Week eight of the 2015 ATP World Tour has stops in Buenos Aires, Dubai and Acapulco, featuring clay court and outdoor hard court action.
The Golden Swing on the red dirt continues in South America with the Argentina Open, while the $2 million prize fund Dubai Duty Free Open features eight of the top-20, while three top-10 stars play the Abierto Mexicano Telcel.
The latter two events are ATP 500s and aside from the Davis Cup will be the last tournaments for the big guns ahead of Indian Wells and Miami next month.
Prevailing weather conditions will decide the clay playing speed in Buenos Aires, with hot and humid days expected until midweek when it breaks and there should be some rain around.
There are no such precipitation issues likely in Acapulco, but it will be hot, sunny and humid, so much so that they play later in the day at the Fairmont Acapulco Princess on slowish hard courts.
It’ll be quicker conditions in Dubai at the Aviation Club Tennis Centre, where the Decoturf courts are among the fastest on tour, according to the players, and it’s worth noting that the wind here can be a big factor, with 24mph winds expected on Monday.
Dubai’s schedule doesn’t exactly set the pulse racing on Monday, with ‘sure thing’ backers having Roger Federer’s 16-0 record over Mikhail Youzhny to tempt them into a short-priced punt on the Swiss maestro.
There’s not a lot that excites me today there though and those strong winds might make it interesting for some – and a meltdown from the out of form Ernests Gulbis is a likely occurrence in gale force winds.
Kevin Anderson vs Dustin Brown
I don’t really like the idea of touching any short prices in Dubai today, (other than Joao Sousa, but that's an early start) so windy is it set to be there, and that can throw anyone off their game, so instead it’s a later start in Acapulco that appeals most.
Anderson had some travel issues when arriving late in Delray Beach after Memphis and he was beaten early on by Yen Hsun Lu at a tournament he usually does well at, so he’s taken a late wild card into Acapulco.
This former clay event is now tailored to mimic conditions at Indian Wells and as such it’s slow and Anderson has made the quarter finals at Indian Wells the last two years, so in theory this should suit him, and he showed it last year by making the final.
The South African will be annoyed at losing out early at Delray Beach, which is near his home, and he’ll want to make this journey to Mexico count.
A clash with the occasionally brilliant Brown is perhaps not the ideal opening round, but the German is yet to beat a top-20 player on a hard court and he was pretty mediocre in Delray Beach last week.
It’s not the best price in the world, but he looks the best ‘sure thing’ today in this 02:00am UK time start.
Samuel Groth vs Alexandr Dolgopolov
Dolgo is another who enjoys conditions at Indian Wells, with a semi final showing last season and he does well against big servers too, so this clash with huge serving Groth should be ideal.
Dolgopolov was a semi finalist here in Acapulco a year ago, beating Ivo Karlovic en route to the last four, which shows what’s possible in these conditions.
The pair met at Wimbledon last year and Dolgo won in three tight sets, but on slow outdoor hard the Ukrainian should have more of an advantage over the one dimensional Aussie.
We had a nice winner with Lu over Groth last week in Delray Beach at odds-against and I’m happy to go against him again today with a player who is several classes above off the ground and is one of the better returners in the game.
Even in an injury affected campaign in 2014 Dolgo was in the top-16 in first serve return points won and return games won in the Tour stats and it’s worth taking the -2.5 games on the Ukrainian at 1.91 here.
The Acapulco first round yielded 13 winning favourites from 16 matches, so it looks a decent tactic to side with a couple of jollies there today and leave the dogs as a ‘long shot’.
One underdog does appeal though and that one is Austin Krajicek in Acapulco.
Austin Krajicek vs Santiago Giraldo
Krajicek has been playing some good stuff of late on hard courts, with wins over the likes of Karlovic and Mikhail Kukushkin in recent weeks and his serve has improved a good deal.
He has the advantage of having played two matches here in qualies, while Giraldo has been on the red dirt and not doing particularly well on it by and large, having retired in his most recent match, which was last week in Rio.
It’s not easy to come straight from the clay and this could well be tough for Giraldo, who hasn’t had the best start to 2014 other than a decent run in Sao Paulo.
The Colombian has won only two of his last nine matches on hard courts and five of his last 18 and that isn’t the kind of form you want to see from a favourite who is switching surfaces today.
Sure thing: Back Anderson to beat Brown at 1.20
Value bet: Back Dolgopolov -2.5 games to beat Groth at 1.91
Long shot: Back Krajicek to beat Giraldo at 2.50