Friday’s action at the 2015 Canadian Masters in Montreal saw the quarterfinal round completed. Tennis fans in Quebec’s largest city were treated to some very dramatic and entertaining tennis with the semifinals and final to follow this weekend.
In one competitive match, Novak Djokovic advanced through his friend Ernests Gulbis. The Latvian actually appeared to look good for the upset of the World No. 1 at many points in the match. Firstly Gulbis took the first set off of Djokovic and then the two players played a tight second set. In that set, Gulbis had two match points, neither of which he was able to convert on. After Djokovic tied the match at one set each, everything seemingly went his way and he won 5-7, 7-6(7), 6-1.
Speaking after the match, Djokovic gave his friend some credit:
“You have to give credit to [Gulbis] for playing an excellent match,” he said. “He was always making me play an extra shot, and putting a lot of pressure on my second serve. I had a lot of chances and closed it out in the end, but he had a couple of match points and it would’ve been deserved if he had won this match tonight.”
In another very competitive match, John Isner and Jeremy Chardy went toe-to-toe. Chardy entered the match as a player who has not really made much noise in the bigger tournaments during his career. Isner entered the match with some previous success in Masters Series draws and perhaps many would have considered him the favorite due to that. However, in a match that saw three tiebreakers, Chardy advanced to the semifinals where he will face Djokovic.
On the bottom half of the draw a couple of former champions in Canada were exited from the tournament.
Firstly Rafael Nadal, despite playing pretty solid through the early rounds of the 2015 Rogers Cup, lost to Kei Nishikori. Nadal had most recently won the Canadian Masters in 2013 however his level of play has dipped significantly since that time. Nishikori, with the win, appears to be getting over the hump as he broke a series of seven losses to the Spaniard. The line score in their match was 6-2, 6-4.
The late match of the day did not see completion until well after midnight in Montreal. Andy Murray took out last year’s champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. The loss promises to hurt Tsonga’s ranking points total and it does curtail some of the momentum he appeared to have following a strong run at Roland Garros not long ago.
The semifinals are set with Djokovic to face Chardy and Nishikori to face Murray. In regard to the former match, it is very difficult to picture Djokovic losing to Chardy. While it’s true that the World No. 1 had trouble with Gulbis it’s also true that the Latvian is a more accomplished player than Chardy. The Serb is also 9-0 against the French national and accordingly there has to be the full expectation that Djokovic will advance to the final.
The Nishikori and Murray match promises to be more competitive. Murray heads into the match with a 4-1 edge on head-to-heads, a series that includes a victory in their lone meeting this season. However the last time these two players met on the hard court surface was very late in 2014. At that time, it was Nishikori who defeated Murray in a setting that was favorable to the Scot (ie. the match was played in London at the World Tour Finals).
While Djokovic has come in as a -2500 favorite (bet365), odds that imply about a 96% chance of winning, when odds on the Murray/Nishikori match are released I would expect the World No. 3, Murray, to be an ever so slight favorite. It all points to a Sunday final between Djokovic and a yet-to-be-determined finalist.