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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Focused Murray may put up a fight against Wawrinka

Nine-time champ Nadal can dominate Thiem in lion's den

Andy Murray can be happy with how he has played at Roland Garros
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Men's semi-finals
Eurosport 1, 2 & ITV 4, 11.45am Friday

Murray v Wawrinka
There has been a swell of support for Stan Wawrinka, who was recommended by Racing Post Sport's Joe Champion before the French Open started, to upend top seed Andy Murray in their semi-final clash.

Wawrinka has done it by the book at Roland Garros so far, having posted straight-sets victories over Alexandr Dolgopolov, Fabio Fognini, Gael Monfils and Marin Cilic, who are all useful clay-courters.

Murray has dropped sets against Andrey Kuznetsov, Martin Klizan and Kei Nishikori, and there was no shame in that. But there was a lot to like about the way the Briton stepped up his form to defeat Juan Martin del Potro in three sets in the last 32.

For Murray, who has tasted Grand Slam glory at Wimbledon (twice) and the US Open, trying to win at Roland Garros will have been a long-term plan and while there looked much to do in the weeks leading up to Paris, things have come together nicely.

Wawrinka has barely been tested and presumably that's the thinking of those backers who have strengthened the Swiss number one's favouritism for the clash.

But he has won sets 7-6 and 7-5 against Monfils, Fognini, Dolgopolov and qualifier Josef Kovalik, and if Murray gets in that position the Scot will probably be good enough to win at least a set or two against the 2015 champion.

Coral go 1-2 about the match lasting for four or five sets and considering Murray is no mug on the surface, that could be the way to go.

Over 3.5 sets
2pts 1-2 Coral

Already advised outright by Joe Champion
S Wawrinka
1pt each-way 12-1 Betway, Sky Bet

Nadal v Thiem
Dominic Thiem is the only player to have beaten Rafael Nadal in the European clay-court season but with the pressure having eased on the Spaniard in that Rome Masters loss, normal service could be resumed at Roland Garros.

Nadal has been a machine on the Paris clay this year, sweeping aside a raft of decent opponents. Next up is Thiem, who is a confirmed lover of the slow red courts, but even though he took apart Novak Djokovic in a 7-6 6-3 6-0 quarter-final hammering on Wednesday it could be a different story against Nadal.

Bookmakers ask Nadal to concede the Austrian a start of 5.5 games, but rather than mess around with handicap betting, it may be wiser to trust in the Majorcan to keep a lid on the clash and triumph in straight sets.

Betway seem keen to be best-priced on the total sets over/under market and quote 11-8 Nadal to win in three and 17-20 about the match lasting for four or five sets.

There is not much in it – if this match was being played on clay in South America, punters would not think twice about backing Thiem to cause his opponent problems.

But at the home of clay in the court of the slow-surface king, Nadal could dominate Thiem, just as he did there three years ago. And the first sets Nadal has dropped against Thiem on European clay were in Rome – he had won all nine before their latest meeting.

R Nadal to win 3-0
1pt 11-8 Betway

There was a lot to like about the way Murray stepped up his form to defeat Juan Martin del Potro in three sets in the last 32
E.W. Terms
Sky bet