- Chris Sobey
World number one and two Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic are still on course to contest what will most likely be the first of many finals in 2017 at Doha this week. Murray faces third seed Berdych in today’s second semi-final and the British number one leads the head-to-head10-6, and he has won the last six encounters in a row between 2015 and 2016, including the last five in straight sets. Djokovic plays the unseeded veteran Verdasco in the first semi-final and the Serb leads the head-to-head 8-4. Djokovic won six of their seven encounters on hard courts, including the last six in a row, and Verdasco's last win came back in 2010 on clay.
At the time of writing the action at Brisbane was at the quarter-final stage and by the time you are reading this article three of the four semi-finalists will be determined. Britain’s Kyle Edmund, one of the leading NextGen stars, was due to face second seed Stan Wawrinka for the second time in the early hours of this morning, and he will have hopefully recorded the biggest win of his career by the time you are reading this article. Third seed Kei Nishikori was due to face Australian Wild Card Jordon Thompson, also in the early hours of this morning, and while Thompson is capable of making life difficult for Nishikori it will be a major upset if the world number five does not make the semi-finals.
Fourth seed Dominic Thiem and seventh seed Grigor Dimitrov were also due to face each other in the third scheduled match of the day at Brisbane. Thiem won their last encounter in straight sets on hard courts at Acapulco last year and while I expect today’s encounter to be closer I think Thiem will emerge victorious again on this occasion. The final quarter-final match of the day at Brisbane is the showcase match between top seed Milos Raonic (11/2), one of my outright tips this week, and fifth seed Rafael Nadal. Nadal leads the head-to-head 7-1 and won their most recent encounter 6-1 3-6 6-3 on hard courts at the Mubadala Exhibition event last week. I expect this encounter to be a lot closer as this is a ranking event, Raonic is the defending champion and the fast conditions really play to his strengths.
Finally, the action at Chennai is now down to the quarter-final stage and my one remaining outright selection Aljaz Bedene (66/1) is still in action and faces fifth seed Benoit Paire in the third scheduled match today. Bedene leads the head-to-head 2-1 and he won their last meeting at Queens on grass last year 7-6 6-7 6-4. I expect today’s encounter to be very close again and hopefully Bedene will draw confidence and strength from his epic Queens win against Paire and also from his epic 7-6 6-7 7-6 second round win against Klizan yesterday.
The other three matches at Chennai today are between qualifier Kovalik and NextGen star Daniil Medvedev, third seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and veteran Dudi Sela and seventh seed veteran Mikhail Youzhny and second seed and tournament favourite Bautista Agut.