The high seeds begin their campaigns in this week’s three tournaments in week 42 of the ATP World Tour on Wednesday, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kevin Anderson and Roberto Bautista-Agut all in action today.
The first round completes in Moscow, while it’s round two action elsewhere and that particular round at the Kremlin Cup in 2014 produced two underdog winners from eight matches, with Ricardas Berankis’ 5.25 shock over Milos Raonic being the best return.
In Stockholm last year their second round saw five underdogs win, with the best of them being Matthias Bachinger’s 3.05 win over Leo Mayer, who is in action in Sweden again today.
Our first bet of Tuesday was void when Daniel Munoz De La Nava withdrew from his Stockholm clash with Jarkko Nieminen, who instead played lucky loser Nicolas Almagro.
There was disappointment with Dominic Thiem in Vienna when the Austrian lost from a set up against Jerzy Janowicz, who has only recently had stem cell surgery on his knee, while Guillermo Garcia-Lopez won too easily against Santi Giraldo.
Simone Bolelli vs Lucas Pouille
Hopefully, today’s ‘sure thing’ match will take place, and I’ve plumped for hard-hitting Italian Simone Bolelli to ensure that the poor run of Lucas Pouille continues for at least one more tournament.
Bolelli has won all three prior clashes with the Frenchman over the last 12 months on indoor hard, outdoor hard, and grass, and dropped only one set in the process.
This clash in Moscow will be played on probably the slowest surface they’ve encountered each other on and that may favour Pouille, but he looks done for the season after losing his last two matches on tour to Yan Bai (ranked 247) and Lukasz Kubot (614).
It could be that he rises again in Bercy, as he has in the past, but he looks a big match player and this clash on Court 2 in Moscow in front of the proverbial one man his dog doesn’t seem likely to get his juices flowing.
Bolelli has been in good form of late, beating Tomas Berdych in similar conditions to here (and also in Russia) in St Petersburg.
The Italian looks the best of the short ones on Wednesday at 1.33, with other skinny ones in Moscow seeming sketchy choices, such as Mikhail Youhzny, who I couldn’t back these days at a price like 1.35.
In Vienna I would expect Anderson to beat Andreas Haider-Maurer, but John Isner looks short against Ernests Gulbis, and in Stockholm Richard Gasquet could be shocked by a Steve Darcis with a Davis Cup final to inspire him.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Tommy Haas
Haas hasn’t got a huge amount left to offer after his latest shoulder surgery on the evidence of the last few months, but it could be worth taking a chance that Tsonga won’t fancy it this week after a great run in Shanghai.
Tsonga has looked lethargic and disinterested in the smaller events of late, even though he won Metz, and I’d fancy Bercy to be the next event where he shows his best level of interest.
Haas’s serve looks to have been affected by his surgery and I’m not too sure how long he’ll still be with us on the tour, but he may well prove to be the one who is more up for this match.
The head-to-head between the pair isn’t overly relevant, as their last match was back in 2012 on clay, but Haas does lead it 2-1.
The German is twice a titlist here in Vienna, where he holds a 75 percent winning record, and he’ll certainly fancy this. Whether he’s able to produce the kind of tennis he would like these days is the big question here.
Jack Sock vs Fernando Verdasco
This first time match up – of which there are plenty on Wednesday – has been priced up in favour of the American, but I’m not so sure that Sock’s clunky backhand will stand up to the lefty forehand of Verdasco.
Sock was very mediocre in round one in Stockholm, with a three set win over Pablo Carreno Busta, and I do wonder about his motivation in Europe at this stage of the season.
Verdasco began his Stockholm campaign with a straight sets win over another American in Denis Kudla and I like the Spaniard here as underdog at 2.18 and more so with his record at that price.
The man from Madrid has won seven of his last nine as a 2.0 to 2.20 underdog, while Sock has lost his last three as a 1.60 to 1.80 favourite and the prices in this 17:30 UK time clash look a little out in what seems a 50/50 clash.
Sock has played only five matches at main level against top-50 ranked lefties and lost three, with the two he did win coming in tight final set tie breaks.
There doesn’t seem any value in Sock at 1.65 here and I’m happy to chance Verdasco as underdog.
Sure thing: Back Bolelli to beat Pouille at 1.33
Value bet: Back Verdasco to beat Sock at 2.18
Long shot: Back Haas to beat Tsonga at 5.75