Top class men’s tennis returns this week, as the 2015 ATP World Tour clicks into gear in Brisbane, Chennai and Doha.
Week one of the tour sees the usual three ATP 250 tournaments in-play, with the Brisbane International, Chennai Open and Qatar Open opening the new season.
At the Brisbane International, they play on the same Plexicushion outdoor hard court as that at the Australian Open in Melbourne in a fortnight’s time and with the same balls, and it is generally an event that does appeal to the big servers and attacking players.
That said, Lleyton Hewitt won the title here last year as the veteran rolled back the years, but the field is very strong again this time around, despite the absences of US Open champions Juan Martin Del Potro and Marin Cilic due to injury.
Over at the Chennai Open they use a Playpave surface, along with the same balls as the Australian Open, and it’s usually very hot and humid here, with testing conditions for the players.
The Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha always attracts a top class field and is the richest ATP 250 on the calendar, with Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic both in attendance this year, and it’s also played on a Plexicushion surface with Australian Open balls.
It does tend to get a fait bit slower at night here at the Khalifa Tennis Complex, which is worth bearing in mind when having a bet this week.
Of 12 first round matches in Brisbane last year there were just three underdog winners, while in Doha there were five from 16, and Chennai’s first round also saw three underdogs from 12 matches successful.
Kicking off the season with what will hopefully be a fairly comfortable success we head to Brisbane and a match that starts at around 04:00 UK time on Monday.
Jeremy Chardy vs Andrey Golubev
This looks a nice opportunity for Chardy to begin his quest of backing up semi final ranking points from last year when he takes on Golubev for the sixth time in their careers.
Chardy has a very good recent record in Australia, having won nine of his last 12 matches there, and tonight he faces an opponent who struggles away from his favoured clay.
The Kazakh has won just four of his 29 matches against top-100 ranked opponents on outdoor hard courts and he’s lost his last nine straight stretching back to the spring of 2012.
This Australian swing of the season isn’t high on Golubev’s agenda, given his 2-6 lifetime record Down Under and indeed this is the first time he’s played a tournament here ahead of Melbourne since 2008.
Chardy’s big game can misfire badly at times, but he’ll do well to lose this one and 1.34 seems fair enough in the circumstances.
Julien Benneteau vs Thanasi Kokkinakis
Benny is at a career high of 25 in the world rankings at the moment after a 2014 season that had some excellent moments, combined with the usual Benny peculiarities and losses in finals.
The 33-year-old will do well to back that up in 2015 though and with his coach Loic Courteau rumoured to be set for a switch to Camp Andy Murray after the Australian Open he’ll have to do it the hard way.
Brisbane is far from a happy hunting ground for the Frenchman either, with a woeful record of 2-7 at this tournament to his name and he’s currently on a run of three straight opening round losses here.
At around 04:00 UK time Benny faces 18-year-old Aussie Kokkinakis, who has shown a great deal of promise and the Adelaide-born teen could well have more desire than Benneteau here.
Benny looks too short for my liking at 1.43 and the 5.60 about a 2-1 for the underdog is the best long shot of the day on Monday.
Lukas Rosol vs Ivo Karlovic
Odds-against for the opening set between these two going over 10.5 games seems pretty decent considering each player’s serving prowess and in Doha conditions that usually play on the quick side I’m happy to take a price of 2.05.
Karlovic and Rosol have met on two prior occasions and in the four sets they’ve contested three have gone to tie breaks.
One of those meets was here in Doha back in 2011 when the result read 7-6, 7-6 to the Croatian and there was another 2-0 win for Karlovic at the end of last season when they clashed in Basel.
The score was 7-6, 6-3 to Dr Ivo that day and something similar can be expected again on Monday, with both players languishing at the bottom of the 2014 season return games won chart at positions 42 and 47 (of 47) respectively.
Sure thing: Back Chardy to beat Golubev at 1.34
Long shot: Back Kokkinakis to beat Benneteau 2-1 at 5.60
Value bet: Back over 10.5 games in set one of Karlovic/Rosol at 2.05