Friday is quarter finals day in Gstaad, Hamburg and Atlanta, with 12 matches on the card across all three tournaments today.
We didn’t get off to a good start on Thursday when Dominic Thiem showed few signs of fatigue by beating my pick Federico Delbonis in Gstaad, but it got better in Atlanta when my ‘long shot’ of Denis Kudla was a 3.0 winner.
Kudla took down a petulant and disinterested Jack Sock in straight sets in Atlanta and if I’d have been on Sock I’d have been seething at his shocking attitude in that one.
John Isner finished things off with a ‘sure thing’ win over Radek Stepanek in two tie breaks later on in Atlanta to make it two from three on the day.
In the quarter finals of Gstaad last year there was one underdog winner, while in Hamburg and Atlanta it was the same, with Robin Haase’s win over Mikhail Youzhny the best price at 3.05.
Thomaz Bellucci vs Pablo Andujar
Both of these players are former winners of this tournament and they’re familiar foes, having met six times previously across the net at main level.
Bellucci has won four of the five played on clay and, perhaps vitally, the two played on clay at altitude – in Madrid and Sao Paulo.
Indeed that Sao Paulo meeting in Davis Cup last autumn on Bellucci’s doorstep saw the Brazilian come back from two sets down to beat Andujar and if he finds something approaching his best form Bellucci should win this one.
It’s a match that is on Bellucci’s racquet and as long he hits more winners than errors in conditions that are similar to Sao Paulo in terms of altitude he has the edge over the Spaniard.
So far this week in Gstaad Bellucci hasn’t been taken past nine games in any of his sets and he’s also pushing for a seeded spot at the US Open, which he says is his big motivation just at the moment.
At the time of writing he’s at 33 in the world and a win over Andujar would put him up to number 31 ahead of Sam Querrey and Borna Coric.
The -1.5 games at 1.84 looks decent here, with Bellucci having covered that handicap in his last 14 wins in completed matches on clay in a row and in 21 of his 22 completed match wins on clay this season.
In short when he does win he tends to do it with something to spare and 1.5 games seems a reasonable mark to cover for the Brazilian.
Other value bets I like today include Marcos Baghdatis to beat Vasek Pospisil, who wilts in the heat, and is far from certain to even finish this match given his predilection for suffering in tough conditions.
Santi Giraldo has been priced up as a 1.7 favourite against Feli Lopez in Gstaad and it’s worth noting that the Colombian has lost his last four on clay as a 1.70 to 1.80 favourite stretching back to 2011.
Gilles Muller vs Go Soeda
We’ve done well with Muller so far this week and my 16-1 outright pick looks highly likely to get past an unlikely quarter final opponent in Soeda in this Atlanta clash.
The stats heavily favour the leftie from Luxembourg in this one, with Muller having won all four of their career meetings, while Soeda’s only ever win on the ATP Tour over a lefty came here the other day against Adrian Mannarino.
Soeda is now 1-11 versus left-handers on the ATP Tour and against big servers he’s 5-25 against the ones on my list and he’s lost his last 15 of those in a row going back to a win over Sam Groth in March 2012 at the Pingguo Challenger.
Muller beat Soeda here in the semi finals of the 2012 tournament and it would be hugely disappointing if he were to lose this one.
Of the other sub-1.50 shots today David Goffin was flattered by his easy win over Horacio Zeballos yesterday due to the latter having problems with his eyes throughout the match that he needed treatment for.
That said he will probably beat Joao Sousa, who should have lost to Denis Istomin and will surely be at the very edge of his physical powers by now after a very tough run of matches.
John Isner faces Ricardas Berankis, who is one of those confidence players, and therefore dangerous, having already beaten Steve Johnson this week.
He’s beaten the likes of Milos Raonic, Muller, and Sock on hard courts so he’s no mug against big servers and although Isner will most likely win I don’t see him as a ‘sure thing’ here.
Lucas Pouille vs Benoit Paire
It’s been a funny old fortnight for the eccentric Paire, who followed up a tank in a Challenger by winning his maiden tour level title in Bastad and beating Tommy Robredo twice in a matter of days.
Anything is possible with Paire and in fairness to him he has played some very good tennis over the last 10 days or so, but considering his exertions over that period of time he looks worth opposing today.
Paire had to deep very deep indeed to come out on top against Robredo in round two here after another three setter in round one against Philipp Kohlschreiber and Pouille has been playing well enough to make this another tough test for Paire at least.
We had success with Pouille the other day as a long shot against Juan Monaco and it was clear that day that Pouille is confident and in form right now and if he stays at that level it could all be too much for a fatigued Paire.
The 2-0 to Pouille at 5.10 has the feel of a decent long shot about it, with the world number 85 (he’ll be top-65 if he wins this match) having recorded 2-0 score lines in 11 of his last 15 wins.
Another ‘long shot’ option is to take Pablo Cuevas at around 6.0 to defeat the struggling Rafa Nadal, who was once again in poor form in a scratchy win over an equally poor Jiri Vesely on Thursday.
I couldn’t back Nadal against a competent clay courter at 1.14 these days and if Cuevas has the bottle – which I must say, I do question – he can beat the ailing Spaniard here.
The 3.85 about Cuevas winning set one is also of interest, with Nadal starting his matches very poorly, both here in Hamburg and generally of late.
Sure thing: Back Muller to beat Soeda at 1.25
Value bet: Back Bellucci -1.5 games to beat Andujar at 1.84
Long shot: Back Pouille to beat Paire 2-0 at 5.10