Barcelona Open – Tuesday

10:00 – Nishikori v Riba

Rankings are 48 and 76. They have never played.

Nishikori is rapidly improving his world ranking and is having a great season so far. He reached the Final of the US Mens Claycourt Championships a couple of weeks ago beating Fish and Cuevas along the way. I’m sure a great deal of his success is down to having Brad Gilbert as coach.

Riba hasn’t been in the best of form although he is on home soil this week which may help him. Last week he retired in the first set against Cilic having beaten Starace in the first round. He also beat Golubev at the Grand Prix Hassan II event but lets face it, that was probably decided before the match started. (0-6, 6-1, 7-5).

Its difficult to find out just how fit Riba is but I don’t think it will make much difference to the result. If Nishikori is on form then he will take the match.

Over the last 6 months on clay Nishikori held serve 90% of the time compared to Riba’s 69%. First and second serves were both consistent. The Japanese player also has better return of serve stats although there isn’t a massive difference. He also creates more break opportunities.

I’ll be backing Nishikori from the start. If the first set is easy I will let it run into the second set for a couple of games to give him chance to break.

Update: Nishikori got off to the perfect start with a break in the opening game. He then moved to a 3-0 lead. There was quite a long pause at this point so I assume Riba was getting treatment. Nishikori won the set 6-1 and then Riba retired.

 

 

Other matches……

Gasquet takes on out of form Chela. I’ve just read someone saying that one reason to back Chela is that he’ll be fresh as he lost in the first round last week. Well maybe but the fact that he lost to Rochus should cancel that out surely? Gasquet is in top form and made Nadal work for his win last week. Decent starting price of 1.47 is a back for me.

Update: Very poor start from Gasquet. His second serve was below par and Chela took full advantage to win the opening set. Gasquet fought back to take the second set in a tie break and took the match in a tight deciding set.

Gasquet won 2-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Today we see the return of Juan Carlos Ferrero. He hasn’t been on the tour since the US Open last year as he had to undergo major knee and wrist surgery. One of the top claycourt players he always gives 100%. We can’t be sure how match fit he is though. As I have said before playing on the practice courts is no substitute for match play. Malisse starts slight favourite. I’ll see how the first few games go before getting involved.

Update: Topsy Turvy start to the match but Ferrero soon started to show his class. Ferrero won 6-4, 6-2.

Almagro plays Andujar. The world number 11 will want to get back to winning ways after his surprise loss to Jurgen Melzer. What better place to do it than on home soil? Andujar won’t make it easy for him though. He won the recent Grand Prix Hassan II title, crushing Starace in the final. I have to go with Almagro though. Losing to Melzer will have made him maaad.

Update: Another favourite starting badly. Almagro was broken early and Andujar served well. Eventually Almagro broke back and he took the set. In the second Almagro served for the match but was broken and the set ended up in a tie break. the TB was very one sided with Andujar winning just 1 point.

Almagro won 7-5, 7-6.

Stepanek takes on Raonic. Step’s confidence won’t have been helped by his loss to Murray last week. He just wasn’t able to compete. Today he faces the rocket that is Raonic’s serve. The young Canadian had lost a little form but bounced back last week with wins over Llodra and Gulbis. Ferrer was way too strong for him but Stepanek is no David Ferrer. Raonic shoud serve right through his opponent.

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