Tennis is back, with the first matches of the 2016 ATP World Tour main draw due to be played in Brisbane, Doha and Chennai on Monday.
The traditional three ATP 250 tournaments kick things off, with many of the world’s top stars beginning their seasons this week in Australia, Qatar and India.
At the Brisbane International the likes of Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori will be in action, while Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are at the Qatar Open and Stan Wawrinka and Kevin Anderson play the Chennai Open.
In Brisbane expect quick conditions on the same surface and balls as those utilised at the Australian Open, while it’s slower in Doha and especially in the evening/night matches, and medium/slow in Chennai, where the heat and humidity are always a big test.
We begin with four round one matches at the joint ATP/WTA event in Brisbane on Monday, with Grigor Dimitrov versus Gilles Simon the big match of the day on the Gold Coast.
It’s not one I fancy betting on though, with Simon holding a very mediocre record in Brisbane, while Dimitrov hasn’t shown enough for some time now for me to back him at odds-on in a match like this.
Denis Kudla should have too much for John-Patrick Smith, but 1.56 is short enough, while the same could be said of Hyeon Chung, who’s a 1.61 chance to beat Sam Groth.
Chung looks a tad short based on his 0-4 record against the big servers on my list and in conditions that should suit Groth perfectly I’d be uncomfortable about siding with the 19-year-old at this price.
Borna Coric vs Marcel Granollers
There are only three matches in Chennai on Monday and the one I like the look of takes place at around 14:00 UK time between young starlet Coric and a Spaniard who had a poor season in 2015.
Coric still has a fair way to go before he can even start to live up to some of the hype that has fallen his way in the last few years and unlike today’s opponent Granollers the Croat is very much unproven in the extreme heat.
The 19-year-old has stated in the run-up to this tournament that: “It’s very hot, so hopefully the tournament director will put me in a late night match,” but he hasn’t got his wish, with a round one clash in the early afternoon.
It’s set to be 32C in the shade and with humidity of over 60 percent in Chennai on Monday and that might suit Granollers, who has made the semi finals in Chennai twice in his four visits to this tournament.
Coric on the other hand has played only two matches before in Chennai and he’s yet to win a match in Australia, so experience-wise in very hot conditions his stamina is yet to be proven.
Granollers had a poor season in 2015, slipping down to number 84 in the rankings, but he’s a player who has had peaks and troughs throughout his career and it wouldn’t be a total shock if he comes back fresh and in-form at the start of this year.
It’ll be a grind of a match and I wouldn’t want to be on Coric at 1.47 here, with Granollers outright at 2.70 or +1.5 sets at 1.63 both looking better bets.
As for ‘sure things’ on Monday the obvious choice would be Feli Lopez at 1.18 against compatriot Daniel Munoz De La Nava, who hasn’t won a match at tour level on hard since 2013.
Lopez has a dismal early season record though, so it doesn’t seem worth the gamble at that price, while Jeremy Chardy is a cert against local no-hoper Mubarak Shannan Zayid, but hardly a betting prospect at 1.01.
In Chennai a year ago there were four underdog winners from 12 round one matches, while in Brisbane there were five from 12, and in Doha there were six from 16.
And there were some big round one upsets too, with Michael Berrer a 10.91 winner over Nadal, while James Duckworth was a 5.71 victor over Simon.
‘Long shot’ backers might take a chance on the mercurial talents of Dustin Brown to nick a set off a potentially rusty Djokovic at 5.60 or side with another hit and miss talent in Martin Klizan to beat Kyle Edmund 2-0 at 3.30.
Edmund seems to be very much over rated, based on very little, in his clash with Klizan and the occasionally excellent Slovak looks the bet in that one, but in week one of the year a circumspect approach seems best on day one.
Value bet: Back Granollers to beat Coric at 2.70