The ATP World Tour returns in week 38, with two ATP 250 events in France and Russia on indoor hard.
The St. Petersburg Open and Moselle Open began their main draws with just one match at each venue on Monday, but the pace quickens a touch on Tuesday.
On the card for today in Metz at the Moselle Open we have half a dozen matches and in St. Petersburg we have four round one matches on Tuesday.
Looking back to last year in Metz we saw four successful underdogs from the 12 first round matches, with eventual runner-up Joao Sousa being the pick of the prices at 2.84 against Ivan Dodig.
St. Petersburg wasn’t played last year, but in 2013 we saw seven underdogs win from 16 matches, with Karen Khachanov’s 5.85 win over Victor Hanescu much the best of the lot.
They play at a new venue in St. Petersburg this year on a Rebound Ace hard court that Mikhail Kukushkin says is: “medium fast”, which is in contrast to the painfully slow surface that was in operation here in the past.
Over in Metz it’s a Greenset indoor surface that isn’t particularly quick and Frenchman usually end up winning this title at the end of the week.
Tuesday’s matches in Russia look ones for only the very brave to bet on, with Benoit Paire and Jerzy Janowicz clashing, as well as Ernests Gulbis and Marcos Baghdatis.
Former St Petersburg winner Gulbis was last seen retiring with a wrist injury in New York, while Baghdatis also quit the US Open through injury.
So, it’s a bit of guesswork in that one, while the Paire/JJ clash could be anything, with drop shots aplenty the only thing guaranteed there.
Martin Klizan vs Paul-Henri Mathieu
Klizan’s Davis Cup duty for Slovakia in Poland at the weekend and PHM’s liking for playing indoors at home could well swing this Metz clash the way of the Frenchman.
It’s always tricky attempting to figure out how tired or otherwise a player will be in these post-Davis Cup weeks, but Klizan seems very much the sort to fancy a week off after an exertion.
Klizan has a typically peculiar record on the tour on indoor hard, with a tournament win in St. Petersburg in 2012 being the only highlight of an otherwise poor set of stats.
He’d never won a match on indoor hard before winning in Russia and since then he’s lost seven of 11, with his best win of those four victories coming against today’s opponent Mathieu in Rotterdam in 2013.
I fancied Klizan to beat PHM when they played on clay in Kitzbuhel a few months back, but the Slovak failed to show anything that day, and Mathieu went on to make the final in Austria.
The Frenchman beat Benjamin Becker and Lukas Rosol in Metz last year before losing to eventual finalist Joao Sousa in the quarters and he should be the more motivated of the pair here.
The tournament hasn’t been kind to Klizan, giving him just the one day off after Davis Cup and PHM should have had far more time to practice and ready himself for this.
I like the -1.5 games on PHM here at 2.04, with Klizan always a candidate for dropping sets heavily and his commitment here must be up for debate.
Kenny De Schepper vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin
This all-French affair should start at around 11:30 UK time out on Court 1 and it will be the first ever career meeting between De Schepper and Roger-Vasselin.
But on ERV’s dismal form against big servers I have to side with De Schepper here at a tempting 2.33 and for a long shot the 5.0 about Kenny winning this in a decider looks the one.
Roger-Vasselin has lost 16 of his last 17 against the big servers on my list going back to the start of the 2014 season and most have been tough battles, with six of the last nine going three sets plus.
There’s a distinct pattern to the opening sets too, with six of the last nine going to 7-6 or 6-7 in the first set, and the over 10.5 games in set one at 2.50 appeals here as well.
De Schepper was broken just once in qualies and so is in a good groove here on serve and ERV has seen his singles ranking drop right down to 168 after the onset of arthritis in his hip.
He’s managed only four wins from 14 matches at main tour level this season and all told he looks too short today.
De Schepper has a fine chance here, however I’m not sure I trust him to win in two sets, but his big serve could well help him over the line in a decider.
Little appeals as a ‘sure thing’ today, with Vasek Pospisil another US Open injury victim and always likely to succumb to some sort of physical ailment, so Adrian Mannarino looks about the best option against Vincent Millot.
Value bet: Back Mathieu -1.5 games to beat Klizan at 2.04
Long shot: Back De Schepper to beat Roger-Vasselin 2-1 at 5.0