Round two of this week’s ATP 250 tournaments in Rosmalen and Stuttgart begins on Wednesday, with eight matches on the card, and the scheduled appearance of one Roger Federer.
It was one of those days on Tuesday where not a lot went right in one way or another, with missed opportunities aplenty on the grass of Rosmalen and Stuttgart.
Robin Haase had a great chance to win the opening set and put himself in pole position against Gilles Muller, but blew a *6-4 lead in the opening set tie break, while I ended up choosing the wrong underdog out of Tatsuma Ito and Inigo Cervantes in another bet.
Ito, who I said yesterday had a good shot of taking a set against Ivan Dodig ended up bagelling the Croat to win the match, while Cervantes himself got bagelled by Igor Sijsling.
After all of that Feli Lopez lost in a rain-interrupted match to Mikhail Youzhny, who played really well, so all told it was a miserable second day of the grass court swing.
Round two in Rosmalen last year produced four underdog winners from eight matches, with 2.93 being the biggest price, and there was at least one tie break in six of the second round matches.
In Stuttgart we also had tie breaks in six of the eight matches and just two underdog winners, with 3.12 the best of the prices there.
Sam Querrey vs Tatsuma Ito
Querrey duly delivered the set one overs on Monday and our ‘sure thing’ for Wednesday is the opening set of this 13:00 UK time (approx.) match with Ito to go to 10 games or more.
After Querrey’s two tie breaks against Benjamin Becker in round one the American now has gone past 10 games in his opening set on grass in 15 of his last 16 matches.
Going further back in time Querrey has only once in his last 31 opening sets on grass won an opening set in nine games or fewer and that was against Julien Benneteau at Queen’s in 2012.
Of those 31 opening sets 28 have gone past 9.5 games, so 1.58 is a reasonable enough price on this one doing the same, with Ito a decent enough performer on grass to add to Querrey’s list of laboured starts to his matches on this surface.
I’m not sure I really fancy any of the shorter priced favourites on Wednesday, with even Roger Federer a bit of a doubt after all the time he’s had off the court so far in 2016.
That said, how awestruck will Taylor Fritz be by playing a man he used to watch growing up, and how depressing is it to read that Fritz watched the 2009 US Open final between Fed and Del Potro during his fifth grade computer class!
Stefan Kozlov vs Steve Johnson
It’s certainly a bit of a testing card on Wednesday by the looks of things, but there could be a bit of value about young Kozlov taking a set against Johnson, who has a very hit and miss record on grass.
Johnson’s dodgy backhand has often let him down on this surface, with opponents rushing him on that side, and odds-against about the former Wimbledon Junior finalist taking one set is a decent proposition.
Kozlov lost out to Noah Rubin in the 2014 final at the All England Club and he did beat the likes of Alexander Zverev and Hyeon Chung at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2014, so he’s not averse to playing on the green stuff.
Perhaps too lightweight in his game and lacking the weapons to be much of a force in the senior ranks at the moment it’s a big ask for Kozlov to beat a big-hitter like Johnson, but he can at least make it tough for his fellow countryman in this 15:30 UK time clash in Rosmalen.
The lack of real pace in the surface in Den Bosch should make things trickier for Johnson to dominate with his serve and looking at Stevie’s record on grass one finds that he’s won only one of his last eight on this surface in straight sets.
Oddly, that was against Bernard Tomic, but sets or matches have been dropped to Michael Berrer, Ito, Lukas Lacko, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Florian Mayer (who was playing off a protected ranking at the time – again).
With this being Johnson’s first match on grass since a loss to Ito in Newport last summer and with Kozlov having already played a three setter here in Rosmalen I wouldn’t be happy with backing 2-0 to Johnson here.
Radek Stepanek vs Marin Cilic
Ito has possibilities against Querrey at 4.20, while Fritz could possibly nick a set against Federer at 3.10 as underdogs on Wednesday, but I prefer siding with Cilic to edge a tight clash against the evergreen Steps in this 17:00 UK time Stuttgart encounter.
The wily Czech veteran continues to prove a thorn in the side of many a top-class player – just ask Andy Murray – and he can certainly take Cilic all the way here in what will be the fourth career clash between the pair.
Cilic really struggled to put opponents away on the grass last year, with only two straight sets win in his 10 matches on the surface last summer – and they were against (then) world ranked number 174 Hiroki Moriya and 116 Matthias Bachinger.
Stepanek will have the advantage of having three matches under his belt in Stuttgart already this week after wins over James Ward, Nikola Mektic and Denis Istomin, and he should present a very tricky test for the Croat.
Having beaten Cilic twice and of course no respecter of reputations the pugnacious Stepanek will fancy this one and Cilic may well need to go to the wire to sort this one out.
Steps does tend to struggle in the latter stages to see matches out and he’s lost eight of his last 12 that have gone to deciders, but Cilic has also lost five of his last seven, so it could end up being a nervy one.
Cilic has a better career percentage in deciders than Stepanek though (61% to 54%) and he should be the fresher and fitter player by the end.
Sure thing: Back over 9.5 games in set one of Querrey/Ito at 1.58
Value bet: Back Kozlov +1.5 sets to beat Johnson at 2.10
Long shot: Back Cilic to beat Stepanek 2-1 at 3.90