18:00 – Halep and Safarova have played twice before. Head to heads are 1-1. Their most recent was last June on a clay court. Halep won in 3 sets.
Halep starts at 1.35 and whilst I would favour Halep to get the win I think on a hard court if Safarova can play her best tennis she can make a real match of this.
Serve could be the key factor. It can be Halep’s weakness. Her return of serve is stronger than Safarova’s but if the Czech player can come up with a solid performance from the line she can at least keep this close. However if her serve is off then she will have little else to throw at Halep. She takes her confidence from her serve.
I will wait for higher on Halep in the early part of the opening set.
22:00 – Bouchard’s form has dipped a couple of times recently. A very poor performance against Mattek Sands was followed by failure to get through the qualifying rounds in Dubai. Her trip to Mexico saw her reach the quarter finals but with a very favourable draw.
In the first match this week she came through a potentially difficult encounter with Peng losing just 4 games.
Whether or not she is back on form will be tested today as she takes on 10th ranked Errani.
Errani reached the final in Paris in January and followed up with a quarter final in Doha where she was taken apart by Halep.
Bouchard starts as slight favourite at 1.86 . When she is timing the ball well Bouchard is a joy to watch and her best tennis will be too much for Errani on a hard court.
Errani isn’t playing quite at her best so this is a good opportunity for Bouchard. I won’t be backing at 1.86 though. I want to watch a few games first but if Bouchard seems to be striking the ball well from the start I will look to get on her above evens.
Midnight – Two interesting matches on at this time. Benneteau takes on Tsonga and Mayer meets Nieminen.
Tsonga leads the head to heads 5-4 and has won 4 of their last 5 matches. 1.31 on Tsonga seems a fair price based on recent form. Their last 2 matches on hard courts both went to three sets but the most recent was over two years ago. Benneteau isn’t playing anywhere near his best right now.
We might be lucky and get a slightly higher price on Tsonga.
Nieminen and Mayer are tied at 4-4. Nieminen won the last two but they haven’t played for 3 years.
Mayer reached the 4th round in Melbourne where he made a great start against Ferrer but couldn’t keep his level high enough. He has only played 3 matches since then. All 3 went to deciding sets with his only win coming in Davis Cup. His most recent match was against Seppi. He led 4-1 in the third set but managed to lose.
Nieminen reached the semi final in Montpellier despite many people thinking he was bound to withdraw or retire after illness had left him lacking in energy. He finally lost to Monfils in 3 sets. He lost his next two first round matches. He beat Brands in 3 sets in his previous match this week.
It’s tough to pick a winner here so that suggests value is on Nieminen. I’ll be laying whichever player takes an early break lead.