There’s more round two action from Rio, Marseille and Delray Beach on the schedule on Thursday on the ATP World Tour, with another 13 matches set for today.
That’s weather permitting in Rio and Delray Beach of course after more interruptions in Brazil on Wednesday, with more very heavy rain hampering proceedings at the Rio Open.
Also hampering our progress was Fabio Fognini, who retired injured a set up on Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who has now ‘won’ his last three matches in row on retirements.
Dominic Thiem was as jaded as I expected, but still managed to grind out a tight win over Diego Schwartzman to foil the ‘long shot’, but those who took Sergiy Stakhovsky instead would have seen the Ukrianian win the +1.5 sets, but lose in unfortunate circumstances in a final set breaker having held match points.
There was no more play in Rio due to heavy rain, so Guido Pella tries again today, and there are 13 ‘new’ matches set for Thursday in total, with the forecast in Rio suggesting more of the same thundery downpours.
Wind will be a factor again in Delray Beach, with 17mph gusts expected, and in case Bernard Tomic is thinking of having a dip in the sea on his days off there are rip currents expected, so watch out Bernie!
Richard Gasquet vs Ernests Gulbis
Ernie defeated Richie here in Marseille two years ago, but he’s barely a shadow of that player these days, with another error-ridden performance in round one here against the lumbering Kenny De Schepper.
Gulbis just about pulled out the win in that one in a final set tie break, with his forehand still looking awful, and even a below par Gasquet should be able to expose that weakness in this 17:30 UK time start at the Open 13.
Gasquet, all too predictably, pulled out of Rotterdam last week after winning Montpellier on his comeback from injury and having had a nice rest he should be more than capable of beating this version of the Latvian.
The delicate Frenchman says of his condition: “I have no more pain, the fever is gone, everything is better,” and at 1.34 he looks the best of some very shaky-looking short-priced favourites today.
The prospect of siding with the likes of Alexandr Dolgopolov, Sam Querrey, Benoit Paire, Andrey Kuznetsov, and Jeremy Chardy at prices ranges from 1.20 to 1.33 leaves me cold and especially after the Fognini retirement yesterday, so I’ll stick with the Gasman as the ‘sure thing’ today.
Alexander Zverev vs Tomas Berdych
If the young German wasn’t heading into this match on the back of a lot of tennis I might be tempted to chance him as a long shot today, but instead I like the set one over games in this 19:30 UK time clash in Marseille.
Zverev was a tad fortunate in the end to get past Julien Benneteau in round one when Benny injured his calf at the vital time, but the 18-year-old always just about had the edge in that one.
His strong serving ability and Berdych’s lack of matches ¬– this is Tomas’ first since the Australian Open – suggest that this one will involve at least one long set and 1.79 isn’t bad at all for the set one overs.
Zverev has gone over 9.5 games in his last eight opening sets, with six being tie breaks and the other two ending 7-5, so against a rusty Berdych breaks are seemingly unlikely.
The German has won only 18 percent of his return games so far in 2016 and with Berdych a strong server and in quickish conditions I’d expect a long opener here, with the 3.80 on Zverev taking the set also tempting.
Rafael Nadal vs Nicolas Almagro
Similarly to the Berdych/Zverev match I have some reservations about the fitness of Almagro here after a long week in Buenos Aires in tough conditions, but again I’d expect an early challenge to Nadal from Nico in this 20:30 UK time clash in Rio.
Nadal often starts very slowly these days and he hasn’t shown a great deal in terms of good form so far on the Golden Swing, while Almagro has played his best stuff for a very long time of late.
The career series score of 13-1 to Nadal has ensured another short price on the former world number one here, but he’s hardly at that level these days and even when he was at his best Almagro often caused him early problems.
Seven of their last 10 opening sets have gone over 9.5 games and that was between 2010 and 2015 when Rafa was in peak form and the 1.95 about the set one overs looks good again here, but I’m not sure I’d trust Nico to grab the outright win.
That can be leg one of a ‘long shot’ double, with the second leg a choice between taking on Querrey or Chardy to some extent.
The wind is so strong in Delray Beach that it can’t be good for the game of Chardy, who has a high ball toss and goes for it on his ground strokes.
He faces the inexperienced but smart Noah Rubin today at around 19:30 UK time, with the American looking for an early birthday present of a last eight spot at main level for the first time.
Rubin will be 20 on Sunday and his motivation here is clear and he should be confident after outthinking big serving Sam Groth in round one and prevailing in a final set breaker against the Aussie.
There will be times when Chardy’s power will be too much for Rubin, but it’s asking a lot of the erratic Frenchman to play his best stiff throughout in these difficult conditions.
Grigor Dimitrov showed last night how much of a leveller these conditions are and all three of the round two matches so far have gone to deciding sets with the wind affecting serves badly.
Dimitrov won only 62 percent of points on his first serve yesterday, while Stevie Johnson and Benjamin Becker were around the 72 percent mark, as was Rajeev Ram, which is down on what I’d expect from these big servers.
The overs or the handicaps on Rubin (and Austin Krajicek against Querrey) look good here and can be combined with the Almagro bet to make a 3.71 double.
In Chardy’s last eight best-of-three set matches as a 1.20 to 1.30 favourite he’s only won one in under 21.5 games and he’s lost four times, so he looks a poor price today.
Sure thing: Back Gasquet to beat Gulbis at 1.34
Value bet: Back over 9.5 games in set one of Zverev/Berdych at 1.79
Long shot: Back over 9.5 games in set one of Nadal/Almagro and over 21.5 games in Chardy/Rubin at 3.71