The ATP World Tour heads to Asia for the next few weeks and the first stops on the swing are the Malaysian and Shenzen Opens.
Both are ATP 250 events and the Malaysian Open, held at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil in Kuala Lumpur is played on a Greenset indoor hard surface that tends to be on the slow side.
Winners in the last two years in Malaysia have been Joao Sousa and Juan Monaco, which shows how slow it is here and hitting winners is not that easy to do in these conditions.
The Shenzen Open in China is a brand new event on the tour and it’s held at the Longgang Sports Centre on outdoor hard at an impressive new facility that boasts in excess of 20 outdoor courts.
Andy Murray and David Ferrer head the field in Shenzen, while Kei Nishikori and Ernests Gulbis are the top draws in Kuala Lumpur.
It’s a quiet start to proceedings, as far as first round clashes are concerned, at both venues on Monday, with just half a dozen matches on the card for today in total and we start at around 06:00 UK time.
Pablo Cuevas vs Jurgen Melzer
Given the style of play of the last two winners of the Malaysian tournament it surely makes sense to take a chance on Cuevas in this 10:00 UK start at a price of around 1.90.
The Uruguayan has been in superb form this summer on the clay, winning back-to-back titles on the tour in Bastad and Umag, and he’s no mug on hard courts either.
Cuevas has wins over the likes of Andy Roddick, Milos Raonic, Nikolay Davydenko and Radek Stepanek on hard courts and he should have beaten Kevin Anderson at the US Open a few weeks ago.
Melzer has had all sorts of injury concerns this season and hasn’t won a single match on the ATP Tour since making the semi finals of Rosmalen on grass before Wimbledon.
The veteran Austrian has won only one set in his last five tour matches and he’ll need a big improvement if he’s to justify slight favouritism in this one.
Lefties don’t tend to bother Cuevas either, with the Uruguayan winning six of his last seven and the one loss was a five set defeat to Fernando Verdasco in a match where Cuevas was 2-0 to the good.
Indeed, he’s won 18 of his last 23 against lefties and the slow courts will surely only assist him in this tournament, where he beat Davydenko before losing a three setter to eventual champion Joao Sousa last year.
So, there are plenty of reasons to back Cuevas in this one as slight underdog, but I wouldn’t be too keen on wading in on Ivan Dodig at 1.23 against Hiroki Moriya in the following match.
The Croatian was really poor in a loss to Sousa in Metz last week in a match where he hardly found a first serve and he may still be struggling with injury.
Over in Shenzen I would expect Simone Bolelli to beat Matt Ebden and probably minus 3.5 games on the handicap and although I’ve never seen Xin Gao play I don’t think I need to if he’s a 14.0 shot to beat Somdev Devvarman.
The last match in China on Monday could be a tight one between Federico Delbonis and Juan Monaco, but the latter has had problems with his right wrist in recent weeks, which makes Pico a risky choice.
Back Cuevas to beat Melzer at 1.90