Wednesday’s play at the Apia International and ASB Classic sees 16 matches on the card on a busy day of tennis in Sydney and Auckland.
And Tuesday was a day where the very fine margins of success and failure were scarcely more in evidence when Joao Sousa failed with two match points on his own serve to beat Fabio Fognini and land my 5.0 long shot wager.
As it transpired, Sousa went on to lose in a final set tie break, while Sam Groth was truly dreadful in a dismal loss to Federico Delbonis and Jiri Vesely managed to get out-aced by Roberto Bautista-Agut.
The odds on those three occurrences happening in the same day would have made for a nice wager, but as it stood it was pretty painful and Groth became the ninth loser on the ATP Tour at a price of 1.35 or shorter so far this season.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Philipp Kohlschreiber
Looking down the list of short-priced favourites on Wednesday I can’t honestly say that I’d back any of them, with the possible exception of Bernard Tomic and maybe Grigor Dimitrov.
Dimitrov, despite his ups and downs in the last year or two, has never lost so far in his career at main level as a 1.20 to 1.30 favourite, with a perfect record of 23-0.
But Cuevas isn’t shy of an upset and took down Tomas Berdych on outdoor hard in Beijing at the end of last season when the Berdman was a 1.12 chance and then backed that up by beating Ivo Karlovic.
Dimitrov has no sort of record in this tournament and withdrew from the doubles in Brisbane citing a shoulder injury, so it doesn’t strike me as a great bet at 1.2 or thereabouts.
Instead I’d rather take a bit of a chance on the fitness of Tsonga in his 07:30 UK time clash with Kohlschreiber at what could be a very nice price at around the 1.65 mark.
Tsonga has a mental stranglehold over the brittle German after eight wins from nine career meetings against Kohlschreiber and the only time that the latter grabbed a win was on clay in Germany in a team event back in 2009.
The big Frenchman pulled out of the Abu Dhabi exhibition with a right arm injury recently, but he says he’s fine now and arrived early in Auckland as a consequence, so he should be in tune with the conditions.
Conditions are fast in Auckland, which will surely help the big game of Tsonga, and given that he usually starts at around 1.35 to 1.45 or so against Kohlschreiber there’s a decent bit of value on Jo here.
I certainly wouldn’t be chancing the likes of Ferrer at 1.05 or Tomic at 1.11 the week before a major and Bautista-Agut hardly appeals either at a skinny-looking 1.27 against Donald Young.
Teimuraz Gabashvili has won only eight of his 14 matches as a 1.40 favourite or shorter, while Alexandr Dolgopolov looks very short indeed against the in-form Alexander Sarkissian.
Tommy Robredo vs Viktor Troicki
I have to take a chance on Robredo as an underdog in this 07:00 UK time clash in Sydney against defending champion Troicki.
Robredo is not one to rely on to go deep the week before a major, but if he was going to check out of Sydney early he had every chance to do so against John Millman in round one, but battled his way through.
And with that match and what he described as “a good pre-season” also under his belt he should be in decent shape to take on Troicki, who looks plenty short enough at 1.70 here.
This pair haven’t met since 2013 when Robredo was a comfortable winner on the clay of Umag, but in that match against Millman to attune himself to conditions the Spaniard has a slight advantage and I can only think that Troicki is favourite based on him winning here a year ago.
A lot will depend on how Troicki serves, with Robredo vulnerable to a big server, but the Serb’s shaky forehand isn’t the kind of weapon that he needs to back that delivery up with.
I’d expect a decent battle here, but at the prices I have to side with Robredo as an underdog at what looks like decent value to me.
Perhaps a safer (if not exactly original) option is to side with the over 10.5 games in set one of Sam Querrey vs John Isner at 1.71, while Dominic Thiem seems decent at the same price against Gilles Muller.
Jeremy Chardy vs James Duckworth
There are several options for ‘long shot’ backers today, with Cuevas, Sarkissian and Duckworth all possibles and the most likely winner of these to my mind is the Aussie.
Duckworth is Sydney born and bred and surely his motivation will be higher than that of Chardy, whose win over a fatigued Mikhail Kukushkin in round one may well have flattered the Frenchman.
That win improved Chardy’s Sydney record to 4-4 and he’s yet to make even a semi final the week ahead of a major, so going deep here is unlikely to be high on his agenda, but Ducky would love to.
And the 23-year-old does have wins over Gilles Simon and Thiem to his name and it would hardly stun the tennis world if he took down Chardy today, considering the propensity of the Frenchman to succumb to bad losses.
Only last week he lost to Ilya Marchenko and he was also beaten by Benjamin Becker and Aljaz Bedene as a heavy favourite at the end of last season, while in Australia and New Zealand he has lost before the quarters 12 times from 15 tournaments.
If his serve and forehand aren’t clicking Duckworth will chase all day long and make it difficult for Chardy, who will probably either win this comfortably or not at all.
Value bet: Back Tsonga to beat Kohlschreiber at 1.65
Value bet: Back Robredo to beat Troicki at 2.15
Long shot: Back Duckworth to beat Chardy at 3.05