The ATP 250 action continues in Montpellier, Quito and Sofia on Thursday, with 14 second round matches on the card for today.
We started Wednesday in decent fashion, with a comfortable win for Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who remained unbroken in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Mirza Basic, despite serving at 41 percent and hitting six double faults in 10 service games.
But while one half of my ‘long shot’ double was successful when Alexander Zverev not only took Marin Cilic over 9.5 games in set one but beat the former US Open champion in straight sets.
The second half failed though when Ernests Gulbis was unable to take the opener against Richard Gasquet, while those on Roberto Carballes Baena were unlucky as the Spaniard narrowly failed to beat Bernard Tomic, who scored just one more point than the Spaniard in their three setter in Quito.
Ricardas Berankis vs Gilles Muller
I was prepared to take Muller on at a short price in his opening match and I’m happy to do so again here against Berankis in this 13:30 UK time clash in Sofia.
Malez Jaziri wasn’t up to it in round one, but Berankis has beaten Muller twice, including a year ago in similar conditions indoors in Zagreb, which Sofia has now replaced.
The prices that day in Croatia were very similar to today’s and I have Berankis the slightly higher rated on indoor hard, which surface Muller has consistently failed to deliver on over the years.
This slow surface in Sofia surely won’t help Muller much and if his serve isn’t firing on all cylinders this is winnable for Berankis, who overcame the potential banana skin of a first round against a local wild card on Wednesday.
Muller hit 22 aces and served at a healthy 68 percent of first serves in when he lost to Berankis in Zagreb a year ago, so it wasn’t as if the Luxembourger served poorly that day and the 1.87 about Berankis taking a set here looks decent value, as does the 3.55 about the win.
The Lithuanian has won two of the three prior meetings with Muller and again the assumption of the layers seems to be that the big leftie will serve his way to the win, which may well be the case, but 1.30 about Muller is much too short in what is a dangerous match for him.
Berankis has wins on his record over Milos Raonic, Steve Johnson and Kevin Anderson and he’s 3-3 on indoor hard against the big servers on my list, so he’s no stranger to overcoming a booming serve.
There are plenty of other options for long shot backers today, with Rajeev Ram one option, given that opponent Albert Ramos quit the doubles citing a physical issue.
In these pacy conditions at altitude the American has a shot if Ramos is struggling, while fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco could also be worth taking on, as he too withdrew from the doubles with a neck injury.
Verdasco faces in-form Renzo Olivo, whose forehand has looked very good of late, and Verdasco isn’t exactly one to trust these days, as his (supposedly) injury-affected showing against Dudi Sela in Melbourne showed.
Feli Lopez has been suffering with jet lag and could struggle against Joao Souza, whose best performances have tended to come in Sao Paulo at alititude.
I also wouldn’t trust Gilles Simon, who has never done too well at Montpellier, and may be blitzed by Dustin Brown if the latter is on one of his occasional good days.
Edouard Roger-Vasselin vs John Millman
I like the odds-against about Millman here in the night match in Montpellier against ERV, who surprisingly took down Gael Monfils as a big underdog on Wednesday.
Monfils later came out with tiredness and a back problem as the reasons for his defeat by ERV and Lamonf was clearly not himself on court, which devalues the win for Roger-Vasselin.
I certainly wouldn’t make him favourite for this match, with Millman playing some fine tennis at the moment after beating Muller in Melbourne and giving a very good account of himself against Tomic.
The Aussie also impressed in his opening round against another Frenchman in Julien Benneteau, who clearly isn’t anywhere near his old level, but Millman won’t care and he has a good opportunity to progress here.
ERV has played five more sets than Millman here in Montpellier, due to qualifying, and he’s struggled with his fitness for a while now, so I’d expect the Aussie to perhaps be a little sharper.
Roberto Bautista-Agut vs Filip Krajinovic
It’s not been easy at all to find a short-priced favourite today that I don’t have reservations about, but RBA looks the one, providing he isn’t too fatigued after a very busy January.
The Spaniard is hungry for titles after being pipped at the post numerous times in 2015 and this Sofia event looks very much within his grasp and an opening clash with Krajinovic looks fairly comfortable.
RBA should prove far too consistent for the mediocre Serbian, whose movement isn’t good enough to compete with Bautista-Agut if the Spaniard is on his game.
Krajinovic did take a set from the Spaniard indoors in Marseille two years ago and given it’s his first match here this week I wouldn’t be stunned if RBA didn’t win in two, but it’s hard to see him being beaten in this match.
To make a 1.24 double I’ll take Philipp Kohlschreiber to beat Damir Dzumhur, whose drop shot routine is unlikely to cause too many problems for the German, who was comfortable against Sergiy Stakhovsky in round one.
Dzumhur’s win over a hapless Jiri Vesely in round one was only his second ever on the tour on indoor hard and he doesn’t have the weapons to really compete in these conditions.
I’d be tempted by the odds-against on -5.5 games on Kohlschreiber too, but he and RBA seem the most solid of the short ones on Thursday.
Sure thing: Back Bautista-Agut and Kohlschreiber at 1.24
Value bet: Back Millman to beat Roger-Vasselin at 2.04
Long shot: Back Berankis to beat Muller at 3.55