Oz Open – Week1, Thursday night

Midnight – Almagro v Ljubicic

Rankings are 14 and 16. Head to heads are 3-1 to Ljubicic.

I don’t know if its just me but when I see Ljubicic’s name on the screen my initial subconcious reaction is that he’s had his day. Yet when you look at his performance last year and especially on hard courts and also at the fact that he improved his ranking by around 10 places last year you have to take him seriously. He holds serve 90% of the time. Yes, he’s getting older but he doesn’t chase all over the court and plays quite efficiently.

Today he is up against Almagro who just doesn’t seem able to play well for a whole match. He has come through a 4 setter and a 5 setter so far this week against players that on paper he should have been taking care off quite quickly. I find him quite frustrating at times when he has a chance to put pressure on serve and yet consistently goes for ridiculous winners on the first ball. If I had to pick a player in the top 20 who had to hold serve to save my life his name wouldn’t be anywhere near the list of candidates.

They are around evens on betfair which fits the match up very well. Ljubicic won their last 2 matches which were both on clay. Almagro is seen as predominantly a clay courter so this suggests there is something about Ljubicic’s game that he doesn’t feel comfortable with. Both wins were in straights sets ( in fact all their previous matches have been settled in straight sets ).

Having looked over the facts and figures I am very slightly leaning towards Ljubicic. If they were playing later in the tournament then I would be on the Spaniard.

Not a match to be committing much of your hard-earned from the start but I will be putting small stakes on Ljubicic from game 1. It might be advisable to wait for a few games to see who seems more comfortable but backing Ljubicic on serve looks good. DO NOT back Almagro in his first service game.

If Ljubicic gets a break then back him to hold straight after.

This is unlikely to be over in straight sets despite the stats I mentioned. This is the first time they have met in a best of 5 set match.

Almagro will have to be on his best form to take out Ljubicic here and he hasn’t shown that so far. One thing to watch with Ljubicic is that he relies very heavily on his serve. There is no reason to expect him to struggle on serve but if his first serve hits a problem then that will be the opportunity for Almagro to take advantage.

Update: Almagro won 6-4, 7-6, 6-3.



08:00 – Nishikori v Verdasco

Rankings are 82 and 9. They haven’t played before.

Verdasco didn’t look like he was going to get past Tipsarevic but battled through in 5 sets. He needs something to kick start a run of form and that match could well be the catalyst.

Nishikori’s bubble has to burst soon. He has played some fantastic tennis over recent weeks but he now faces a top 10 player. This will be a massive test of his mental strength and his record isn’t good against the top players.

He has played 2 tough 4 setters and in the Australian heat that will have sapped his energy.

I would wait a couple of games to let Verdasco get rid of any potential ” brain fart” moments that he seems to suffer in the early games and can throw a cheap service game away. If he comes through the early games strongly then  back him.

I think Nishikori will nick a set but Verdasco has just too much experience of Majors to slip up here.

Update: Verdasco won 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

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