The ATP Madrid Open has reached the semi-final stage and Spanish starlet Carlos Alcaraz is the red-hot favourite to retain the title he won in his nation's capital 12 months ago.
With no Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in action at La Caja Magica, Alcaraz was the one to beat from the start of the tournament and the world number two, who turns 20 today, is comfortably the biggest name left standing.
Alcaraz is just 1/6 to claim a fourth title of the season, but first he faces a semi-final date with Borna Coric who is 11/1 to add a second Masters 1000 title to his collection after a victory in Cincinnati last summer.
The real story in Madrid this week, however, comes from the other side of the draw where lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff, who knocked out Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday evening, faces the man who beat him in qualifying, Aslan Karatsev, for a place in Sunday's final.
Struff is a 9/1 shot to claim a first ATP Tour title - with Karatsev an 11/1 chance.
|What||Carlos Alcaraz v Borna Coric|
|Where||La Caja Magica, Manzanares Park, Madrid|
|When||15:00, Friday 5th May 2023|
|How to watch||, Amazon Prime|
|Odds||Carlos Alcaraz 1/20, Borna Coric 10/1|
The odds tell us all we need to know about who is likely to emerge triumphant when Alcaraz meets Coric, with the home hero priced up at just 1/20 to beat the Croat in their first meeting on any surface.
Alcaraz lost the first set of his Madrid title defence against Emil Ruusuvuori, but the top seed has since been foot-perfect, churning out straight-sets wins over Grigor Dimitrov, two-time Madrid champion Alexander Zverev and Karen Khachanov.
Those wins have taken Alcaraz to an impressive 27-2 record in a season where he has been busy making up for lost time after a muscle injury forced him to skip the Australian Open at the beginning of the year.
Those numbers contrast sharply to those of 10/1 chance Coric, who had previously failed to reach the semi-finals of any tournament this season and was 0-3 in the three preceding Masters 1000 events.
The world number 20 has looked solid in wins over Hugo Gaston, Hubert Hurkacz, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and most recently lucky loser Daniel Altmaier, but a clash with Alcaraz is a much, much tougher proposition.
Alcaraz is just 2/7 to win in straight sets, something he has achieved in eight of nine outings on European clay this year, so the odds point to a dominant win for the favourite.
However, Coric was excellent against Altmaier and a respectable 18-37 record against top 10 players suggests he can at least use his solid defensive skills to keep this competitive.
The Croat may not have the quality to take a set off Alcaraz, but over 19.5 total games, which is on offer at 10/11, looks an interesting bet in the hope he can hang in there as Khachanov did in the previous round.
|What||Jan-Lennard Struff v Aslan Karatsev|
|Where||La Caja Magica, Manzanares Park, Madrid, Spain|
|When||20:00, Friday 5th May 2023|
|How to watch||bet365’s Sports Live Streaming, Amazon Prime|
|Odds||Aslan Karatsev 4/5, Jan-Lennard Struff 1/1|
Friday's second semi-final is a far tighter affair with little to split 4/5 shot Aslan Karatsev and Struff, who is 1/1 to reach a first Masters 1000 final.
There will be nerves - this is arguably the most important match of Struff's career, certainly since he lost in the final of the Bavarian Championships in 2021, while Karatsev made the semi-finals of the 2021 Australian Open, but is now ranked outside the world's top 100.
Struff had produced some solid clay results heading into Madrid Open qualification, reaching the Monte Carlo Masters quarter-finals, and he went off favourite against Karatsev for their qualifying meeting 10 days ago.
And while Karatsev ran out a handy 6-4 6-2 winner on that occasion, Struff has clearly been freed up by that lucky loser tag, in effect playing in a main draw he was never meant to be a part of.
His victory over Tsitsipas, where he showed up big in the key moments, was well earned and he'll have learnt plenty from his last meeting with the Russian as he looks to turn the tables this time around.
Karatsev has also beaten a top-class rival in Madrid, seeing off compatriot Danill Medvedev, but Struff looks a solid bet as a narrow underdog.
The German has gone to a deciding set in each of his last four matches and a three-set match also looks a solid play at 11/10.