The ATP World Tour moves on to Dubai, Acapulco and Sao Paulo in week nine, with two ATP 500 events and an ATP 250 played this week.
Sunday’s bets got off to a fine start when Ernests Gulbis took the opening set over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, which was all I needed the Latvian to do, but he went on to win his fifth title from five finals. Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson then helped to make it a double on the day, when they went very long in the Delray Beach final.
The early action on Monday takes place at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where they play on a medium paced Decoturf hard court, the conditions for which will be similar to the WTA event held there last week, but the men use Head balls rather than Wilson.
The swirling wind is always something to consider here, as is the incredibly annoying racket of nesting birds at around 2-3pm UK time that always has me reaching for the mute button.
Monday’s card in Dubai features Roger Federer, but it looks quite weak as far as betting interest goes, although I might be tempted by siding with Benjamin Becker to cause Federer a few early problems in their 3pm UK time clash. The over 9.5 games in set one looks an option here, with Becker serving big and Federer likely a little rusty.
Over in South America, the Brazil Open is the last of the Golden Swing of clay court events and it’s played at altitude indoors in conditions that are sometimes questionable in terms of the quality of the surface and it tends to play fast.
In Mexico there’s a joint ATP/WTA event in Acapulco that was formerly staged on clay, but with Indian Wells coming up next week this tournament has cloned conditions there and plays on a gritty, slow outdoor hard court.
As is often the case, it’s a low-key start to the week today, but a couple of the three first round matches (the rest are qualies) in Sao Paulo are of interest.
Robin Haase 1.50 vs Joao Souza 2.55
Brazilian wildcard Souza hasn’t won a match at tour level since Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo retired on him after a first set tie break here 12 months ago and he’s got a tough draw again in Haase.
The Dutchman has been struggling with some physical issues of late and opted to play here on the Golden Swing rather than his home event of Rotterdam, but it hasn’t exactly worked out for him.
Robin retired after losing eight of nine games against Tommy Robredo in Buenos Aires and was then beaten in straight sets by Albert Montanes, which is not good form heading into this final event of the swing.
He does play very well at altitude and under normal circumstances Haase should win this in conditions he should like, but his fitness looks down and in the two prior meetings with Souza – both at altitude as well – the matches have been tight and I like the over 21.5 games at around 1.73 in this 22.00 UK time encounter.
Pablo Cuevas 1.45 vs Horacio Zeballos 2.65
Following Haase/Souza at around midnight UK time I like the chances of Cuevas to continue the good level he’s been showing of late against Zeballos, who is in no sort of form right now.
Cuevas played well in defeat against Fabio Fognini and Alex Dolgopolov in his most recent matches and should have won at least one and arguably both of those encounters.
The Uruguayan is edging closer to full fitness and form after serious injury and I expect him to have too much for the Argentine tonight.
Cuevas has been serving well from what I’ve seen of him lately and his kick serve out wide has been a great weapon for him. How that matches up to the lefty forehand of Zeballos will be key today in their first meeting for almost four years.
Pablo leads the lifetime head-to-head series 2-1 in senior matches, while it’s 4-4 overall going way back to futures almost a decade ago, so this pair know each other well.
I like the Cuevas minus 2.5 games on the handicap here at around 1.73.
Back over 21.5 games in Haase/Souza at 1.73
Back Cuevas –2.5 games to beat Zeballos at 1.73