Some of the bigger names in men’s tennis make their tournament debuts at the 2016 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Saturday, with Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios all in action today.
We also have Juan Martin Del Potro taking on Tomas Berdych, while Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils also get their campaigns underway in the California desert.
Our ‘sure thing’ proved exactly that on Friday when John Millman conceded only two games to Alexander Sarkissian, while the ‘value bet’ was also a winner when Jared Donaldson and Vasek Pospisil played out the sort of match I expected.
Set one overs backers collected there, as would ‘tie break played’ punters as the first two sets went to breakers and typically the young American lost another tight one.
But the 'long shot' failed to deliver when Daniel Munoz De La Nava produced a dismal tie break in set one against a jaded-looking Mikhail Kukushkin and let the Kazakh off the hook in that one.
It’s set to be a little less windy in the Coachella Valley region on Saturday after the strong gales of Friday and it’ll be cooler too, with highs of only 23C in the shade.
Round two a year ago saw eight underdog winners successful from 32 matches, with Robin Haase’s win over Wawrinka the pick of the prices at 7.0, while 21 of the 31 completed matches ended in two sets.
Nick Kyrgios vs Albert Ramos
We landed a nice odds-against winner on day one with Ramos and I see no reason to desert the Spaniard here in conditions that may well suit him more than the injury-prone Aussie.
Kyrgios was the subject of controversy again last week when bailing out of Davis Cup duty with an illness that didn’t convince team-mate Bernard Tomic and it’ll be interesting to see how NK shapes up this week.
He’s certainly not got a gimme of an opener as his match odds price of around 1.19 would imply, as he’s found Ramos a very tough opponent both times the Aussie has faced the Spaniard in the past.
Kyrgios should have been defaulted from the first one – on clay in Estoril last year – but instead came through 7-6 in the decider, while Ramos also took a set on fast outdoor hard in Tokyo in the autumn of 2015.
The Aussie has played only two career matches at Indian Wells and having had yet another injury/illness downtime he could well find the Spaniard a stubborn opponent once more in slow conditions.
Over 21.5 total games at 1.85 seems likely, but I’m happy to go with the 2.20 about Ramos winning a set in this one in conditions that NK s unproven in and with his suspect health and fitness being another question mark.
Gael Monfils is another short-priced favourite who looks less than secure at a tournament he’s tended to struggle at over the years and against an opponent today who has beaten him in the past.
Lamonf is talking a good game at the moment and beat Wawrinka in an exhibition a few days ago, but at Indian Wells he’s won only three of his 10 career matches.
And two of those three victories came against American former world number 85 Jeff Morrison, so this is historically one of Monfils’ worst tournaments, and he should be made to work by Pablo Carreno Busta on Saturday.
The Spaniard attuned himself to the conditions nicely in a straight sets win over Evgeny Donskoy in round one and having beaten Monfils at Masters 1000 level before he shouldn’t be discounted here.
PCB’s win came on clay in Monte Carlo in 2014 and the only other time the pair clashed until today was on grass at Wimbledon in conditions that neither player enjoys.
The Frenchman will do really well to win this one in straight sets, with PCB fresh off a run to the final in Sao Paulo, so his confidence will be high.
Robin Haase vs Alexander Dolgopolov
As I mentioned earlier Haase took down Wawrinka here last year and despite losing in straight sets to Dolgopolov a few weeks ago in Acapulco I like the over 21.5 total games in this 19:00 UK time clash.
Haase was a surprisingly (to me at least) comfortable winner over Diego Schwartzman in round one, despite serving at only 40 percent of first serves in-play, but Dolgo (who I backed outright at a whopping 200-1 this week) will need to be ready from the word go for this one and he looks a tad short in price.
The slow pace of the courts here doesn’t expose the poor movement of Haase and after we saw the best of Dolgo in that Acapulco match it certainly is no given that he’ll play as well today in his first match of this tournament.
By and large their career series has been tight, with two wins each from their four encounters, and with the wind expected to be much less of a factor today than it was on Friday I’m expecting no easy ride for the Ukrainian here.
For The Dog a lot depends on his first serve percentage and in that Haase match in Acapulco he managed 61 percent, which perhaps goes a long way to explaining the result of that one.
In contrast Dolgo was down at 51 percent in his Acapulco semi final against Bernard Tomic that he lost, so with much depending on how well he serves Haase has a shot here and overs looks good.
Inigo Cervantes vs Milos Raonic
Raonic is another of my outrights this week and he looks to have a pretty good draw in round two here against an opponent whose win in round one here was his first on a hard court at tour level.
Beating Nicolas Almagro is perhaps not the feather in one’s cap that it used to be for lower ranked players these days, but Cervantes will be pleased to have come from a set down to frustrate Almagro and take his chances against Raonic.
But it’s hard to see the 26-year-old Spaniard beating the Canadian here and I’d expect a straight sets win for Raonic, despite his injury lay-off since the Australian Open.
Raonic teamed up with John Isner to beat Murray and Colin Fleming yesterday, so he’ll have an idea of the conditions, and I’d assume that having entered the doubles too that his fitness shouldn’t be an issue.
He also has a fine record here at Indian Wells and Cervantes is very inexperienced against big servers, having played only two of the ones on my list, and never on an outdoor hard court.
The 1.35 about him winning this 2-0 looks the ‘sure thing’ today, with none of Kyrgios, Monfils, Gasquet, Wawrinka, Dolgopolov, Goffin or Tomic looking dead certs for various reasons.
Sure thing: Back Raonic to beat Cervantes 2-0 at 1.35
Value bet: Back over 21.5 games in Haase/Dolgopolov at 1.76
Long shot: Back Ramos + 1.5 sets and Carreno Busta +1.5 sets at 4.27