The Masters 1000 clay court tennis continues, as we depart Madrid and head to Rome for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico.
Yesterday’s Madrid final didn’t bring us much luck, with those on the Andy Murray +1.5 sets collecting okay, but the Scot’s nervy start ensured that it was set two that he won and not set one for 'long shot' backers, who had a really unfortunate week at the Caja Magica.
Conditions in Rome are slower than Madrid, with the altitude in the Spanish capital seeing balls fly quicker through the air, but as ever with clay the weather will ultimately decide how quick or otherwise it plays.
In the opening round in Rome in 2015 there were just four winning underdogs from 24 matches, which shows how tricky it is to find our ‘long shots’ in some of these Masters 1000 events.
Jack Sock vs Guido Pella
This 10:00 UK time clash between the American and the Argentine looks highly likely to me to go past 9.5 games in set one at a tempting price for that wager of 1.81.
Pella loves a tie break or several and has played at least one in six of his eight matches against the big servers on my database and only seven times in 25 sets against them has a set ended in nine games or fewer.
The Argentine and the American have virtually identical service hold stats over the last 52 weeks, with 82.5 percent and 82.4 percent of service games held respectively and on clay Pella is even more impressive.
Pella finds himself behind only Ivo Karlovic, John Isner, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in fifth place in the last 52 weeks in the service games won category on clay.
And in the return games won category in the last 52 weeks Pella is down at number 43 in the rankings, while Sock is 29th, so it’s fair to conclude that breaks of serve may not be plentiful in this one.
Richard Gasquet vs Julien Benneteau
Another early start at 10:00 UK time on Monday and this all-French affair really should be going the way of the Gasman against the struggling Benny, whose comeback from injury this year hasn’t taken off.
Benny plays off a protected ranking this week and was last seen at the Aix en Provence Challenger losing in the last-16, which followed on from a loss in qualies of the Turino Challenger in April.
Even when he was fit and healthy Benny failed to win two matches in a row at the Rome Masters and clay was rarely his best surface, with only two of his 10 losing finals coming on the dirt – and they were back in 2008 and 2009.
Against Gasquet too Benneteau has struggled, losing all three of their career meetings so far, with Gasquet delivering three breadsticks to Benny in the seven sets they’ve contested.
Gasquet looked in decent nick in Madrid, where he’s rarely found conditions to his liking, and his record in Rome is good, with a 64 percent winning mark.
It would be a big shock if the Gasman were to lose this one and with nothing really about in the 1.25 to 1.35 or so category on Monday short-priced punters will look to Gasquet and Milos Raonic (and probably Nick Kyrgios) to earn a few quid.
Raonic faces Marco Cecchinato at around 11:00 UK time and although the Italian finally broke his duck at tour level when beating Marcos Baghdatis and Damir Dzumhur in Bucharest he has his work cut out here.
The Italian was beaten in straight sets by Igor Sijsling last week in Munich and he was also beaten by the same player in his only main draw match at the Rome Masters, which came in 2014 as a wild card.
In 2012, 2013 and 2015 Cecchinato failed to emerge from qualies and Raonic was a straight sets winner over the Italian when they met in Monte-Carlo a few weeks ago.
It won’t get the pulses racing, but a Gasquet/Raonic double at 1.17 has to be the ‘sure thing’ call today.
Andreas Seppi vs Vasek Pospisil
This 14:00 approx. UK time clash on the atmospheric Pietrangeli Court between home hope Seppi and struggling Canadian Pospisil offers a few possible good value betting options.
Seppi is favourite, but he has just undergone some sort of medical procedure on his hip and he’s been away from the tour since Miami and the obvious question to me is would he be playing so soon if it wasn’t Rome this week?
I’m not too sure exactly what this ‘hip infiltration’ was and how serious it is, but we do know that he’s lacking matches and with his reputation for starting matches slowly and Pospisil’s for starting quickly we could have a wager here.
Pospisil has gone to a deciding set in all of his last six matches and he’s won the opener in four of them, plus he led Gilles Simon 5-0 in the opening set of the match prior to those half dozen.
Stamina has long been a big problem for the Canadian and with his record and Seppi’s to consider it’s little surprise to find that on the four occasions they’ve clashed in the past three featured tie breaks and the other went to five sets.
Pospisil to pounce early and take advantage of any Seppi rustiness is a 2.65 chance, but the ‘long shot’ today is for Seppi to outlast Pospisil in three at a tasty 3.95.
Sure thing: Back Gasquet and Raonic at 1.17
Value bet: Back over 9.5 games in set one of Sock/Pella at 1.81
Long shot: Back Seppi to beat Pospisil 2-1 at 3.95