Day two of the 2016 Miami Open features the remaining 16 round one matches in the men’s draw on what’s set to be a humid and possibly rainy day in Key Biscayne.
There’s plenty of cloud expected and humidity of around 70 percent, which will make things tough for the players on Thursday.
Things were tough for Vasek Pospisil on Wednesday and annoyingly for me I chose the wrong bet to oppose the struggling Canadian with in hindsight, as he was broken twice in set one by Diego Schwartzman.
Mikhail Youzhny backers were comfortable winners though, as Ernests Gulbis flopped in Miami yet again, while ‘sure thing’ backers also collected, albeit after a self-inflicted struggle from Albert Ramos against Alejandro Gonzalez and the partisan Miami crowd.
And not even a late retirement from Ivan Dodig could prevent the ‘long shot’ from landing when Juan Monaco led the Croat 3-6, 6-3, 5-0, which was enough for Pico to win on the handicap with a 2.5 game start, with no other outcome possible at that stage.
Marcos Baghdatis vs Benjamin Becker
Baghdatis has proven too classy for the German on all three of their career meetings in the past and in conditions that tend not to aid the big servers I’d be expecting him to win again today.
The Cypriot has had a bit of a rest since breaking Bjorn Borg’s record of 33 straight wins in Davis Cup a few weeks ago and he should be the fresher man in this fourth career clash with the veteran Becker.
Having made the final of Dubai, where he was beaten by Stan Wawrinka, Baghdatis has jumped back up to number 40 in the world rankings and confidence should be flowing at the moment.
And the fact that Becker has played 17 sets of tennis in three different tournaments since Baggy last stepped onto court competitively could well see the German fade in the expected energy sapping conditions.
Baghdatis may start slowly, having not played for a few weeks, but Becker’s key weapons of serve and forehand are unlikely to provide him an advantage in the slow conditions at Crandon Park and with this match being played in the feature match at night Baggy should rise to the occasion, as he tends to do when he's the star of the show.
The over 9.5 games is likely at 1.65, but I expect Baghdatis to cover the -2.5 game handicap here by the time this match is completed, as he has done every time they’ve met in the past.
Baghdatis has too much quality off both wings for Becker and as ever with Baggy the main concern is that first serve percentage, which can be remarkably low at times.
The wind might be a problem, but so it will too for Becker, and Baghdatis has posted some decent performances here in the past, notably in 2014 when he beat Philipp Kohlschreiber and should have beaten Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Mikhail Kukushkin vs Brian Baker
Injury prone American Baker (he was spotted wearing a knee support again yesterday) gets in here with a protected ranking for only his second main level match since the summer of 2013 and it’s a tall order for him at a tournament he’s never won a match at in the past.
Baker hasn’t actually played a match at the Miami Open since 2004, so it’s quite a unique situation for Kukushkin to face such an opponent, who has barely played a tournament for years.
The Kazakh has only been a sub-1.30 favourite four times in his main level career and he lost two of those, but surely it’s asking too much of world number 1045 Baker to win this one?
Kukushkin is yet to be beaten in the main draw of a tour level tournament by an opponent ranked outside the top-400 at the time of the match and it would seem to be common sense that he’ll win this one too.
The Kazakh can be combined with Andrey Kuznetsov to make a 1.37 double for Thursday and that looks the most likely winner of the day for short-priced punters.
Kuznetsov has been playing some excellent tennis of late and sits at a career high of 51 in the world rankings at the moment after a spell that has seen him lose only to players ranked inside the top-25 since last October.
Today he takes on Brazilian clay courter Rogerio Dutra Silva, who gets into the main draw as a lucky loser thanks to the injury withdrawal of Robin Haase.
Dutra Silva lost 6-2, 6-3 to Tommy Paul in qualies and has one win over a top-50 ranked opponent on a hard court in his career so far, which was against our friend Vasek Pospisil at the 2013 US Open (10-8 in a final set tie break).
Kuznetsov has only played one match so far in his career at the Miami Open and retired in it, but his looks a fine opportunity for him to go forward to a quick rematch with Stan Wawrinka in round two.
Nicolas Jarry vs Sergiy Stakhovsky
On a day that seems far less appealing than day one the outsider that could have a bit of a live chance is IMG’s very own Jarry.
IMG own this tournament and their players tend to get the wild cards and Jarry has the talent to make this a tough evening for the Ukrainian net-rusher in this 23:00 approx. UK time clash.
Conditions do not suit the Stakhovsky game here and that’s been proven over the years, with Stakho holding a 3-7 record at the Miami Open, and he hasn’t played a match since withdrawing from the Quimper Challenger due to a back injury on March 4.
Jarry has the ability to win this match and he does seem to be getting closer at tour level, as he showed last time he was handed a wild card (in Rio) when he should have taken a set off David Ferrer on the clay.
The slow conditions at Crandon Park should suit him more than his opponent and I wouldn’t want to be backing Stakhovsky in these circumstances at 1.26.
Sure thing: Back Kukushkin and Kuznetsov at 1.37
Value bet: Back Baghdatis -2.5 games at 1.73
Long shot: Back Jarry to beat Stakhovsky at 3.90