The grass court season began in typical style on Monday – with incessant rain.
Play was due to start at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart at 10:00 UK time (11:00 local) but in fact play didn’t get underway for a further six-and-a-half hours.
So, the schedule in Germany has already been messed up, but the forecast looks better for Tuesday, with only the occasional light shower expected on what will be a cloudy day.
There was play at the Topshelf Open in Rosmalen though and we got a typical Marinko Matosevic type performance in which he created five break points, took none of them, and was broken three times from the four he faced himself.
After failing to break early in set one Matosevic faded away, which isn’t that shocking, but Jarkko Nieminen’s defeat was one of those that are harder to take, as his stats were better than his opponents.
The Finn won more points, was comfortably ahead on second serve points won, but failed on seven of his nine break point chances and paid the price in a three set loss to Marius Copil.
We start at 10:00 UK time on Tuesday and of the 19 matches on the card today only four have a favourite at shorter than 1.50, which suggests this could be a tricky day, so we need to change it up a bit.
Marcos Baghdatis vs Lukas Rosol
When play did finally get going in Stuttgart on Monday it looked to be very quick conditions and if Rosol serves well he has an excellent chance as underdog against Baghdatis here.
The prices reflect the fact that the Cypriot played the Manchester Challenger on grass last week and therefore should have his grass shoes on already, but he did lose to Brydan Klein there after beating another low-ranked Brit in Marcus Willis.
Aussie-born Brit Klein is just inside the top-200 and a loss to him doesn’t read very well for Baggy, who remains an enigma, and plays when he feels like it.
Rosol has been playing some very good tennis of late and really dished out a comprehensive beating to Rosmalen champion Roberto Bautista-Agut at the French Open before losing in the last-32 to an in-form Teimuraz Gabashvili.
The Czech defeated the Cypriot in their only meeting on grass courts at Queen’s Club in 2012 and Baghdatis doesn’t have the best record on this surface against big servers.
Baggy has a 2-4 record against the big servers on my list on grass and that includes losses to Rosol and Ernests Gulbis, who is really poor on the green stuff, and I wouldn’t want to be on Marcos here at odds-on.
You take your chances with Rosol, but he looks decent value as underdog in this 12:00 UK time clash in conditions that should aid his big game.
Dominic Thiem vs Mischa Zverev
Thiem is very inexperienced on grass and has only played two matches on this surface so far in his career at pro level, with no success.
The Austrian prodigy was comfortably beaten by David Goffin and Luke Saville on grass last season in his only two matches and for me he’d be much better suited by conditions in Rosmalen than here in Stuttgart.
Thiem’s big backswings can see him rushed in quicker conditions and from the way the ball was zipping through yesterday I would not be comfortable about backing him today.
Zverev’s career has been blighted by injury over the years, but he is far more experienced than Thiem on grass and has the advantage of having played three quali matches already this week.
And they were good wins in qualifying too over Tim Puetz, who made the last-64 at Wimbledon as a qualifier last season, former top-50 player Grega Zemlja, and finally against Matthias Bachinger yesterday.
Zverev has taken some decent scalps on grass down the years, with Tomas Berdych, Jack Sock, David Goffin, and Jurgen Melzer all having been beaten by the German leftie and this is no cert for Thiem.
Thiem does sometimes have a problem with lefties too, as Gerald Melzer clearly showed by beating him in Munich as a big underdog, and Zverev is another who as underdog holds some value.
There are definitely no ‘sure things’ again today, with the only players under 1.50 being Andreas Haider Maurer, Fernando Verdasco, Bernard Tomic and Benoit Paire.
AHM has no sort of record on grass and is short because he faces a young wild card, but Maximilian Marterer is a former Junior Wimbledon semi finalist, so that doesn’t look a cert for the Austrian.
Paire can never be backed at a price like 1.44 unless he’s playing against me, while Verdasco lost to an injured Benjamin Becker on clay last time out, which is some feat, and Tomic has a bad back.
So, I’m going to take on a Yankee today, comprising of Zverev, Peter Gojowczyk, Mate Pavic, and Jan-Lennard Struff.
Gojowczyk has shown aptitude on grass in Halle in the past, beating Milos Raonic there, and now that he’s recovered from a foot injury that’s kept him out for a while he should be too good on this surface for Bachinger.
The latter comes in as a lucky loser after Radek Stepanek withdrew, but he has only one win at main level on grass in his career and five losses and is readily opposable today.
Mischa Zverev’s younger brother Alexander has never played a main level match on grass so far in his career and only three in juniors, so he hugely inexperienced on this surface and could be beaten as favourite today by Pavic.
The Croatian has enjoyed three good wins in qualifying and there’s no reason why he can’t carry on today against wild card Zverev the younger.
And finally, Struff is facing a Tomic struggling with back issues and the Aussie has had to have injections to play the grass swing, so he may not find big-serving Struff that easy to deal with in match one on the green stuff.
Value bet: Back Rosol to beat Baghdatis at 2.0
Long shot: Back Zverev to beat Thiem, Gojowczyk to beat Bachinger, Pavic to beat A.Zverev, and Struff +1.5 sets to beat Tomic.