The quarter-finals of the Grand Prix Hassan II are set for Friday at the Complexe Al Amal in Casablanca.
I’m not sure it’s possible for a repeat of yesterday’s shocking luck today after Joao Sousa somehow managed to blow a set and 5-2 lead, including one match point to lose to Roberto Carballes Baena.
The only solace I can take from that match is that because I went for the straight sets win I didn’t have to suffer all three-and-a-quarter hours of what was a turgid encounter and the longest best of three match of the season. Sousa later blamed his loss on a back injury.
Still, it was painful to see a bet lose after holding a match point, but at least one thing was thoroughly predictable and that was that Benoit Paire’s return from injury would be entertaining.
On this occasion the eccentric Frenchman failed to serve out for a straight sets win and obliterated his racquet in anger, amidst apparent issues with his knee and all manner of the usual Paire histrionics, including blaming a sudden swarm of mosquitos!
He did win though and goes on to face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Friday in the third of our four quarter-finals today.
Play starts at 12.00 UK time though, with a match that should go the way of the new tournament favourite.
Victor Hanescu 2.70 vs Federico Delbonis 1.43 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 12.05
This first career meeting between the 23-year-old Argentine and 32-year-old Romanian looks to me like a fine opportunity for Delbonis to continue his impressive form on the red dirt lately.
In the last nine months or so Delbonis has made the final of Hamburg as a qualifier, beating Roger Federer, Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Robredo en route, and landed his maiden tour title in Sao Paulo, which is far in excess of anything that Hanescu has managed lately.
Indeed, big Victor’s last title came in 2008 at altitude in Gstaad, and although he did play quite well in Gstaad again last summer and also in Stuttgart, where he made the semi-finals each time, he hasn’t recorded any victories that would make me fancy him for this.
Hanescu has an 8-15 record against top-50 opponents in the last year, while Delbonis has won six of his last 10 against such opposition and looks to be on the up.
His price has shortened overnight from a backable 1.53 to 1.43, which is now a little short for my liking, but will appeal to short-priced backers.
Marcel Granollers 1.75 vs Pablo Carreno-Busta 2.02 - BET and STREAM live from 13.35
Wins over an exhausted Tobias Kamke and a final set tie break win over Aleksandr Nedovesov, whose victory over the hapless Robin Haase this week was his first over a top-100 ranked opponent at tour level, probably won’t amount to much for PCB and I would expect Granollers to come out on top in this one.
Marcel has been poor for much of this season, but he is the kind of player who has peaks and troughs of form and it wouldn’t be hugely surprising if he won this tournament after six first round losses so far in 2014.
That season-long lack of form has made his price bigger than it otherwise would have been against a fairly limited, but wholehearted opponent in Carreno-Busta and Marcel’s bigger and better serving and more variety should see him home in this one.
The other two matches look real coin-tosses, with Paire’s knee and general match fitness a worry against GGL, while logic would dictate that Andrey Kuznetsov will be much less fatigued than Carballes Baena today, but since when did logic have any bearing on the outcome of ATP 250 matches?
Donald Young beat Juan Monaco on clay – yes, clay – last night in Houston and OK it’s not ‘proper’ red dirt as we know it, but that’s what we’re dealing with on week 15 of the tour.
Back Granollers to beat Carreno-Busta at 1.75