We now know the identities of the semi-finalists of both the men’s and women’s draws at the Australian Open 2018, and in truth extracting betting value from the quartet of matches is going to prove tricky.
And that’s because, as we will find out later in this preview, all four favourites really should be getting the job done.
In the men’s draw, all hell has broken loose. Okay, so you might have predicted that Roger Federer and perhaps Marin Cilic would reach the semi-final stage, but who on earth would have believed that they would be playing Hyeon Chung and Kyle Edmund respectively!?
Chung, aged just 21, is ranked 58 in the world and bagged his ATP Tour level title in Milan back in the autumn, but even so he’s never gone beyond the last 32 of a major before.
And how about Edmund, who is temporarily Britain’s number one while Andy Murray is on the treatment table. The world number 50 made giant strides in 2017….but even he must be surprised by his progress in Melbourne.
Over in the women’s draw and we could argue that the semi-finalists here are, by and large, rather more predictable. We have the world number one (Simona Halep) and three (Caroline Wozniacki), plus a former Australian Open champion (Angelique Kerber). The only surprise, arguably, is Elise Mertens, but even then she won one of the warm-up events in Hobart so confidence is clearly high.
The question on punters’ lips is ‘is there any value to be had?’
Roger Federer vs Hyeon Chung
It’s a fascinating clash this one, with the grand old master taking on a brash young hopeful.
Chung has thoroughly deserved his place in the last four, displaying a fine all-round game and a brilliant ability to conjure up winners. He has the grace of Federer and the never-say-die attitude of Murray, and while it would be churlish to suggest he can go on to match that pair’s achievements, at the age of 21 he is certainly on the right path.
The Korean has already beaten fellow prospect Alex Zverev and some young whippersnapper by the name of Novak Djokovic so far, and showed great composure to see off the unknown Tennys Sandgren in straight sets in the quarters.
As for Federer, well, you know the drill with him by now. He hasn’t dropped a set on route to the last four, and has only been taken to a tie-break three times. It is the usual classy, imperious stuff from the Swiss ace.
The way that Chung has been playing we would have given him a chance….against anyone other than a Federer in top form, that is. There doesn’t seem to be a reason to oppose the 3-0 score in Federer’s favour, and 8/11 is value enough to get involved.
Marin Cilic vs Kyle Edmund
It has been rather tougher for this pair to reach the semi-finals, that’s for sure.
Cilic, the former US Open champion, has dropped sets in three of his matches, and was taken all the way to a fifth by Rafa Nadal before the Spaniard retired through injury.
Mind you, the Croatian’s grind is nothing compared to that of Edmund, who has had to play four or more sets in four of his five matches.
We have to give Cilic the edge here because he has more pedigree in the latter stages of majors and beat Edmund in Shanghai towards the end of 2017. The Brit also seems to have his struggles against big servers, and so the Croat – in our mind at least – is a worthy 1/3 favourite.
As far as betting value goes, though, how about the Over 38.5 Game line at 5/6 – it’s not beyond the pale that Edmund will win a set or two.
Caroline Wozniacki vs Elise Mertens
The bookmakers believe that Wozniacki will win this one at a canter, pricing her as the overwhelming 2/5 favourite.
But that rather forgets two things: the Dane’s habit of ‘choking’ on the big stage, and the impressive form of the Belgian.
As mentioned, Mertens triumphed in Hobart which means she has won her last ten matches – she is yet to drop a set at this Australian Open either. That is hugely impressive from the 22-year-old.
You suspect that Wozniacki might just get over the line here, but she does have a habit of making life hard for herself – she dropped the first set against Jana Fett in the last 64, and lost the second to Carla Suarez-Navarro after bageling her in the first.
Mertens is a lively opponent here, so we’re backing the Over 2.5 Sets line at 13/8.
Simona Halep vs Angelique Kerber
This has all the potential to be a fascinating collision, but we’re actually backing the world number 23 over the world number 1 here.
Kerber is one of the heaviest hitters on the WTA Tour, and it was evident in the manner in which she over-powered Su Wei Hsieh and Madison Keys that she is absolutely smoking her groundstrokes at present.
Halep, more of a touch and feel player courtesy of her diminutive frame, has a tendency to be ‘bullied’ on court at times, and her titanic win over Lauren Davis in the last 32 – 4-6 6-4 15-13 – in the blazing sun will surely have an accumulative affect of fatigue soon enough.
Kerber, fresher and stronger, could blow her opponent away here, and 8/11 is a price well worth taking.