The stars are out in force in England and Germany, as the grass court season continues at the AEGON Championships and the Gerry Weber Open.
French Open champion Rafa Nadal and seven time Wimbledon winner Roger Federer both make their debuts in this year’s Halle event on Thursday, while over at Queen’s Club current Wimbledon champ Andy Murray will be in action.
My bets on Wednesday began well when big betting underdog Kenny de Schepper not only caused problems for Ernests Gulbis, but beat him in straight sets, making my +1.5 sets bet a winner.
My second bet was really unlucky, as I eventually chose the only wager in the Peter Gojowczyk/Milos Raonic match that didn’t win, with Raonic, as I said yesterday, again showing his lack of grass court ability.
I expected his serve to at least see the overs bet home, but the Canadian was so poor that he failed to even manage that in a tame straight sets loss to the German wild card.
Thursday’s matches across both venues are less appealing from a betting perspective and Halle seems to offer a little more than Queen’s today.
Steve Johnson vs Teimuraz Gabashvili
The Russian has a really poor record on grass and retired from his doubles match in Halle with a knee injury, so there isn’t a lot going for him in this clash with the new American number two, Johnson.
Remember the days when the US second ranked player was the likes of Andre Agassi or Jimmy Connors? Yeah, those days are long gone and now the second best player in the whole of the United States is Johnson, who is the current Le Gosier Challenger champion.
Johnson can play on grass though, having made the final in Nottingham last year beating the likes of Vasek Pospisil and he showed good form in the East Midlands last week too, beating James Ward and Michael Berrer in straights before running into the red hot Gilles Muller.
Steve is clearly on the upgrade, having made a final on clay ahead of the French Open too and he has wins over Tommy Haas and Feli Lopez on hard to his name this season.
Gaba on the other hand has won just three main draw matches on grass to 11 losses and narrowly edged past Ilya Marchenko in a final set tie break in round one this week.
Injured and demotivated and poor on grass this seems like another opportunity for the American to progress and the 1.77 about him winning minus 2.5 games looks good.
Rafael Nadal vs Dustin Brown
This is perhaps the only circumstance where I would consider betting on loose cannon Brown to get the better of one of, if not the toughest competitor of all time in Nadal.
On a slick, grass court a few days after a physically and mentally draining clay swing ended in a ninth French Open title, Nadal is surely only in Halle to respect his commitment to the tournament and Brown will certainly never have a better chance to test Rafa than today.
The unorthodox showman has a powerful game and all the shots and this could turn out to be a watered down version of the Lukas Rosol win over Rafa at Wimbledon a few years ago.
Of course, Nadal should win this fairly comfortably in different circumstances, but Brown loves a stage, as he showed when thrashing Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon last year and grass does suit his game.
He does tend to choke a bit though, so should he get ahead it might be worth covering your bets, but at 3.80 he’s worth a small interest to win set one.
Who knows? Rafa may even retire if his back that troubled him in Paris is still an issue, so the 5.20 about Brown might not be as fanciful as it may appear.
Over at Queen’s I’m struggling to find anything I like today, with Sam Querrey an underdog who could bark against Stan Wawrinka, but I’d like a bigger price than 2.60 about the unreliable American number six – yes, he ranks behind Donald Young, Bradley Klahn, Jack Sock, John Isner and Johnson these days.
Andy Murray looks a little short against Radek Stepanek and if the Czech veteran is in the mood he could make a match of that one, with the 4.50 about set one to Steps looking reasonable.
Overs backers will surely look to Kevin Anderson vs Sergiy Stakhovsky and Kenny de Schepper vs Lopez for their bets today.
Back Johnson –2.5 games to beat Gabashvili at 1.77
Back Brown to win set one vs Nadal at 3.80