fed on a fast surface. Nadal looking like the best player in the tournament (he has faced the “best” list of names, if not the highest average rank of opponent). What gives? I think it’s fucking hard to tell. Their hold/break stats on grass are remarkably similar, leading me to believe Fed is just the best at capitalizing on his chances on this surface. Like, big time. He has so many grass wins, so many Wimbledon titles, yet his grass stats pale in comparison to Novak and hover right around Nadals. I ave been preaching about Fed being motivated for this very tournament since the beginning of the year. He knows this is his last best chance. So, I’ll choose to believe any dips in performance the past ten days has been him attempting (maybe poorly) to conserve energy. It was pointed out on the Tennis Podcast, Fed has never, ever beaten both Rafa and Novak at the same Slam. He knows what he is up against and has been preparing for it. I have an outright on him and an Fed to make the final bet. I need him to win this match. But, none of this is to say Rafa is not uber motivated. He doesn’t openly talk too much about Fed’s number but, he mentions his own 18 Slams often enough. He wants to catch him. Taking this one would not only extinguish, probably, any hope of Fed adding more, it would close the gap to one, and set up an EPIC Roland Garros in 2020. What to when the two best, most motivated players met up, and you are already invested in one of them? Take the over. The only way this doesn’t hit is if somehow one of these guys wins in straights. If Fed wins in straights, great, I’ll cash some futures. If Rafa wins in straights, well, man, I just don’t see Fed NOT winning a set. So, maybe I’m blinded by that but, I just don’t think it’s possible. A four under could be an outside possibility but all three of their grass matches have eclipsed 40.5 games. Fed in four sets and about 42 games wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all. Especially if Novak goes four long sets with RBA.
Novak 3-1, +275
RBA +7.5, -110
Rafa/Fed o40.5, -110