The ATP World Tour heads to Asia in week 39, with two ATP 250 tournaments in Malaysia and China kicking off the swing.
In Kuala Lumpur the Malaysian Open is into its seventh year on the ATP World Tour calendar and is played on a slow Greenset indoor hard court that has favoured the likes of Joao Sousa and Juan Monaco in the past.
Over in China the Shenzhen Open is into its second year of hosting a World Tour tournament and conditions there are much quicker on a Plexicushion outdoor hard court.
It was stiflingly hot in Shenzhen last year when Andy Murray landed the title in the inaugural staging of the event, saving a handful of match points against Tommy Robredo, and the forecast is for rain for much of the week there.
Hopefully we will get some play on Monday when there are two main draw matches scheduled in Shenzhen, but at least we’re guaranteed play in Kuala Lumpur.
Last year’s Shenzhen Open produced only one underdog winner in the 12 round one matches, which was Ricardas Berankis’ victory at 4.13 over Gilles Simon.
In Kuala Lumpur there were five underdog winners in round one a year ago, with a tight win for Pierre-Hugues Herbert over Bernard Tomic at 2.81 proving the best of them.
We start the main draw matches at around 10:00 UK time on Monday in Shenzhen and an hour later in Kuala Lumpur
Sam Groth vs Benjamin Becker
This clash of two of the game’s bigger servers is an interesting one and a match that will probably feature few breaks of serve – even on a slow surface like the one in Kuala Lumpur.
Becker made the quarter finals here a year ago and he should have made the last eight in St Petersburg on indoor hard last week, but failed from a set and a break up against Denis Istomin.
So, he has the advantage of having played on indoor hard in singles a matter of days ago, unlike Groth, whose only action since the US Open was a Davis Cup doubles rubber in Glasgow.
Groth has played only two tournaments in Asia so far in his career and both were in China and I would have thought that Shenzhen (where he played a year ago) would have suited him better than the slow conditions in Malaysia.
The Aussie is also quite inexperienced generally on indoor hard at this level, with only three tournaments and five matches in total under his belt in his career.
Groth doesn’t have a great record overall against the big servers on my database (of which he is one) with a 5-13 record, although he has won the last three matches against such opposition.
Two of those were against Feli Lopez and the other Jack Sock, but he’s only played one big server on indoor hard and that was Kevin Anderson in a 3-6, 2-6 loss in Memphis earlier this year.
His record as a 1.40 to 1.60 favourite is interesting too, with a 4-1 winning mark, but all five matches were really tight, with all bar one involving at least one tie break, and the quickest one finishing in 23 games.
Groth seems altogether too short for my liking here at 1.47 and I prefer the overs or the slightly bigger price of 1.55 about the German winning a set.
Becker has a 15-37 record against my big servers and all four that he’s played in 2015 have gone to a deciding third set and he’s lost the lot, against John Isner, Lopez, Sam Querrey and Milos Raonic.
But he shouldn’t be losing this in two to Groth and particularly a Groth that hasn’t played a singles match since the US Open.
Elsewhere, Ernests Gulbis is a 1.64 chance against John Millman and I certainly couldn’t be backing Ernie at odds-against at the moment and especially given his awful 1-6 record in China.
Opponent Millman is far more solid than Gulbis, but he lacks power, and his chances here lie with Gulbis beating himself, which has happened on many occasions so far in 2015.
Austin Krajicek versus James Duckworth looks a 50/50 call, which is how it’s been priced, and I would expect Nick Kyrgios to get past Santi Giraldo, but NK seems rather tightly priced at 1.34.
Value bet: Back Becker +1.5 sets to beat Groth at 1.55