The ATP Tour begins the Asian swing of its 2013 season and in Week 39 there are two indoor hard court events in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Both are ATP 250 tournaments, but the Thailand Open and Malaysian Open have attracted decent fields as usual, even allowing for the enforced absence in Bangkok of Andy Murray due to a back problem that’s ruled him out for the season.
It’s a tricky watch for European viewers at this time of the year, with matches starting early and a 5am start in Thailand on Monday. More watchable, however, among a smattering of final qualifying round games is the 12.30pm start for one first round match in Bangkok.
Igor Sijsling vs Jarkko Nieminen
This clash could be billed as the survival of the fittest, with both players struggling with injuries of late. Sijsling was last seen barely able to move in a tough loss to Paulo Mathieu in Metz last week, while Nieminen has been suffering from a foot problem.
The Finn loves it in Bangkok though and has reached the last eight, semi-finals and final in the last three years, as well as other semi-final showings here in the past. He arrived on Saturday in plenty of time to acclimatise and get used to the conditions and I would expect him to be very well prepared for this, having not played on the tour since New York.
Sijsling was little more than a walking serve in the end against Mathieu due to a groin and leg problem. His confidence is shot after not playing in the Dutch Davis Cup win last week and he’s currently on a losing streak of seven matches. Jarkko also leads the head-to-head between the pair by three wins to one and comes in here with much the better mental attitude. The 1.50 seems more than reasonable here.
Feliciano Lopez vs Laslo Djere
Tipped in some circles in Serbia as the next Novak Djokovic, the 18-year-old world ranked number seven junior Djere plays his first ever match in the main draw of an ATP World Tour tournament today after the Nieminen match at around 2.30pm.
On paper it looks a tough ask for Djere and it is, but Lopez is not exactly known for crushing wins and fast starts in matches and he’s never won a single match here in Bangkok in three previous attempts. Playing his trade mainly on clay Djere is ranked just the one spot below Nick Kyrgios in the juniors and we’ve all seen how good he is, so don’t be too quick to lump on Lopez here at 1.04.
The Spaniard is highly likely to win of course, but it may not be as simple as that price makes it appear and the kid will be keen to make an impression in his first big match. Lopez takes a while to get going generally and is in 54th place behind the likes of Kevin Anderson in the rankings of first serve return points won.
This makes him a prime candidate for the first set going over 9.5 games and even more so with someone who will be totally new to him. The opening set in Lopez’s last 14 matches has gone over 9.5 games, which makes the 2.25 on it happening today well worth taking.
Back Nieminen to beat Sijsling at 1.50
Back over 9.5 games in set one of Lopez vs Djere at 2.25
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