It was a soggy start to the Western and Southern Open 2015 on Monday, with intermittent rain putting a dent into day one in Mason, Ohio.
A further dent was caused when Viktor Troicki put in a real shocker of a performance against part-timer Mardy Fish, whose mini-retirement tour will be extended by at least one more match in Cincy.
Fish said he was “surprised by my level” and having never previously lost as a 1.10 to 1.20 favourite in 15 matches Troicki was easily beaten by the 33-year-old American.
Then it transpired that I chose the wrong ‘long shot’ when Joao Sousa defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Jerzy Janowicz beat a disinterested Gael Monfils, but Sergiy Stakhovsky lost the opening set to Bernard Tomic.
Adrian Mannarino put the final nail in the coffin with a tame loss to Andreas Seppi, so it’s fair to say it was one of those rough starts to the week, on a day when half a dozen underdogs won.
The players seem to be convinced that the conditions in Cincy are slower than previous years and that doesn’t help, so to that end I have requested confirmation from the tournament regarding that. We shall see if they reply.
We have another 14 matches on the card today from round one and round two and a year ago we saw five underdogs from 14 matches win in the second round here.
Ivo Karlovic vs Martin Klizan
There are a few options for the ‘sure thing’ backer on Tuesday, with as well as Karlovic, Tommy Robredo, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic are likely winners today.
But I’ve gone with Karlovic on the basis of Klizan’s poor record against big servers and his lack of focus, which is essential on big points if you’re going to beat someone like Karlovic in these conditions.
Klizan has lost 19 of his 26 against the big servers on my list and 13 of his last 16.
Sam Querrey dismissed the Slovak easily enough 6-3, 6-3 in Montreal last week and after Karlovic beat a much better returner in Gilles Simon yesterday it seems very likely that the veteran Croat will be too much for Klizan.
Klizan is yet to face Karlovic on tour, which won’t help the underdog here, and I’d expect a straight sets win for Ivo, with the -2.5 games also appealing in this 23:30 UK time start.
Kevin Anderson vs Leonardo Mayer
Anderson’s lack of form so far on the North American hard courts has seen him take a wild card into Winston-Salem next week and he’ll be really keen for a good week here in Cincy too.
The big South African – rather like Troicki – has struggled since a fine grass court season and is yet to record a win since beating today’s opponent Mayer at Wimbledon.
He’s suffered surprising losses to Alexander Zverev and Lukas Rosol on the hard courts so far, but I’d expect him to put an end to that bad start to the swing today when he takes on Mayer for the third time this season.
Anderson has won his last seven sets against Mayer, including all five this season, and only once has he needed a tie break in those sets.
Mayer has an in and out record against big servers, but he’s yet to beat any of the top-20 ones on my list and he’s 0-9 against such opposition.
Last week he threw away a set and 3-0 lead over Jeremy Chardy, who went on to make the semi finals in Montreal, and if Anderson is to get back to winning ways I’d expect him to do it covering a -2.5 game handicap in the process.
Neither player has any sort of record here in Cincy, but it’s hard to see Anderson’s poor run continuing on quick hard courts and he should be able to rush Mayer into errors in such conditions.
Feliciano Lopez vs Milos Raonic
Lopez has been in poor form of late, but surely he’s a decent price to get the better of Raonic today – or at least to win the opening set.
Raonic wasn’t good last week in his first match since Wimbledon and he was terrible in both tie breaks he played in a 6-7, 6-7 loss to Karlovic.
The pair have met five times in the past and Raonic leads only 3-2 and their most recent clash went the full five sets in Melbourne at the start of 2015.
The unders actually appeals here, with the total games being set at 23.5, as the pair have only played two sets over 10 games in their last 13 against each other, with 6-3 and 6-4 being the almost exclusive set scores.
On current form this could well be closer than a price of 1.30 on Raonic suggests and he certainly doesn’t look anything like a ‘sure thing’ against an opponent like Lopez, for whom peaks and troughs of form are commonplace.
I like the set one to Lopez at 3.0 here as a good long shot, with the Spaniard having won the opener in two of their four hard court meetings.
An alternative is to take on Tomas Berdych, who's lacking game time at the moment and Thomaz Bellucci if he's in the mood could easily nick the opener off the Czech, who was poor last time out against Donald Young.
Sure thing: Back Karlovic to beat Klizan at 1.27
Value bet: Back Anderson to beat Mayer -2.5 games at 1.82
Long shot: Back Lopez to win set one vs Raonic at 3.0