Men’s Semi Final Day
And then there were 4. After some exciting and shocking quarter finals, we come to one of the best afternoons of tennis on the calendar.
Midday start. Djokovic vs Nishikori followed by Federer vs Cilic. It is going to be a fun afternoon.
Novak Djokovic vs Kei Nishkori
Previous h2h meetings
2011, Basel, Hardcourt
Nishikori def Djokovic 2-6 7-6 6-0 (Djokovic 2 points from victory up 6-2 5-4* 30/0*, Nishikori first serve % 21 percent lower at 46% vs 67%)
I don’t normally take much from previous meetings, especially meetings so long ago, but Nishikori’s ability to target and attack the 2nd serve of Djokovic in their 2011 meeting was noticeable, with Novak winning only 10 of 30 points on his 2nd serve (two examples at 5:02 and 18:35 in this highlights package -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKi40iirp_g )
2010, Roland Garros, Clay
Djokovic def Nishikori 6-1 6-4 6-4
Road to the Semi Final
As we have come to expect, it has been quite a clinical fortnight for Novak, dropping only 18 games in his first 9 sets defeating Schwartzman, Mathieu and Querrey in straight sets as a $1.01 favourite in all 3 matches. From there, things became slightly more difficult for Novak, although still started $1.03 vs Kohlschreiber in the 4th round. Although he looked a little flushed as if he wasn’t tolerating the heat of the day as well as usual, he did finish the match off in straight sets, 6-1 7-5 6-4.
Then came his biggest test of the tournament, Andy Murray in the quarter finals. Andy Murray got off to a decent start, earning at least a break point in each of Novak’s first 5 service games, before Novak clawed out a 1st set tiebreak 7-6. After going up a break early in the 2nd set, Djokovic let Murray back into the match, squaring things up with an equally as impressive tiebreak. From there, it was seemingly all Novak, taking the third and fourth sets 6-2 6-4, winning with a break of the Murray serve to 15. I think the scoreline towards the end flattered Novak somewhat, however he was better in the key moments, converting 7 of 10 breaks points in comparison to 4 of 16 from Murray. What did impress me from Murray was the ability to get into so many of Novak’s service games. Of the 21 Novak service games, 11 service games either ended in Novak being broken (4) or holding in a game that went to Deuce (7). That is quite an impressive number against the world number 1. Novak was only able to win just over 50% of his second serves (29/56) whilst winning 31 of 58 points on the Murray second serve.
The guy we all thought would struggle to get out of the first round post minor surgery earlier in the month has shocked us all on the way to the semi final. Dubbed by some as the ‘marathon man’, which I never thought I would see in the same sentence as Nishikori (unless the sentence was ‘Kei Nishikori is not a marathon man’), Nishikori has shown fantastic composure on his way to the semi finals. After dispatching Wayne Odesnik 2, 4 and 2 in round 1, Kei was the beneficiary of a Pablo Andjuar retirement when Nishikori lead 6-4 6-1. In round 3, Nishkori manhandled Leo Mayer in 3 sets, allowing Leo to win only 11 of 33 points on his second serve. Kei didn’t have it all his own way, facing 10 break points spread across 4 service games, saving 9 of them.
Then came the back to back 5 setters, something unfamiliar for Kei. From 2 sets to 1 down, Kei managed to win two non-tiebreak sets, winning 17 of 29 second serve points on the Raonic serve in sets 4 and 5, whilst winning 56 of 69 points on his own serve across the last two sets. Another interesting stat, Nishikori was able to reach 30, deuce or break the Raonic serve in 16 of his 28 service games.
Quarter Final time, and Kei did it again. 5 sets vs Stan Wawrinka, who was starting to play himself into form this fortnight. 5 tough sets decided the contest, with Nishikori breaking Stan in the 57th game to win 3-6 7-5 7-6 6-7 6-4. Again Nishikori faced 10 break points for the match, saving 8 of them.
I think the odds are wrong here, all things considered. Kei has had the extra day off, giving his body a chance to recover from the last couple of matches. If he has fully recuperated, then he is going to be a massive chance here against Novak.
I think Novak would have definitely preferred this match to be at night. Instead, we get a noon match, with forecast conditions similar to those Nishikori experienced against Stan Wawrinka. As I said earlier, I think Novak does not tolerate the weather in the heat of the day as well as he did a year or two ago, but he is still a force to be reckoned with.
Nishikori has shown over the last 9 months on hardcourt that he has taken the next step. Since (and including) the Australian Open he is 22-5 on hardcourt, with 1 loss by walkover, another by retirement and a third completing a match vs Gasquet last month when clearly not fit. The other two losses came vs Tommy Haas in Indian Wells (return tournament after retirement the tournament before) and the gripping battle vs Rafa Nadal on Rod Laver Arena, where Kei had every chance of taking the victory.
Amongst those 22 victories, wins over Ferrer, Wawrinka, Federer, Raonic, Dimitrov and Cilic. Is his limited match play for the month leading in to the US Open helping him now in New York?
Novak has had a bit of a lapse since his Wimbledon triumph. Losses to Jo Wilfried Tsonga (2-6 2-6) and Tommy Robredo (5-7 6-7) have meant Novak has come into this Slam with possibly the most questionable form for some years. He has turned things around in the last week, but is he at his most vulnerable here in some time? I think so, especially against one of the most technically sound players in the game at present.
Prior to 2014, Kei had only 9 victories against top 10 players in his career. He has 6 already this year. Will tonight be number 7? I think $8 head to head is well over the odds.
Suggested Bet: 4 units Kei Nishikori h2h at $7.50 at TAB Sportsbet vs Novak Djokovic
Saver Bet: 0.75 units Novak Djokovic 3-2 set betting at $10 at Ladbrokes