A few big servers on show in today’s matches. How will they be affexted by the slower clay this week?
Anderson and Querrey start us off. Querrey has been pretty awful on the clay so far whereas Anderson has enhanced his reputaion with wins over Hanescu, De Bakker and Cuevas. He also had a tough 3 setter with Verdasco which he would probably have won if the match hadn’t been suspended near the end of the first set for bad light.
Querrey leads the head to heads 4-1 but they have never played on clay. Querrey, like a lot of the American players, doesn’t perform well in Europe. Maybe the change in culture is too much for them to take. Anderson is rightly favourite for this one but 1.50 seems too low. The market is assuming that Sam is going to continue his poor form and he may well do so but if he can get that big serve going he has an outside chance. His next problem will be that if a long rally develops as it always does on clay he just doesn’t have the patience to wait for the right ball to attack. Querrey on clay = carcrash tennis.
Update: Anderson didn’t start the match serving well. He was only getting around 20% of first serves in. The set went to a tie break which Querrey won easily. Anderson retired after the tie break. Querrey won 7-6 (retired).
Also starting at 10am UK time is Cilic v Karlovic. Cilic starts as strong favourite on the markets at 1.40 . We all know Karlovic has one of the biggest serves around but he is also one of the worst returners of serve. He has lost 7 of his last 8 matches when facing a big server.
Cilic can be erratic at times but seems to be hitting the ball quite well. He was overpowered by Del Potro last week but reached the quarter finals in Munich the week before that. He can be frustrating if you’re trading him as he often gets into a strong position against serve but fails to complete the break. This match has to include a tie break, probably in the first set but it would be a surprise if Cilic doesn’t progress to the next round.
Update: Cilic took the first set. He was leading 1-0 in the second set when Karlovic retired.
Andreev and Gasquet should give us an entertaining match. Gasquet seems to be in a mini slump in form. He isn’t playing badly overall but his mind seems to wander mid match. However he did have a good win over Montanes in the first round. Andreev served very well in his first round match against Riba. He was broken early in the second set but pulled it back to win in straight sets.
Head to heads are 4-4 and 2-1 to Gasquet on clay although they haven’t played for 12 months. I think the slower court will favour Gasquet as he has more time to work some magic around the court. He is exceptionally talented but doesn’t like to be rushed. Some of the shots he can produce, especially on that backhand are top drawer.
Maybe 1.40 is a little on the low side but conditions do seem to favour the Frenchman.
Update: Gasquet was broken in the very first game but broke back immediately. Great match from Gasquet after that and he won 6-1, 6-2.
Almagro shouldn’t have too much trouble against Bolelli but again the markets are being very tight with the starting price especially considering the Italian crowds are getting loudly behind their players. Wait for a bigger price in the first set. 1.32 is just too scary to back Almagro here.
Update: Almagro won 6-0, 7-5.
Chela v Isner looks interesting. Chela is favourite at 1.76 and won their only previous match which was at the French Open in 2008. Chela has lost his last 5 matches on clay and 4 of his last 5 against a big server. Isner has lost 4 of his last 5 in Europe. Looks like a close one. Something that may go against Isner is if the wind starts up again today. I don’t think he will cope well with the dust clouds that we saw yesterday but I still give him the edge here.. I think this is worth a small lay on Chela.
Update: Isner had his chances to break in the first few games but didn’t manage it. Chela won a late break and took the set. Isner pretty much fell apart in the second set and Chela won 6-4, 6-1.
Ljubicic could have his work cut out to get past Cipolla. The Italian beat Roddick last week and recently reached the semi finals of a Challenger event on clay. Ljubicic reached the quarter finals in Monte Carlo where he lost to Nadal. On paper Ljubicic is far too strong for Cipolla and I fully expect him to win this but may get a scare or 2 along the way.
Update: Terrible start from Cipolla which silenced the crowd. they did cheer a little when he won his first point in the 4th game. Ljubicic won 6-2, 6-3.
F Lopez against Llodra. Lopez is 1.56 on Betfair. He reached the final in Serbia losing to Djokovic and lost to Federer in a third set tie break in Madrid. Llodra reached the quarter finals in Madrid. I’m not sure the slow court favours either player but Lopez has more points to defend from last year. I’ll be backing him from the start but a little nervously as llodra has a habit of screwing up my best laid plans.
Update: Lopez won 7-6, 6-1.
Monaco and Berdych played each other in Madrid last week. Berdych won in straight sets. Berdych also leads the head to heads 4-0 and has been in reasoable form so 1.39 is probably a fair starting price. Monaco is a good claycourter on his day but hasn’t been inspiring so far this season. For me that all points to a Berdych win but I’d prefer slightly bigger odds before backing. Hopefully he struggles in the first couple of games and I will get in then.
Update: Berdych was almost broken in the very first game but he held on. He broke in the next game and was in control from then on. Berdych won 6-2, 6-2.
Stakhovsky looks a decent price at 1.77 against Nieminen. Their previous 3 matches have all been on clay and Nieminen leads 2-1 with Stak taking the last one in 3 sets. Nieminen had to play the qualifying rounds here and lost to Andreev. He is in the main draw as a lucky loser. That means he has played 3 matches in 3 days and may tire as the match progresses. I’ll be backing Stak from the start.
Update: Stakhovsky took an up and down first set in a tie break. Nieminen took the next 2 sets in a hard fought match to win 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Soderling takes on Verdasco. Soderling has found some form lately and has a couple of quarter finals in the clay season. He narrowly lost to Federer last week. Verdasco is having a nightmare season. I seem to remember he was winning everything on clay at this stage of last season so his recent performances must see him slip further down the rankings. He did manage to reach the final of Estoril and beat Raonic in straight sets in the first round here so maybe he has sorted out whatever the problems have been. However even with an improvement from Verdasco I have to go with Soderling based on recent form and the head to head of 5-2.
Update: Soderling was outplayed in the first set. In the second Verdasco had match points but Soderling saved them and fought back to level the match at 1 set each. The Swede took a close deciding set to win 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 and leave Verdasco fighting back tears.
Finally we have Malisse against Andy Murray. At times in his last match Malisse looked very impressive. Murray didn’t have a good week in Madrid. He was suffering with an elbow injury which didn’t help. He has said he isn’t 100% happy with the elbow so I certainly won’t be backing him at 1.24 . Malisse hasn’t beaten a top 10 player for 5 years though. I will be watching to try to get a feel for how Murray is playing and ideally get on at a much higher price than sp.
Update: Murray wobbled a little in the first set but took it easily enough in the end. Surprisingly Malisse ran away with the second set. Murray won an early break in the third and won the match 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.