The 2016 ATP World Tour moves on to Brazil, France and the United States in week seven, with two ATP 250s and a 500 for us to have a go at this week.
In Brazil the likes of Rafa Nadal and David Ferrer are among those in action at the ATP 500 level Rio Open on the clay, where conditions are set to be very hot and humid.
Over in France the Open 13 Provence has attracted a filed that includes the likes of Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych and this ATP 250 tournament is played on fast Gerflor indoor hard.
And in the USA wind is always a big factor in Florida at the Delray Beach Open, where Juan Martin Del Potro makes his long-awaited comeback, and Kevin Anderson and Bernard Tomic are also in action on slowish outdoor Plexipave hard courts.
To kick things off on Monday there are three main draw matches each in Marseille and Delray Beach and five in Rio, so it’s the usual slow start to the week, with qualifying still to be completed.
Ivo Karlovic vs John Patrick Smith
A few candidates around on Monday for the ‘sure thing’, which is always a tad riskier today being the first day of the tournament and player health/fitness/mood unknown and conditions sometimes a nasty surprise.
Memphis last week was one such example, where conditions played a lot slower than previously due to the new type of balls being used, but there should be no such issues in Delray Beach – other than the expected wind.
Karlovic has been out injured with a knee problem and makes only his third appearance of the season on Monday at around 01:00 UK time when he faces Aussie qualifier Smith, who has had a couple of handy wins in qualies.
Smith will be attuned to the conditions, but Karlovic is defending champion here and Delray Beach suits tall players that serve big, as the ball bounces high and makes it very tough to return.
And the Aussie has a dismal 2-8 record against the big servers on my list, which doesn’t inspire confidence in him (he’s also 1-10 against all players over 6’4” in height), and Karlovic isn’t the kind of player that needs matches for rhythm.
Assuming he’s fit and well Ivo should win this and get his defence underway at Delray Beach.
Another likely short-priced winner is Fabio Fognini, who brings a perfect 6-0 career record over Aljaz Bedene into his 22:30 UK time clash with the Brit in Rio.
It goes against the grain a little to lump Fognini into a ‘sure thing’ category, but he has too much talent for the grinding Bedene, and with final points to defend here the Italian seems to have the perfect opponent to begin his 2016 campaign against.
Dudi Sela vs Grigor Dimitrov
Once again the Bulgarian has been put in frighteningly short in price for a round one match and this one could be tricky against the occasionally decent Sela at a tournament he’s never played before.
Dimitrov has a very mediocre record in the USA, with a best finish of one quarter final appearance in 28 tournaments at main level on US soil, which is pretty shocking for a player with supposed Grand Slam ambitions.
He didn’t make it past round three in the USA at all last year and with conditions at Delray Beach being tricky with the wind there’s every chance that Sela could take a set from Dimitrov in this 17:30 UK time clash.
Sela is a former semi finalist here and he was match point away from making the final in 2012 and a final set tie break away from beating John Isner here in 2014, so he knows the conditions well and is effective in them.
Dimitrov may have a 3-1 career series lead over Sela, but it took a final set tie break for the Bulgarian to beat him on grass at Queen’s in 2013 and this price looks really short on Dimitrov in conditions he’s unproven in and in a country he has a poor record in.
He’s also lost two of his last four matches as a 1.10 to 1.20 favourite, so he looks anything but a cert today, and the 2.43 about +1.5 sets looks good value.
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Thomaz Bellucci
I like the idea, seeing as it’s a long shot bet, of siding with Alexandr Dolgopolov today, with the Ukrainian an even money chance against Thomaz Bellucci.
Dolgo has dismissed the Brazilian in both of their career meetings so far (admittedly on hard courts) and he has an almost perfect record in Rio of one appearance and one final, so I’m not sure Bellucci should be favourite here.
Current form means very little with Dolgo and after getting some clay match time under his belt last week he has a better than even money shot of beating the home favourite in their 20:30 UK time clash in Rio.
Bellucci is yet to show he can handle the unique style of Dolgo, with Bellucci’s poor movement likely to be tested to the limit by the former finalist and I wouldn’t fancy Bella as favourite here.
And to make it a 4.24 double we can add the over 10.5 games in set one of John Isner’s Rio clash with Guido Pella, which is scheduled for around 19:00 UK time today.
On clay Isner loves a tie break more than on hard these days, with 12 of his last 17 matches featuring breakers and 11 of those 17 going over 10.5 games in set one, including last week in Buenos Aires.
Pella has played the big servers on my list four times – all on hard courts – and nine of the 15 sets he’s contested against them have gone to at least 7-5, so he can hold his own on serve.
Sure thing: Back Karlovic to beat Smith at 1.33
Value bet: Back Sela +1.5 sets to beat Dimitrov at 2.43
Long shot: Back Dolgopolov to beat Bellucci and over 10.5 games in set one of Isner/Pella at 4.24