Quarter final places are up for grabs in the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca on Thursday, with six matches in play today.
My gamble on the conditioning of Tobias Kamke failed on Wednesday, as the German was dreadful in a straight sets loss to Pablo Carreno-Busta, who gratefully accepted what was just his second win of the year.
Kamke gave away three of his service breaks with double faults and it does again beg the question as to why certain players even turn up if they are that badly fatigued? It can’t be the €4,385 first round losers cheque and/or the zero ranking points, surely?
I could understand if it was a big tournament or home tournament, but I fail to see why this was worth the hassle after Davis Cup for Kamke – or Mikhail Kukushkin for that matter, although the latter put up a much more respectable effort in defeat to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Taking the positives from yesterday, I did say that Robin Haase was the shakiest favourite of the day and so it proved, as the not-so-clutch-Dutchman produced another classic Haase performance to lose in straight sets.
Top seed Kevin Anderson produced a horrible effort and was dumped out by Victor Hanescu, whole tournament favourite and number two seed Gael Monfils unsurprisingly withdrew following his Davis Cup appearance at the weekend, although a fall in practice was the reason given, so Andrey Kuznetsov is back as a lucky loser today.
Joao Sousa 1.24, Roberto Carballes Baena 3.90
This pair met a couple of times in Futures back in 2011, with the Portuguese ending up a winner in straight sets on each occasion and the world number 38 will see this as a good chance to make a second quarter final on clay in 2014.
Beaten easily by Rafa Nadal in the last eight in Rio recently Sousa has a much more manageable task on Thursday against 21-year-old Carballes Baena for whom this is a first ever last-16 match at tour level.
Indeed his win over David Goffin in the first round here was RCB’s first at tour level and he hasn’t exactly set the Challenger Tour alight either, so Sousa is a decent favourite here.
They have a similar type of game, with an emphasis on making a lot of balls, but I haven’t seen a lot from the underdog that makes me think he can be a regular at this level at the moment.
Sousa should have too much experience and you pretty much always get maximum effort from the Portuguese, so he looks solid for a straight sets or handicap win in this one.
There are a couple of clashes that look like candidates for the overs to me and they are the matches involving Guillermo Garcia Lopez and Albert Ramos.
GGL faces Carlos Berlocq, while Ramos has an all-Spanish clash with Marcel Granollers and both appear to have the potential for three set grinds.
It seems only sensible to side with Albert Montanes at around 1.60 today against Benoit Paire, who hasn’t played a match since the Australian Open due to injury, but I rarely go with the ones that look too obvious; sport has a way of producing the unexpected.
And who better to produce it than Paire, who I generally avoid like the plague due to the wild fluctuations in his form, attitude and fitness, so I’ll stick with the far more reliable Sousa.
Best Bet: Back Sousa –1.5 sets to beat Carballes Baena at 1.68