We have now reached the semi-final stage at the Paris Masters and can anyone stop a Djokovic v Nadal final? Dan Weston investigates...
Monfils the final faller in Race to London
Yesterday's matches went the way of the four favourites - all in straight sets - with Gael Monfils failing to get the win required to overtake Matteo Berrettini in the Race to London. Interestingly, there have been a few 'must win' matches this week for players and they've not gone the way of the player needing to succeed - anyone backing players with this rationale will have done so to their cost.
Shapovalov one match away from each-way cash
With Denis Shapovalov (24th) and Grigor Dimitrov (29th) in the Race to London prior to this week, neither can get past Berrettini even if they win the tournament, although naturally, both players can be pleased with their efforts here in Paris. Both have a historical trait of liking quicker than average conditions, so their run here isn't of a huge surprise to me.
Indeed, we picked out Shapovalov as a long-shot outright in advance of the tournament, with him priced at 66/1 each-way, and he's now just one match away from converting the place part of that recommendation.
Nadal still a strong favourite to defeat Shapovalov
The problem is, the Canadian is facing Rafa Nadal in his semi-final. While we were correct in suspecting Roger Federer may withdraw from the event as he continues to manage his schedule, Rafa's success here was a little less anticipated given his historical record and generally worse performances in quicker than average conditions than those on slow clay, for example.
Certainly, Shapovalov isn't without a chance here at5.30, although my model makes the price about right here. The 20 year old has shown rapid improvement indoors this year, running at almost 106% combined serve/return points won, and winning in Stockholm last month - albeit against a weak list of opposition. However, these numbers show he's evidently performing at top 10 level indoors, although still may have to find some more to beat Nadal, although an off-day from the King of Clay could also happen.
Dimitrov needing to find plenty to test Djokovic
In the other semi-final, Novak Djokovic, who is now odds on at1.75 to win the event, faces Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian, Dimitrov, will have to overcome a considerable historical disadvantage if he is to cause a shock this afternoon, with Djokovic leading their head to head battles 8-1.
Dimitrov's win was in their third meeting, back in 2013, and while the meetings span around seven years, the head to head scoreline looks a little more relevant than a lot of older head to head scorelines given that both players here are still around a similar level and ranking to when they met previously.
In those meetings, Djokovic, who is 1.14 to make Sunday's final, has been strong on serve, winning in excess of 68% of service points, and this illustrates Dimitrov's struggles against the world number one - he's broken Djokovic just 14% of the time.
Against an elite level returner in Djokovic who puts almost every player's serve under regular pressure, that just won't do the job. Dimitrov will have to markedly up his level to challenge Djokovic today, and my model broadly agreed with the market line which makes Djokovic extremely likely to be celebrating with another victory tonight.