It's semi-final time at the Australian Open and Rory Jiwani is on hand with his best bets.
Well, I did draw a blank last time so it’s a good job I decided to keep the stakes small and we shall stick to that approach. Carla Suarez Navarro just didn’t turn up against Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber put in a career-best performance to account for our big outright hope Victoria Azarenka.
Thankfully, Milos Raonic landed our ‘to win third quarter’ bet and he is definitely proving he is more than just a serve. Some of his backhand passes against Gael Monfils were out of the top drawer and he is going to give Andy Murray plenty of trouble. As we’re on Raonic to reach the final at 14-1, there is no need to get involved here but - if you’re not - I wouldn’t put you off backing the Canadian to win. He is in the form of his life and all the pressure will be on the mighty Scot.
We will have a bet in the other semi where Roger Federer takes on defending champion Novak Djokovic. As much as I would love to see the Swiss come through, I just can’t see him dethroning the world number one who was ruthless against Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals. It won’t be easy, and I can see Federer taking a set, but the Serb has enjoyed the better of their recent meetings and he should emerge victorious again.
We have at least two surprising semi-finalists in the women’s singles which was always possible given the chaotic build-up. The one constant is Serena Williams who has shown no sign of the knee injury which interrupted her preparation, and she should surely go on and clinch her 22nd Grand Slam title.
In eight previous meetings, she has dropped just one set to Agnieszka Radwanska (in the 2012 Wimbledon final) and, while the Pole is clearly in fine form, playing Williams is a totally different ball game to what she has faced in Melbourne. Radwanska will find unusual angles and make the world number one play extra shots, but even that may not be enough to make it competitive with Maria Sharapova an ideal prep.
I feel the most likely outcome is a convincing win for the defending champion. Yes, she fell at this hurdle to Roberta Vinci at Flushing Meadows but I just cannot see history repeating itself. The odds about a straight sets win are skinny so we’ll play 6-0 and 6-1 in the opening set and see what happens.
As for Jo Konta and Angelique Kerber, I fear it might be a case of ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ for the German. The pair have never met before but Kerber’s lefty-serve will hold few fears for Konta who dispatched a superior lefty server - Ekaterina Makarova - in the fourth round. The Briton is playing out of her skin and Kerber won’t be able to bully her off the court. At the prices, Konta is a play and it would be great to see her reach the final.