Sunday, 20 January 2013

Australian Open - Quarter-Finals


The business end of the first Grand Slam of the season is now upon us as things heat up in both the men's and women's draws. The Overrule has identified a couple of handicap selections that could present us with some profit as the last eight gets underway.

David Ferrer's head to head dominance over Nicolas Almagro is something I've never been able to fully understand. It is so incredibly lop-sided as to be laughable. 12-0. Think about that for a second. That's the kind of head to head you expect to see from Roger Federer or Serena Williams over opposition that are just in leagues below their standard. 12-0. Ferrer has catapulted himself at the head of the chase for those trying to break the stranglehold of the top four players in men's tennis, but even that isn't viable enough to justify such a commanding superiority over his Spanish counterpart.

Almagro is a top 10 player who has improved his hard court game over recent years, although still finding the bulk of his success on clay, as you would expect. Ferrer has made greater strides away from clay than Almagro, but that's not to say that even though Ferrer is likely to go 13-0 in this match-up, that Almagro can't or won't make it a real battle.

They have met twice on indoor hard since 2009, but haven't met outdoors on hard since two meetings in 2006. Of their four meetings in 2012 - three of which were on clay - only one was uncompetitive, in Bastad, where Almagro was struggling with a shoulder problem. Nico had a number of match points in Madrid but was eventually beaten again in a third set tie-break. Almagro can make a mockery of his lack of success against Ferrer by giving him an almighty test in Melbourne and he really has nothing to lose based on the history. The Overrule believes he can keep it within the +6.5 games handicap.

2* Nicolas Almagro (+6.5) beat David Ferrer @ 11/10 (Paddy Power)

Maria Sharapova has been in scintillating form during the first week of the Australian Open, but she should finally encounter someone who can make her sweat in the form of Ekaterina Makarova in the quarter-finals. Makarova is a player I've always believed was underrated and although that is partly her fault by not being consistent enough over the years - it doesn't make it any less true. She has a huge amount of talent and when in full flow is a great player to watch.

Makarova took out Serena Williams in Melbourne last year only to fall to Sharapova 6-2 6-3. I felt the same way last year as I do this year, in that I expected Makarova to give Sharapova more of a battle. It didn't materialise in 2012, but Makarova's form is good enough to believe she can make good on that this year. A good start will be essential and it will be interesting to see how Sharapova reacts if Makarova can keep it tight in the early going. Maria hasn't faced any adversity in her draw thus far, whereas Ekaterina is fully battle tested. If she has any advantage going in at all, it is that aspect. As with Almagro, The Overrule believes Makarova can keep the score within the +6.5 games handicap.

2* Ekaterina Makarova (+6.5) beat Maria Sharapova @ 4/5 (Paddy Power)

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