The ATP World Tour moves on to Bucharest and Barcelona in week 16 as the clay court swing continues with an ATP 250 and a 500 for our enjoyment this week.
The big names can be found at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, where Rafa Nadal, Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer will be honing their clay court games and over in Bucharest the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy looks a competitive affair.
We were very unlucky in the Monte-Carlo final yesterday, as pretty much every bet I suggested barring the one I finally plumped for was successful.
The 5.80 on Tomas Berdych winning set two and the over 9.5 total games in set two and under 6.5 aces all came in, while Novak Djokovic failed to serve set one out at *5-3 to foil my set one handicap bet.
Hopefully some chose their final wager better than me and we move on to week 16, where there are 14 round one matches to look at on Monday across our two tournaments.
In Bucharest a year ago there were three underdog winners from 12 first round matches, while in Barcelona there were four odds-against winners from 16 matches.
We start early at 10:00 UK time in Barcelona and my ‘sure thing’ today is a 12:00 start in that tournament.
Thomaz Bellucci vs Yuchi Sugita
The fact that I have Bellucci written in the same sentence as the phrase ‘sure thing’ is a concern, but the erratic Brazilian surely will have too much on the red dirt for the Japanese world number 140.
Sugita has never so much as taken a set off a top-100 player on clay and his qualifying wins here were over opponents ranked 260 and 470, with his best ever win on clay coming against fellow Japanese Tatsuma Ito (by way of retirement).
Bellucci has won 77 percent of his clay matches against players ranked outside the top-100 and he’s 11-3 when priced between 1.2 and 1.3 on clay in his career so far.
The Brazilian played well in his last event in Miami, beating Lleyton Hewitt and Pablo Cuevas, and losing a tight one to Alexandr Dolgopolov and he’s had plenty of time to prepare on clay since then.
Other odds-on choices look a bit hit and miss, with one in particular well worth taking on, while the likes of Benoit Paire, Thiemo De Bakker, Florian Mayer and Mikhail Youzhny all having question marks against them as short-priced favourites.
Marinko Matosevic vs Marcel Granollers
Today’s 1.33 on Granollers looks a really desperate price considering his woeful current form and terrible record at the Barcelona Open.
Granollers, whose win over a fatigued Adrian Mannarino in Monte-Carlo was his only success in eight matches since making the Zagreb semis in February, was beaten 6-1, 6-1 by Tommy Robredo in Monte-Carlo after the Mannarino win and a trip to Barcelona is hardly likely to revive his spirits – on the tennis court at least.
In theory it should do, as Granollers is born and bred in Barcelona, but he’s won only three of his 12 matches at his home town tournament and I wouldn’t have a single brass farthing on him at 1.33 today.
Granted, his opponent Marinko Matosevic is no Rafa Nadal on the clay, but he thrashed Granollers on slow hard in Acapulco less than two months ago and he has beaten the likes of Philipp Kohlschreiber, Fernando Verdasco and Joao Sousa on clay, so he’s no mug on the dirt.
Viktor Troicki vs Daniel Gimeno-Traver
Pablo Andujar is tempting as a value bet at odds-against versus an opponent he’s beaten eight times from 10 matches in Albert Ramos, but Andujar’s form and fitness has been questionable of late to put it kindly.
So, I prefer siding with Troicki, who faces an opponent today he’s yet to lose to in five meetings and one who has never won a match in Bucharest.
The odds are stacked against Casablanca finalist DGT then, who has lost in the first round each time he’s played in Bucharest and although he’s been close to Troicki in some of their meetings he’s always fallen short against the Serb.
The Spaniard is hardly the toughest of competitors in terms of mental strength and he’s likely to fade in the latter stages of this one if things go against him against an opponent he’s never beaten.
Troicki has a decent chance of a title run this week and the Serb has a 6-0 record when priced as favourite between 1.4 and 1.5 on clay, so his chances do look good today.
Gimeno-Traver on the other hand has lost his last six in straight sets as an underdog priced between 2.5 and 2.8 and for me either the -2.5 games on Troicki or the 2-0 to the Serb look the ones.
Sure thing: Back Bellucci to beat Sugita at 1.23
Value bet: Back Troicki -2.5 games to beat Gimeno-Traver at 1.68
Long shot: Back Matosevic to beat Granollers at 3.25