Gulbis has beaten John Isner in their 2 previous matches Including on the clay of Monte Carlo in April. He had a good run last week reaching the semi final and went even further in the tournament before that taking the title in St Petersburg.
After Isner lost to Nadal in the final in Cincinnati he withdrew from Winston Salem with a hip injury. A third round at the US Open and a quarter final in Beijing followed but in Shanghai he struggled to beat Giraldo in the first round and then went out in straight sets to Berlocq.
Gulbis has played in Valencia just once since it became a hard court tournament. He lost in the first round to Querrey 2 years ago. For me that gives the possibility that he may not be too motivated given the prize money and ranking points that he has picked up in his last 2 events. However as Isner isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders.
Gulbis has struggled in quite a number of his service games especially last week and his third set against Ferrer was a real surprise ( he lost it 1-6). He was also missing a lot of break chances. He is unlikely to get many of those today.
If Isner can get his nose in front I suspect Gulbis won’t be busting a gut. Two tie break sets won’t surprise me at all. If Isner is able to apply pressure on the Gulbis serve during the early games I think he has a decent chance today.
Update: Two tie breaks!
Isner won 7-6, 7-6.
Granollers has a good record in Valencia and starts as slight favourite against Fognini at 1.80.
Fognini leads the head to heads 4-3 but Granollers won their only previous hard court battle in Sydney this season. they have played 3 times in the last 2 seasons. Granollers took two of them. None of those 3 matches went to 3 sets.
Fognini’s progress this season has been remarkable and will end the season in the top 20. He has already improved on his 2012 performance in Valencia. Last year he lost in the first round to Isner.
Granollers wasn’t tested in the first round as Tipsarevic walked off court after just 3 games. The Spaniard has already lost in the doubles. What does that tell us? Does that mean he isn’t playing well or does it mean he will now really go for it in the singles? He doesn’t have a great recent record against top 20 players.
Despite his 2013 form Fognini remains Fognini and will always be difficult to predict. However I think if he wants to grab as many points before the end of the season he will be going for it this week and Foggy on top form will be too strong.
Laying Granollers a break ahead is the initial target. The first set will be crucial judging by their previous recent matches.
Update: Fognini won 6-3, 6-2.
Kudla looked pretty poor against Karlovic last week. He was getting pretty frustrated by the aces flying past him but was also making very heavy work of holding his own serve.
Mathieu reached the semi final last year losing in 2 tight sets to Federer. His season hasn’t gone too well in 2013 but Basel should have happy memories for him. I think Kudla is a good match up for the Frenchman and he should enjoy counterattacking today.
I think 1.70 offers a little value as Kudla will need to lift his recent level considerably to have a chance.
Update: Two close sets. Mathieu won 6-4, 7-5.
Llodra can be competitive with his serve and volley on hard courts but I think she slow courts in Basel won’t be doing him any favours. If I can grab a higher entry on Gasquet than his SP of 1.30 I will take it. An early brain fart service game from Gasquet would be perfect.
Update: I said a brain fart game, not a brain fart match! Clearly Gasquet didn’t want to go to the finals. Although I read he is injured.
Llodra won 6-4, 6-2.
The Istanbul matches yesterday weren’t exactly as expected. There was no slow start from Serena and despite Kerber playing well the result was never in doubt. Kvitova won an early break in each set against Radwanska and the only real surprise in that one was that it didn’t go to 3 sets.
Sara Errani gave us our entertainment playing a superb set against a rusty Azarenka. Errani clearly went into the match with a game plan and it almost worked perfectly. She served for the set 3 times but just couldn’t manage to close it out. Azarenka took the set in a tie break. A calf injury for Errani ended any possible come back and Azarenka strolled through the second set.
Today we have Li Na against Errani. WE don’t know how bad the injury is but it takes away any chance she may have had.
Update: Another good effort from Errani. Li won 6-3, 7-6.
Serena likes to beat up Radwanska in their matches. Radwanska managed to take their Wimbledon final to 3 sets last season but that is the only set she has won in their 7 previous matches.
Azarenka v Jankovic promises to be tonight’s best match. Azarenka leads the head to heads 5-3 but she has won the last 4 including a 3 sets win in Cincinnati in August.
Her match with Errani should have helped her find her timing after a short break from the tour but she won’t have an easy task against Jelena Jankovic who has battled back into the top 10 with an excellent last few months. The Serb has improved her consistency and if Azarenka is not yet at her best then JJ has a chance of keeping this close. Certainly if she gets three chances to serve out the first set she won’t be choking all of them!
A lay of Azarenka around 1.15 to 1.20 in the early games is a good starting point.
I would expect Azarenka to come through, probably in 3 sets.
Update: Jankovic won 6-4, 6-3.