The high seeds make their first appearances of the week in their opening grass court matches of the season in Stuttgart and Rosmalen on Thursday.
Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic are scheduled to play at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, while defending champion Roberto Bautista-Agut and number two seed David Goffin should be in action in s-Hertogenbosch.
Viktor Troicki got us off to a good start on Wednesday in Stuttgart with a win over Alexander Zverev that took a lot longer than it should have after the Serbian failed to hold onto a break or take match points in set two.
The ‘sure thing’ never really looked like losing and recovered to ease over the line in set three, but we were unlucky with the set one overs in Feli Lopez’ clash with Sam Groth.
I said there’d be tie breaks and that came to fruition, but in the wrong sets, and those who took the match over games instead of set one would have enjoyed a nice winner there.
Finally from Wednesday, Ivo Karlovic did beat Tatsuma Ito, but zero break point chances were created by either player, meaning the -2.5 on Karlovic failed by a single game.
Rafael Nadal vs Marcos Baghdatis
I was happy to go against Baghdatis with Lukas Rosol the other day, but either player is more than capable of troubling the 2015 version of Nadal on grass, and Baggy could easily beat Rafa here.
Nadal’s confidence will be low after what was, quite frankly, a humbling by Novak Djokovic in Paris and coming so close after a hiding from Andy Murray the Nadal belief must be in its boots.
And a trip to Germany to play grass court tennis is hardly likely to boost his mood given his record on grass in this country of 1-3 and losses to Dustin Brown, Phillip Kohlschreiber and Alexander Waske on his record.
He will at least have enough time to practice on this occasion, having gone out of the French Open earlier than usual, but that was negated rather by the rain in Germany.
Going on previous years in Halle, Nadal has shown little appetite for these pre-Wimbledon tournaments on grass and Baghdatis is likely to be very much the more motivated of the two, with his love of big matches on his favourite surface.
As ever with the Cypriot it’s all about the serve and that has been his Achilles heel for a long while now, manifesting itself last time in 11 double faults in two sets against Rosol.
If he can serve well Baghdatis has every chance here and the set one to the underdog, who has three matches on grass under his belt so far this swing, appeals at 3.20, as does the outright win at 4.0.
Rafa has lost the first set in his last six matches on grass and nine of his last 12 going back to Wimbledon 2011, so those backing him to win set one at 1.34 are not exactly getting great value.
Jurgen Melzer vs David Goffin
Top seed Goffin has to be taken on here given his awful record on grass and losing record against an admittedly fading Melzer.
Goffin has never won more than two straight matches at any grass court tournament and his overall record on grass at main level is 3-9.
The Belgian’s weak serve doesn’t help him on grass and the veteran Austrian will be confident of getting another win over Goffin to add to the three he already has in their four-match career series.
Melzer isn’t at the level he was when he beat Goffin three straight times between 2012 and 2014, but he played well at the French Open and has a match here already to call upon, while Goffin is coming in cold.
The +1.5 sets on Melzer at 1.61 or the set one to Melzer at 2.43 look decent value on a player who made the semi finals here a year ago, only losing out to eventual champion Bautista-Agut in a final set semi final tie break.
The only grass court match that Goffin has ever won in straight sets was against the equally hapless Dominic Thiem – another Austrian – and it’s hard to see the Belgian winning in two sets here, if at all.
Adrian Mannarino vs Marco Chiudinelli
There a few options around for short-priced punters today, including Joao Sousa and Marin Cilic, but I have to side with Mannarino here against the Swiss veteran Chiudinelli.
The 33-year-old has done well to reach this stage with his record on grass in his long career, which read 3-6 at main level in 10 years prior to this tournament, but he has disposed of some decent players this week.
He’s also been the scourge of the French, with wins over Lucas Pouille, Pierre Hugues Herbert and Benoit Paire in qualies and the main draw so far in Rosmalen.
But the fourth Frenchman should do what Paire couldn’t really be bothered to do, which is to see off Chiudinelli.
Paire in typical style lost despite winning one set 6-2 and being a break up in the sets he lost in tie breaks and Mannarino is unlikely to make that mistake.
The Frenchman has a decent record on grass and his round one win was impressive against a capable grass courter in Yen Hsun Lu and he should be looking to kick on here after his usual nightmare on the clay swing.
Mannarino’s flat hitting lends itself well to grass and his form this year prior to the clay swing suggests that he should win this one with something to spare.
He has a 4-1 record in his career as a 1.20 to 1.20 favourite, winning the last four, and the Swiss hasn’t beaten a top-32 ranked player since 2010 and is 3-19 against such players in the last six years.
Sure thing: Back Mannarino to beat Chiudinelli at 1.27
Value bet: Back Melzer +1.5 sets to beat Goffin at 1.61
Long shot: Back Baghdatis to win set one vs Nadal at 3.20