Let’s start with Tokyo. I didn’t see the Raonic/Murray semi final but I have seen Murray’s last couple of matches and whilst he wasn’t at his best especially in the second set against Wawrinka he was playing ok. I have to assume Raonic is serving like a machine.
Murray, one of the best returners in the game, managed to break the Raonic serve just once and I don’t think Tipsarevic even had a break point in the quarter final.
Raonic’s opponent in the final is local hero Nishikori. The Japanese number 1 has beaten Berdych and in the semi final Baghdatis, a man who had never lost a set to Nishikori, was also despatched in 2 sets.
Nishikori had poor opening sets against Soeda and Robredo but worked through the nerves to win each match in 3 sets. No apparent nerves in his last 2 matches and in the semi final Baghdatis was fancied by many ( me included) to take the win but Nishikori played some inspirational tennis. Baggy just couldn’t live with him.
Raonic starts as fsvourite at 1.65 . Obviously his serve is his biggest weapon. It’s worth noting that when Berdych served well Nishikori didn’t often have an answer. Raonic’s serve has been far more consistent this week and whilst I expect Nishikori to make a real match of it I don’t think he will be able to cope with the bombs often enough to get the win.
Once they are in a rally Nishikori has a real edge based on his form in previous rounds but I doubt he will get enough rallies on return of serve to make that edge count.
Part stake on Raonic from the start with a top up if the price goes above 1.90 .
In China Djokovic takes on Tsonga. Djokovic leads the head to heads 7-6 but has won 5 of their last 6 matches. Tsonga’s “win” was a walkover when Djokovic pulled out of their quarter final in Paris last year. The last match that they completed on a hard court was in the Australian Open in 2010 and Tsonga won in 5 sets.
Djokovic has lost just 1 set this week which was surprisingly to Berrer in the first round. Mayer took 5 games from him which was more than Melzer and Berlocq had managed.
Tsonga also dropped his only set of the week in the first round ( to Istomin ) but since then straight sets wins over Youzhny and Lopez put him in Sunday’s final.
Djokovic starts at 1.22 which looks low. When you look at his record in this tournament you can perhaps understand the price. He didn’t play last year but won the title in 2009 and 2010.
I’ll be hoping for a higher price on Djokovic as I don’t see him losing this one.
China’s WTA final is between Azarenka and Sharapova. Neither player has lost a set this week so something’s got to give.
Azarenaka leads the head to heads 6-4. She has won all 3 of their hard court encounters in 2012 with Sharapova winning on the clay in Stuttgart.
In the quarter final against Kerber Sharapova played incredible tennis. She led 6-0, 3-0 when Kerber retired although there was no apparent injury other than embarrassment. Li Na put up a decent fight in the opening set in the semi final although she was aided by a poor serving performance from Sharapova. The second set was another story with Sharapova winning 6-0.
Azarenka has faced tough first sets from Lisicki and also Bartoli but once the first set was in the bag she controlled the match.
I expect Azarenka to be able to punish any weak serving from Sharapova. Their previous hard court matches suggest that Azarenka knows how to beat the Russian on this surface although I don’t think Sunday’s final will be easy for her. She starts at 1.54 which is probably a fair price if Sharapova’s serve is missing the mark in the early games. However if her serve is sorted out for this match I think we will see 3 sets so I will be waiting to see how the serve is at the start. Ideally I will be able to get a price nearer evens on Azarenka.