The ATP World Tour returns after the break for Davis Cup and the clay court swing is upon us in week 15, with two ATP 250 events in play.
In Houston, USA on the Lee Fast Dry American red clay we have a tournament whose name just trips off the tongue – the Fayez Saforim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championships – while in Morocco there’s the simpler to pronounce Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca.
It’s a low-key start to the week on Monday, with just the two first round matches in play at the Complexe Al Amal in Casablanca, but one of them holds a decent opportunity for an odds-against success.
Teimuraz Gabashvili 2.70 vs Carlos Berlocq 1.43 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 15.05
The layers must be looking at this one and making the assumption that it’s on clay and therefore Berlocq will win, but I’m not so sure that that’s the right approach to this match.
The Argentine has barely played any tennis this year and his focus looked all over the place in Miami on the slow hard courts last time out in an appalling display against Donald Young.
Charly has recently become a father again and most likely has been focussing on off-court matters of late, but whatever the reason he’s won only one match on the tour in 2014.
With only seven matches in all competitions under his belt this campaign and a 2-7 record (the other win was over a woeful Andreas Seppi in Davis Cup) I would not be parting with any of my money on Berlocq here at 1.43 against an opponent who has shown some good form this year.
Gabashvili defeated Fernando Verdasco and Sergiy Stakhovsky at the Australian Open before running into Roger Federer and he played some fine tennis against David Ferrer in Miami, where he should have won the opening set against the Spaniard.
The Russian collapsed mentally in that one after being robbed by a bad line call, but his prospects seem better today against an opponent he’s facing for the first time since way back in 2005 when Gaba defeated Charly twice in two months on the dirt on the Challenger circuit.
Much has changed since then, but if Gabashvili can show some better mental resolve today he can win this one against an opponent who could barely keep the ball in court in his last match and who looks sorely lacking in match practice.
Of 12 first round matches here last year there were six underdog winners and in a tournament where surprises do occur this looks one to chance at the start of the week.
Back Gabashvili to beat Berlocq at 2.70