There’s second and third round action on the schedules in Bucharest and Barcelona on Thursday, with 12 matches for us to evaluate today.
The good run of winning ‘sure things’ continued on Wednesday when David Ferrer was a straight sets winner over Albert Montañes and Rafa Nadal dismissed Nico Almagro to land the double there.
After that it did seem as if Ernests Gulbis was going to land our odds-against wager over Benoit Paire after winning the opening set 6-1, but despite being a 1.25 shot in-play the Latvian went down in three to the Frenchman.
Long shot-wise Philipp Kohlschreiber narrowly edged Andrey Kuznetsov in two sets rather than the three required and the Russian really needed that opening set tie break to win that bet for us.
Of the other two that I suggested Martin Klizan did beat Juan Monaco, while Marsel Ilhan got to match point against Feli Lopez, but failed to convert and lost in a final set tie break.
The third round in Barcelona a year ago produced just the one underdog winner from its eight matches, and that one was tight, with Marin Cilic beating Tommy Robredo in a final set tie break at a price of 2.09.
So, it’s down to the ‘sure thing’ to pay the bills at the moment by the looks of things and once again there are plenty of options for short-price backers on Thursday.
Gilles Simon vs Janko Tipsarevic
Gillou just gets my vote for the ‘sure thing’ for Thursday in his 15:00 UK time clash with the Serb Janko Tipsarevic.
Tipsy is in the early stages of his comeback after an 18 month injury lay off and it’s asking a lot for him to have the fitness to grind down Simon on a slow clay court so early into his return to the tour.
The former world number eight has played just three matches since October 2013 and his first tournament back last week on HarTru clay in Houston ended in defeat to Santi Giraldo in straight sets.
This week Tipsarevic has so far defeated world number 207 Thomas Fabbiano, but he did appear to be struggling a tad towards the end of that match with a right thigh issue and Simon should be able to run the legs off him today.
Simon won seven of their nine career meets before Tipsy’s injury and he has a fine record here in Bucharest of 18-3, with three titles and he hasn’t lost before the quarter finals here since 2006.
The Frenchman has a 16-3 record on clay as a 1.2 to 1.3 favourite and he’s won his last seven straight at that price on all surfaces.
Other options include Gael Monfils, who should beat the struggling Mikhail Youzhny in Bucharest, while Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer, and Rafa Nadal all look solid, if short-priced, picks.
Thursday’s card is not the most appealing in my opinion in terms of backing the underdog, but one I do like is an all-Spanish affair at 14:00 UK time.
Feliciano Lopez vs Pablo Andujar
I said that Ilhan was a decent outsider against Lopez, but Feli yet again saved himself from match point down and one reason I was prepared to go against Lopez was the fact that it was his opening match.
He did play on HarTru clay in Houston, but it’s not the same, and the Spanish leftie was vulnerable based on that and a previous loss to Ilhan this season on a quick surface that should suit Lopez.
His performance clearly didn’t impress the layers, who have him as underdog against Andujar, which I find a little odd.
Andujar has had a really poor time of it for a long while and yesterday’s win over Leo Mayer was his first over a top-50 opponent since last October.
What really puts me off Andujar today is his poor record as a narrow favourite, which reveals a 1-5 record since the summer of 2012 as a 1.8 to 1.9 jolly.
His 1-14 record against top-20 ranked opponents in the last two years is another major concern and now that Lopez has had chance to become familiar with conditions surely he should be a slight favourite here.
None of the outright long shots appeal to me today, but I do like the idea of going with an unders treble, which pays 5.48 in a tournament in Barcelona where two set matches are much more likely.
Last year’s final 15 matches produced only two three set encounters and I like Tommy Robredo, Rafa Nadal and Roberto Bautista-Agut’s matches to go under the total games today.
Robredo thrashed Marcel Granollers last week and should finish quickly again today, while Nadal looks in much better touch now than the last time he met Fabio Fognini and Rafa will be keen to put the Italian in his place today.
RBA meanwhile takes on Pablo Cuevas, who has been suffering with a back problem of late and struggled past Roberto Carballes Baena, while Bautista-Agut has looked very good lately and can take this one in two sets.
Sure thing: Back Simon to beat Tipsarevic at 1.23
Value bet: Back Lopez to beat Andujar at 1.98
Long shot: Back unders in Robredo/Nadal/Bautista-Agut at 5.48