How depressing was Thursday? I ruined a great month of June, I showed how blinded I was by the desire for someone to shake up the ranks, and I am faced with the reality that Thiem remains the only hope at disruption…. and it might only be on clay, ergo the Wimbledon semi-finals are probably going to feature the same Big three we’ve been watching for the last decade.
Down to just Nadal. And well, it’s hard not to feel good about that. He might be pushed by Federer on Friday or Djokovic on Sunday but, if Thiem showed anything on Thursday, it’s that surfaces matter more than anything else in tennis (hence why my head-to-heads and stats presented are all surface specific).
These two dudes have almost identical stats on clay courts. These speaks volumes about where Thiem is at when on clay. I said at the outset of the clay season, in Monte Carlo, that Thiem was one of the three or four best clay players tour. The stats and his recent history make that indisputable. This is now Thiem’s fourth straight trip to the semi finals here at Roland Garros. Here’s the scary thing though. He is playing a motivated Djokovic. Djokovic’s stats are impressive, elite even. But, they are not on Rafa’s level. They are on Thiem’s and Zverev’s level. That makes what Djoker has accomplished on clay even more impressive. He has won each of the clay Masters - Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome twice and he won the French. And he is one of only two people to ever beat Rafa at Roland Garros. Djoker can outperform his stats. Thiem has beaten Djoker twice and both were on clay. But, both were during Djoker’s post Roland Garros victory. During his swoon. During his elbow issues. I think Djoker rolls. He hasn’t dropped a set yet and I have done nothing but underestimate his play this clay season. Djoker is holding serve at an incredible rate and if that match in Madrid showed anything, it’s that Djoker can keep up with Thiem at altitude (76,76). At sea level, Thiem’s serve is less potent and Djoker should break him more often. I’ll take Djoker -3.5, I’ll take Djoker -175 to break serve first, and no tiebreak played +162.
What more is there to say about Federer and Nadal? Nadal defenders will point out Nadal famously owns the head-to-head. Fed fans will point out that mostly that head-to-head disparity is due to clay where Nadal is 13-2 and both of Fed’s wins have come at altitude where his serve plays better. People who want to back Fed will point out his has ‘revamped’ his game and has won the last five and Nadal hasn’t beaten him in five years. Ya, well, none of those matches were on clay. I am sure there is some narrative that can be out together that says this is Fed’s last chance to slay the Nadal at Roland Garros dragon. And that he’ll be ultra-motivated. Well, Nadal’s knees seem more shot every year and his clock is ticking just as fast as Fed’s and I am sure he knows it. Here’s what I expect, I expect Fed to keep this close early and fade late. That’s been his m.o. both in this tournament and against Nadal. In their last five matches on clay, outside of Madrid, the final set has ended with Rafa winning 63 or better. 76,64,63 Nadal is about right. 64,46,64,62 Nadal also sounds about right. Either way, i expect Fed to push Nadal and then fade away. If Nadal is up two sets to love and the third set handicap is Nadal -2.5 -150 or better, I’ll be hitting that. Same in the fourth set if Nadal is up two sets to one and won the third set. If Nadal is up two sets to one but, Fed won the third set, all bets are off.
I like Kudla and Ebden, grass specialists against relatively Challenger level players.
I like Ivo/Troicki over and Copil/Ebden over when those lines pop.
Djoker -3.5, -120
Djoker to break first, -175
Djoker/Thiem no tb, +162
Federer +6.5, -110
Ebden/Kudla ml, +126