ATP Finals: Qualifying Implications Get Complicated5 min read
Dominic Thiem v Kei Nishikori (1400 GMT)
So, what do we know here?
Well, Thiem has to win in straight sets to keep his hopes alive (he’d then need Kevin Anderson to win in similar fashion in the evening match).
Nishikori can progress even if he loses (although he’ll almost certainly have to win a set if he’s to do so) but can also go out even if he wins.
Essentially, it’s pretty complicated and there will still be a variety of scenarios possible after this match has been played.
In terms of a bet, perhaps more relevant is something else we know – that both players were absolutely awful in their previous matches on Tuesday. Thiem produced error after error in defeat to Roger Federer, while Nishikori played one of the worst matches of his career as he won just one game against Anderson.
It’s hard to have any confidence in either man following those performances.
What is definitely interesting is the news that Thiem will play this match with a new string set-up in his racquet. He strings with racquet with a mix of natural gut and artificial fibre – one across and one down. He says he will switch that combination for this match. While he’s tested such a set-up in training, he hasn’t played a match with it.
To make such a change mid-tournament suggests to me he’s not 100 per cent concerned about gaining the win he needs. So does his comment that he has “nothing to lose”.
Throw in the fact that Nishikori has a stronger record at The O2 and leads their head-to-head 3-1 – the most recent of those being a 6-3 6-1 demolition in Vienna last month – and it’s the Japanese I want to be here with when pushed.
And if you are going to back Nishikori, it’s probably worth backing him to win in straight sets. That result gives him the best chance of reaching the semis, while it’s easy to see Thiem’s head going down if he loses the opener, an outcome which would put him out of semi-final contention.
5/4 is the price. It’s hardly banker stuff though so keep stakes small.
Nishikori to win 2-0 –
Roger Federer v Kevin Anderson (2000 GMT)
At 19/10, I immediately like the look of Anderson.
If looking solely at form this week, it’s impossible to look beyond the South African, who has claimed two straight-sets wins and is yet to face break point on his on serve.
Federer, on the other hand, was pretty poor in defeat to Nishikori and it’s hard to say much about his win over Thiem on Tuesday given the woeful level of his opponent.
The other significant factor in play here that this is a rematch of the pair’s famous Wimbledon quarter-final, a match Federer led by two sets, missed match point and eventually lost in five.
Anderson’s serve got him through that day – he held on to it throughout the last three sets. Given how well he’s serving at present, that could play on Federer’s mind.
We all know that Federer’s achievements, particularly here at The O2, mean he goes off favourite whatever the form or head to head, but I’m not convinced he should be so short for victory here.
One potential danger is that Anderson only needs a set to qualify for the last four (that’s assuming the result of the afternoon match hasn’t already sent him through).
That said, he will want to win the match (and therefore the group) in order to dodge a likely meeting with Novak Djokovic in the next round.
All things considered, I’ll have a small play on the underdog.
Anderson to win –