Week six of the 2014 ATP World Tour features ATP 250 tournaments in France, Chile and Croatia, as the players return after Davis Cup weekend.
The PBZ Zagreb Indoors is played at the Dom Sportova Arena on a fairly lively RuKort surface that tends to do the job it’s required to do, which is to suit the big serving home players such as defending champion Marin Cilic and the likes of Ivan Dodig and Ivo Karlovic.
Over in Montpellier the Open Sud de France is also played in pacy conditions on a Greenset indoor hard surface laid down on wood and that also tends to suit the big servers, but it can accommodate baseliners too, with attacking tennis tending to be effective despite Richard Gasquet being the defending champion.
Finally, it’s the start of the Golden Swing in Latin America this week, with the first of four clay court events over the coming weeks being the Royal Guard Open in Vina del Mar.
Conditions there are usually on the slow side and memorably it’s where Rafa Nadal made his comeback from injury last year and lost in the final to Horacio Zeballos.
There’s no Rafa there this year and our number one seed Fabio Fognini may be more than a little fatigued after a tough weekend in Davis Cup, but he at least has a few days off and will be well-practiced having been in Argentina on the red dirt.
It’s a low-key start to the week, with qualies concluding in all three venues on Monday, but there are a couple of matches worthy of an interest today.
Paul-Henri Mathieu 2.85 vs Nicolas Mahut 1.40
Surprisingly this pair of French veterans have only met once on the tour, which was back in 2004 in a Challenger, so this will be their first meeting in an ATP Tour event.
They did, however, meet in the Open de Caen event in December of last year when Mahut ran out a 6-4, 6-4 winner, and the world number 47 is expected to prevail again over Mathieu, whose career has stalled of late due to injury and off-court issues.
Mahut started the season in decent shape and had some tough draws against the likes of Juan Martin Del Potro and Jeremy Chardy, but he was surprisingly beaten by the limited Matt Ebden in five sets in Melbourne in his most recent match on the tour.
Mathieu, who is the elder of the pair by nine days, has shown nothing in his two events so far in 2014 and I would expect Mahut to enjoy conditions here a little more than PHM.
Mahut’s price of around 1.40 is a little short though and I would expect Mathieu to put up a bit more resistance than his quote of 2.85 suggests.
PHM can be effective when his serve works well and at home in France he’s generally a better player, which leads me to think he’ll be competitive at least in the opening set here. The 1.70 about over 9.5 games in set one looks good in this 15.35 start in Montpellier.
Jesse Huta Galung 2.45 vs Benjamin Becker 1.53 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 17.05
Dutchman Huta Galung has been suffering with injury this season and retired in the Heilbronn Challenger last time out
Becker meanwhile enjoys the fast conditions indoors where his big serve and forehand come into their own, and the fairly pacy courts here will play as close as possible to his beloved grass, where the German becomes a different player to the journeyman we see most weeks on tour.
The 32-year-old made the quarter-finals indoors in Metz in similar conditions at the end of last season, and when he does have a surface that suits him he can be very dangerous indeed, as he showed on grass again last season by making the last eight at Queen's Club.
Huta Galung hasn't been past the first round of a tour level event since Rotterdam in 2012 when he took down Ivan Ljubicic, and the fact he comes here under an injury cloud has me pretty confident that Becker will win their first career meeting today in Zagreb at a price of around 1.53.
Back over 9.5 games in set one of Mahut vs Mathieu at 1.70
Back Becker to beat Huta Galung at 1.53