Madrid Open Men's Semi-final Tips: Slight lean towards today's underdogs

The men's singles at Madrid Masters has reached the semi-final stage, and there are two fascinating matches in prospect on Saturday. Dan Weston previews the day ahead...

Apprentice defeats master on Friday

Major talking points from Friday's action focused on Carlos Alcaraz getting his first victory over Rafa Nadal - the apprentice beating the master - and continuing Nadal's (relatively speaking compared to other clay events) unimpressive run in the capital of his home country. Our heavy underdog pick, Andrey Rublev, was eliminated by Stefanos Tsitsipas, although in three sets and only losing seven fewer points in the match - it was certainly a competitive encounter and I still don't think there's as much between the duo as the market thought pre-match.

Djokovic with plenty of market support

Action gets underway later today than previously this week, at 1500 UK time, and opening the schedule is a clash which should appeal to the masses - Novak Djokovic versus Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz, as mentioned above, has already disposed of his countryman Nadal yesterday, and now faces world number one Djokovic, who is still yet to win a tournament this season - I can't remember the last time that happened by May in a calendar year. Djokovic has eased into the semi-finals, only playing four sets via two straight-set wins but also a first-round bye and a walkover courtesy of Andy Murray - it's definitely Alcaraz who has had the tougher route to this stage.

Djokovic opened as a pre-match underdog but has been backed into favourite, via quite significant odds movement. He's currently available at 1.82 on the Exchange but has traded as high as 2.18, and it's pretty rare to see a market fluctuation this big in advance of a semi-final of a major event.

Should Djokovic be favourite based on data? There's arguments for and against. Djokovic actually has better 12 month clay data, with similar return points won percentages but Djokovic winning 3% more on serve, but I'm not sure that fully takes into account Alcaraz's career improvement and Djokovic's troubles this season. 2022 all-surface data would make the Spaniard a clear favourite.

With a contrasting perspective there, and big market movement, I'm tempted to chalk the price movement down to 'market knows', but for me, if I was going to pick one player in the match at current prices, it would be Alcaraz as that slight underdog.

Slight lean towards Zverev at market prices

The second semi-final, played tonight at 2000 UK time, features Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. I've opposed Tsitsipas several times this week, but without much success, although I do maintain that he's a little over-rated in general and benefiting from some positive variance - it's tough to win major tournaments with unimpressive return data.

Both he and Zverev have got to this stage having dropped a solitary set - Tsitsipas yesterday against Rublev and Zverev in his opener against Marin Cilic - although Tsitsipas has a 7-3 head-to-head lead in their career matches. Having said that, though, it's 2-2 in their last four meetings (2021 onwards) but Tsitsipas two victories in those matches were both on clay, including a French Open semi-final epic in 2021 which went the distance.

The duo actually met in Monte Carlo several weeks ago, with Tsitsipas priced around 1.90 that day, but he's shorter-priced tonight, currently trading at 1.75.

Is this too short? 12 month clay data suggests so, with Zverev's return edge marginally bigger than Tsitsipas' serve edge, but 2022 clay numbers aren't in agreement - Tsitsipas looks to have improved slightly this year.

Given this, it's difficult to dispute market pricing to any large extent. As with the first semi-final today, if I was forced to bet on this match, it would be on the underdog, but there's certainly not enough evidence in my view to take a concrete view on proceedings.

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