The quarter-finals of this week’s two ATP 250 events on week 39 of the ATP World Tour are all set for play on Friday in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Two of my three best bets were comfortable winners on Thursday, with Gilles Simon and Yen Hsun Lu both winning in straight sets, while Mischa Zverev lost out to Jurgen Melzer despite being a break ahead in both sets.
Friday’s play in Malaysia starts at 7.15am UK time, while 6am is the call time in Bangkok, who open with Simon taking on Igor Sijsling and this should be another win for the in-form Frenchman who enjoys the slow conditions in Bangkok. The Simon -3.5 games looks good in that one for early risers.
That’s followed by Tomas Berdych taking on Lu for the second time in their careers, with the Czech highly likely to overpower the talented but lightweight Chinese Taipei player in two sets there.
At a more palatable time for European audiences, defending champion Richard Gasquet faces Mikhail Youzhny for the 10th time in their careers at around 1.30pm UK time.
Richard Gasquet vs Mikhail Youzhny
This clash of two single-handed backhands is not easy to predict given the erratic nature of the Russian and the tendency of Gasquet to employ questionable tactics of standing miles behind the baseline and taking the ball as it drops.
The Frenchman showed in New York how devastating his single hander can be if he takes it nice and early, but he seems to go back into negative mode at the strangest and most inappropriate of times.
They have only played each other once indoors in those nine previous matches, which was in Basel a year ago and Gasquet won that day. The slow conditions here in Bangkok and also in Kuala Lumpur aren’t to some players’ liking and I think it will favour the defending champion whose backhand is a little flatter which will get it through the court more effectively.
Youzhny has struggled to convert his break points all week here and is six from 27 on break opportunities in his two matches here so far. He’ll need to improve that if he’s to win today and the form that the Frenchman is in at the moment gives him the edge.
Feliciano Lopez vs Milos Raonic
The Canadian showed us all once again how poor he is on return of serve yesterday when squeaking past Marinko Matosevic by taking just one of his 17 break point opportunities against the Aussie in a turgid two-and-a-half hour encounter.
Something similar is highly likely again on Friday when Raonic takes on Feliciano Lopez at around 3pm UK time. It will be the third meeting between the two and a repeat of the recent US Open clash that Raonic won against a tired Lopez in four sets. Prior to that, Lopez won their only other meeting, which was on the clay of Barcelona.
Clearly, this will be a serve-dominated affair, with three sets highly likely and the overs always a distinct possibility, as Lopez is not exactly a top notch returner either. Indeed, Lopez is statistically worse than Raonic, with the Spaniard ranked at number 52 in first return points won this year, while Raonic is 42nd.
Conditions should in theory suit both players and there won’t be much in this in all probability, with one break of serve likely to be enough per set if tie breaks aren’t involved. Perhaps the lack of speed in this particular indoor surface edges things Lopez’s way and I like the +2.5 games on Feli on the handicap here at 1.78.
Back Gasquet to beat Youzhny at 1.50
Back Lopez +2.5 games to beat Raonic at 1.78
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