Week 21 of the 2014 ATP World Tour is the last opportunity for the men to get some clay court match time under their belts ahead of next week’s French Open.
Most of the top stars of the game will be putting their feet up, but it’s business as usual for the lesser lights, so to speak, of the tour.
There are a couple of ATP 250 events on the clay this week – one in Nice, France and the other in Dusseldorf, Germany, with the latter event being shown live in the UK on British Eurosport.
The Dusseldorf Open is held on red clay at the Rochusclub and having lost its title sponsor from last year when it was the Power Horse Cup they have struggled a bit with funds to attract the bigger names.
Top seeds here this week are Philipp Kohlschreiber and Marcel Granollers and conditions will depend on the weather, which is forecast to be pretty reasonable for the first few days.
Temperatures of around the mid 20s are expected, but it’s not likely to be the quickest surface around. I seem to recall it being slow last year, but we’ll see after Monday’s play.
We have five first round matches on the card for Monday and as a point of reference there were three underdog winners in round one in Dusseldorf last year from 12 matches.
Pablo Carreno-Busta 2.04 vs Jurgen Melzer 1.74 - 13.35 GMT
I haven’t signed up to the PCB appreciation society like many tennis watchers seem to have done lately and I’m happy to take the 1.74 about the Austrian in this one.
The Spaniard was beaten by Ivo Karlovic on slow clay in Rome last week and other than a decent run as a lucky loser in Monte-Carlo he’s achieved little on the ATP Tour after cleaning up on the Futures and Challenger circuits.
Indeed, his wins over Gael Monfils and Ivan Dodig in Monte-Carlo are the only two he has at tour level over a top-50 ranked opponent and his record against such opposition reads 2-13.
Melzer is a top-50 player in all but ranking, as he’s had a lot of time off with a shoulder injury and it wasn’t so long ago that he made the top-10.
The Austrian showed that he’s back to somewhere near his best form last week in Rome when he defeated Marin Cilic and John Isner and gave Andy Murray a decent match and a repeat of that form will see him go close this week.
PCB has won his last 11 against lefties such as Melzer, but only one was ranked inside the top-100 and he’s won two of his four against those ranked inside the top-100.
Pablo’s game is very solid, but it lacks something and Melzer should have enough power and accuracy to get past his relatively inexperienced opponent today.
Melzer has drifted in the betting overnight, which may or may not be a good thing from 1.62 to 1.74, but I’m still happy to take Jurgen here.
I was also tempted by Dusan Lajovic in the 11.00 start against Teimuraz Gabashvili, with the Serbian being the kind of steady opponent that could frustrate Gaba if the Russian is on one of his temperamental days.
Dustin Brown should get past Yen-Hsun Lu, but that’s not a match I’d like to bet on, while Igor Sijsling could prove a decent underdog against Jiri Vesely.
Back Melzer to beat Carreno-Busta at 1.74