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Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Marin Cilic can make Novak Djokovic work hard for his rewards

Aryna Sabalenka set to trouble busy Simona Halep

Marin Cilic could thrive against a resurgent Novak Djokovic
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ATP Cincinnati
Sky Sports Action, from 7pm Saturday
WTA Cincinnati
BT Sport 3, from 5pm Saturday

It's semi-final day in Cincinnati and the cream has risen to the top in the men's event with three of the first four in the outright market still in the hunt for silverware.

Rafael Nadal withdrew from Cincinnati in order to preserve his fitness having soared to the title in Toronto last week, leaving the resurgent Novak Djokovic and seven-time winner Roger Federer battling it out for favouritism.

Djokovic has needed a deciding set to overcome Adrian Mannarino, defending champion Grigor Dimitrov and big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic this week and should expect another tough test in his semi-final against Marin Cilic.

The Serb is clearly returning to his best having won at Wimbleson last month - his first Grand Slam success for more than two years - but Cilic's serve has caused him problems in the past and can do so again.

Cilic has won the last two meetings between the pair and despite being forced to play twice on Thursday, was impressive in dismissing in-form Karen Khachanov and Pablo Carreno-Busta.

The Croat took a set from Nadal in Toronto too and Djokovic, who has gone the distance in five of his last six matches, may have to work hard for his rewards once again.

Federer, tipped up at 7-2 pre-tournament, came from behind to beat compatriot Stan Wawrinka and is 1-6 to silence Belgian David Goffin.

The Swiss legend has won six of their previous seven meetings and should tee up another shot at silverware.

In the women's action, all eyes will be on world number one Simona Halep as she bids to follow up last week's success in Montreal.

Halep, who has made the final of two of the three Grand Slams this season, is the best on offer but she has had a busy schedule of late and at some point it must take its toll.

Three of the world's top 16 - Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Garcia and Madison Keys - have already fallen at the hands of Aryna Sabalenka this week and the bullish Belarusian can cause Halep problems. 

Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens lock horns in the other semi-final and the Czech eighth seed is a worthy favourite.

Over 2.5 sets in M Cilic v N Djokovic
1pt 6-4 bet365
A Sabalenka +4.5 games on handicap
1pt 17-20 Betway

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The Croat took a set from Nadal in Toronto too and Djokovic, who has gone the distance in five of his last six matches, may have to work hard
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