The focus on the ATP Tour this week shifts from Portugal and Germany to Spain, as the men and women descend upon the capital for the Mutua Madrid Open.
This joint ATP/WTA event began yesterday for the top ladies, while the men’s event gets underway in earnest today, with the majority of first round clashes taking place on Monday.
It was a good end to a tricky week in Oeiras yesterday when Carlos Berlocq came back from a 0-6 opening set to defeat Tomas Berdych for the Portugal Open title and give us a winner with the overs, although the Berdman was far from happy.
Still, I’m sure he’ll get over it, and we have 14 opening round matches to think about at La Caja Mágica today.
Played at more than 2,000 feet above sea level it’s one of the quicker clay events on the calendar and the balls fly off the racquet in these conditions.
There were just half a dozen underdog winners in the opening round here last year from 24 matches, with a top price of 3.30 when Pablo Andujar beat Marin Cilic, but the Spaniard will take a real hit in the rankings this time around, as he lost in one of the few matches to take place yesterday.
Andujar loses over 300 ranking points after making the last four here 12 months ago and he’ll drop from 37 to around 65 as a consequence.
The first player I’m tempted by today is Teimuraz Gabashvili over John Isner, but I’m not sure I trust his game at altitude and there are other better priced options around.
Mikhail Youzhny 1.24 vs Benjamin Becker 3.90 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 12.35
Poor old Youzhny can’t be backed at the moment at a price like 1.24 against a capable and determined opponent like Becker, whose big serve and forehand will surely find their mark at some stage in this one.
The Russian hasn’t been able to get going at all in 2014, first due to injury and illness and now due to an inability to get over the line and his last match win was over James Ward in Dubai back in February.
He lost a tight one to eventual champion Martin Klizan in Munich and his confidence must be very low.
Becker has an unusual record here on the clay in Madrid, having only ever faced former world number ones, with a loss to Roger Federer and a win over Carlos Moya the results.
The German did well to come back to defeat Bernard Tomic in qualies yesterday and with that knowledge of conditions aiding him he can take the first set at 3.15, while Youzhny gets used to the altitude.
I don’t like Philipp Kohlschreiber much at a similar price against Marinko Matosevic, but I certainly don’t like Dominic Thiem at 1.23 against Dmitry Tursunov.
Dominic Thiem 1.23 vs Dmitry Tursunov 4.00
This price is far too short about Thiem, who may well win this, but this price is all about Tursunov’s 6-0, 6-0 loss to Rui Machado in Oeiras last week and it’s a result that we can probably overlook.
The Russian went on to make the doubles semi-final after that match, so I don’t think he’s injured and I wouldn’t like to speculate the reasons for such a loss to a player like Machado.
Tursunov can play on clay, as he’s shown with wins over David Ferrer, Alex Dolgopolov, Andujar, Jeremy Chardy and Robin Haase in the last year and the speed of these conditions will only help the big-hitting 31-year-old.
Thiem is showing the world what he is capable of right now, but he choked badly in his last match against Santiago Giraldo in Barcelona and he’s not ready to justify short prices like today’s at this stage of his career.
The Austrian might well win, but he’s terrible value and this looks like it may well become a hitting contest, which Tursunov will enjoy.
The 2.16 about the +1.5 sets or the 3.45 about Tursunov winning set one appeal, as does the 4.00 about a Russian win.
Back Becker to win set one vs Youzhny at 3.15
Back Tursunov +1.5 sets to beat Thiem at 2.16