Day two of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters sees 11 round one matches on Monday’s card at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.
The week at the Monte-Carlo Country Club didn’t get off to the best of starts when Elias Ymer fell away really disappointingly against Denis Kudla to be bagelled in set two of their qualifier.
Two of my three selections in my ‘long shot’ treble of Sunday were successful, but the last leg let us down badly when Thiemo De Bakker had a shocker against Benoit Paire.
His effort led the Dutchman to tweet just after the match that it was: “a very poor performance,” and that he had “got to get back to the practice courts.”
And to compound a painful day one Mikhail Youzhny was beaten by an opponent playing his first match for over a year after long-term injury.
Monday’s card looks much more appealing and looking back at 2014’s round one at Monte-Carlo, there were seven underdog winners from the 24 matches, with the best price being the surprising win by Yen Hsun Lu over Federico Delbonis.
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Mikhail Kukushkin
This early start at 09:30 UK time on Monday should result in a win for Kohlschreiber, who skipped Miami to prepare fully for the clay court swing.
The German started to show some decent form in Indian Wells before he opted to avoid Key Biscayne, where his record is really poor and that decision should prove to be the right one.
It’s always tricky betting for or against Kukushkin, who seems to be injured on a regular basis, and indeed the Kazakh retired in Casablanca last week when well behind to eventual finalist Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
Not usually at his best on the clay Kukushkin has a 7-15 record against top-50 opponents on the red dirt, while Kohlschreiber is 49-59 against top-50 opponents.
As a 1.3 to 1.4 favourite the German has won five of his last seven matches, while Kuku has lost 12 of his 16 matches when priced between 3.0 and 3.5.
The pair are yet to meet on tour, but Kohlschreiber has a very good 16-8 record in Monte-Carlo in all matches and he’s only ever lost to quality opponents here, with Rafa Nadal (twice), Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (twice), Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco being the winning opponents.
Other options for the role of ‘sure thing’ today include Roberto Bautista-Agut against Benjamin Becker, and David Goffin against Norbert Gombos.
Pablo Carreno-Busta vs Sergiy Stakhovsky
This 11:30 UK start looks like a decent opportunity for PCB to get his clay swing going against an opponent who suffers the clay swing briefly ahead of the grass season, which will surely be more his focus.
Stakho doesn’t do well on clay, which is hardly a shock given his net-rushing playing style, and he’s lost five of his last six on the dirt, while he holds a 1-6 record here in Monte-Carlo.
The Ukrainian struggles against decent players on clay, with a 3-19 career record against top-50 opponents on the red dirt and one win in his last 13.
PCB hasn’t set the world on fire of late, with five straight losses, but he was unlucky to lose against Carlos Berlocq in Casablanca last week in a match in which he held match points for a 2-0 win and he should make amends today.
The Spaniard played well here last year, beating Gael Monfils and Ivan Dodig before running into Novak Djokovic and today the 2-0 and the -3.5 games appeal, with preference for the latter at 1.87.
The early stages of the clay swing is hard enough already, with most players dusting off their clay shoes for the first time in a year, but injuries make some of today’s matches all the more trappy.
Denis Istomin retired injured against Gombos yesterday, but gets back in as a lucky loser against Albert Ramos, while Joao Sousa has had knee problems lately, so those two look worth avoiding.
Of all the matches today, the long shot would have to be to take a punt on young starlet Borna Coric, who certainly has it in him to stun Alex Dolgopolov, with the latter looking rather skinny at 1.30.
Coric is somewhat inexperienced on the clay compared to other surfaces, but he played very well in Umag last year and combined with his improvement over the last year and the fact that Dolgo hasn’t played on clay since last summer makes Coric the liveliest underdog on Monday.
Sure thing: Back Kohlschreiber to beat Kukushkin at 1.30
Value bet: Back Carreno-Busta -3.5 games to beat Stakhovsky at 1.87
Long shot: Back Coric to beat Dolgopolov at 3.40