A fuller schedule today with some of the top players on show.
Almagro v Monaco: EDIT There is a chance that Almagro is injured. Tread carefully
Almagro leads the head to heads 4-1 and hs won their last 4 matches. Only 1 of those matches was away from clay.
Neither has played since Shanghai where Monaco lost in the first round and Almagro in the third.
Almagro lost in the final here in 2008 losing to Ferrer. Oddly he played Ferrer in 2009 in the first round and lost again. Then last year he again lost in the first round, this time to Gimeno Traver. That means he has a great chance to pick up some ranking points this week.
Monaco reached the quarter finals last year beating Murray in the second round. He also reached the quarters in 2008 where he lost to Almagro.
I think the added incentive of increasing his points total will give Almagro the added boost that he sometimes needs on hard courts. He is in font of a home crowd which will obviously help too.
They have never played on hard courts. (In 2008 Valencia was a clay court tournament) and if Almagro can keep his serve consistent he will come out on top. An in form Monaco could make this a tough match though but as they haven’t played for 2 or 3 weeks we will have to wait and see how they both start.
Quite possible that Almagro starts the slower of the two and has a poor first service game.
A small lay on Almagro from the start but I do expect him to win the match.
Update: Almagro had a problem with his shoulder but didn’t pull out of the match. Monaco took the first set but Almagro levelled the match. The third set was going with serve until Almagro served at 4-5. Monaco broke to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Bellucci v Nieminen:
Ok a word of warning before I go any further. I have looked at this match several times so far and discarded it each time. I was going to have it as one of the punting tips but the fact that Nieminen retired in his last match disqualifies the match from the selection process.
Nieminen retired with hip pain in the third set against Tsonga last week. Howerver the fact that he reached the final the week before always made him a candidate for tank or retirement. If he is 80% fit he should be too strong for Bellucci.
Bellucci hasn’t won a main tour match since he won in the first round in monreal in August. He did have a singles win over Andreev in the Davic Cup in September. He lost in the first round of the US Open to Dudi Sela. Need I say more?
I won’t commit full stake to Nieminen until he has completed a few games without any issues but at 1.66 he seems to be great value.
Update: Nieminen didn’t seem to be injured from the pattern of play ( no video) but he wasn’t as sharp as expected in the first set. Bellucci served pretty well and took the set in a tie break.
Nieminen won the next 2 sets to win 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.