Li v S Williams: ***UPDATE Williams has withdrawn with a lower back injury***
Head to heads are 5-1 to Williams. They have never played on clay.
Li has been in excellent form this week but in her last 2 matches she has almost thrown away a huge lead. Against Cibulkova she was 4-0 up in the second set and against Scheepers she had a 4-1 lead in the first set. Both sets were won by Li in a tie break.
Williams has shot up the rankings since her return to the tour and when she’s in the mood can play some impressive tennis. She has lost just 1 set this week which was against an inspired Petrova in the second round. In her quarter final she was 4-0 up against Pennetta when the Italian quit through injury.
If Williams is going to be vulnerable it is in the early games of the opening set. I don’t really give Li a huge chance to take the match. If she can maintain her high level of play without the lapses in concentration then she could take the opening set but I feel its more likely that she will get an early break but not be able to hold on to it. That would be great to give us a higher price to back the American.
Kerber v Sharapova:
They have played twice before and both matches were this year. They won 1 match each. Both matches were on hard courts.
Sharapova hasn’t lost a set this week but has had a battle in each of her 3 matches. Against McHale and Ivanovic she had to recover from being a break down in the first set. Venus Williams pushed her very close in their quarter final and especially in the opening set. Sharapova has served reasonably well and when the pressure has mounted she has dealt with the situation better than her opponent.
Kerber has had the easier draw but has still had to get past Kvitova and Goerges. A concern for Kerber backers will be the 1-6 loss of the second set to Kvitova. She did come back strongly to win the third set by the same score.
Kerber’s best chance is to take the opening set. The last time Sharapova won the opening set but lost the match was the final of Cincinnati in August 2010 to Clijsters.
Kerber has had a great week but I favour Sharapova to win this. However I feel that her starting price of 1.42 is too low. I’ll be waiting for anything over 1.70 unless its clear that Shara is in control from an early stage.
Ferrer v Nadal:
Head to heads are 15-5 in Nadal’s favour. On clay it’s 11-1 ( Ferrer’s win was in 2004)
Nadal seems to be on a mission this week. He wasn’t happy with the blue clay in Madrid and perhaps blames it for him losing his number 2 ranking. It took someone like an in form Berdych to put up some respectable resistance to him this week.
Ferrer has also won all his matches in straight sets. He has played at a high level to overcome 3 experienced clay courters in Gasquet, Simon and Verdasco.
Given the head to head and Nadal’s attitude this week I can’t really give Ferrer too much of a chance today. Nadal starts at 1.13 which could be worth a lay but don’t get too greedy.
Djokovic v Federer:
Probably the match most are waiting to see today.
Federer leads the head to heads 14-11. On clay Fed leads 3-1.
Its unusual to see Djokovic unable to understand why his game is faltering. Monaco put him under a lot of pressure but Djokovic’s problems were of his own making. Before his amazing rise to number 1 one of his weaknesses was his serve and that seems to be the case this week. He was also broken twice in the first set against Tsonga. He will be well aware of how important it will be to serve well against Federer.
Federer faced local hero Seppi who had already beaten Wawrinka and Isner. Federer despatched him for the loss of just 3 games playing some very aggressive tennis. Ferrero rolled back a year or two to take Federer to 3 sets. The Spaniard served extremely well with a first serve % of 79 compared to just 51% from Federer. Despite that Federer gave him just 3 break point chances of which 1 was taken in the second set.
This match could come down to who serves the best. I expect Federer to come out aggressively in the first set. If the tactic works and he is able to take the first set then he really needs to avoid letting his level drop in the second set.
Djokovic starts as favourite at 1.94 although last night he was nearer 1.80 . I am favouring Federer. Djokovic isn’t playing as well as last season and I feel Federer has the better clay court game.