The second round of matches completes at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia on Wednesday and it’s a day where Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer make their 2015 tournament debuts.
Murray, after much deliberation, finally decided to play this week in Rome on Tuesday afternoon, while Nadal comes here after a thrashing from Murray in Madrid.
Federer was beaten by Nick Kyrgios last week at the Caja Magica, so he and Rafa will both be looking for matches at the Foro Italico.
Tuesday was a frustrating one for my bets, with two retirement voids spoiling things, along with a highly unexpected let down from the world number one.
Novak Djokovic led Nico Almagro by a set and was 5-2 up in the second set tie break, but remarkably managed to lose five straight points to down my ‘sure thing’ bet.
A few betting slips would have ended up on the floor after that collapse by Djokovic and the retirements didn’t help matters either.
Headline pick Philipp Kohlschreiber lasted only three games before voiding the bet by retiring with an arm injury, while Diego Sebastian Schwartzman retired against Thomaz Bellucci, voiding another.
There are 11 men’s matches on the schedule for Wednesday and in terms of ‘sure things’ it’s pretty slim pickings, with Rafa Nadal too short and Andy Murray possibly too fatigued.
Roger Federer vs Pablo Cuevas
Nadal will almost certainly beat Marsel Ilhan despite a dreadful display against Murray in the Madrid final, while Murray faces the kind of opponent in Jeremy Chardy that he usually enjoys facing – a wayward one.
But the Scot only decided to play in Rome yesterday and could be forgiven for a lacklustre display on Wednesday and Federer seems a better pick to me.
Pablo Cuevas features highly in my clay rankings list, but against the top players he’s rarely, if ever, produced anything of note and his record in Masters and Slams is really bad.
On his favoured clay surface Cuevas has won only three of 13 matches at Masters and Slam level and in all competitions the Uruguayan has managed only six wins in 24 matches against the top-20.
His lack of wins at the top level means that he’s only met top-10 opposition five times in seven years and he’s won one of those five – against Andy Roddick back in 2011.
The pair clashed in Istanbul a few weeks ago and Federer should have won it more comfortably than he did and after losing early here last year to Chardy he’ll be keen to rack up some ranking points this week.
Cuevas has enough clay smarts to make this tough for the Swiss if Fed isn’t on his game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go to three sets, but after a loss early last week he’ll be sure to want more time on clay before Paris.
The Uruguayan has a record of 1-14 on clay as an underdog of 4.0 or bigger and the one win was in the first of those 15 matches back in 2008 against Fernando Verdasco.
Dominic Thiem vs Gilles Simon
The conditions in Rome seem to suit Thiem, whose long backswings have time to be utilised to their fullest effect on slowish clay and he looks a decent value pick in this 13:00 UK time start against Simon.
The Austrian silenced a crowd at the Foro Italico that will, with the slightest encouragement, create a partisan atmosphere reminiscent of a Davis Cup match, when he took down Simone Bolelli in round one.
It was a real battle and it will probably another tough one today against Simon, who, by his own admission, isn’t playing at his best at the moment.
Gillou was getting the run-around from Jack Sock on Monday before finally turning it around and as he added after that match: “If I play like that again I'll be out.”
He might well be right, as their three-match career series has been tight so far, and the Austrian might be a bit of value here as underdog after starting as slight favourite in their two most recent clashes.
There are several other options that hold value today, not least the 2.15 about John Isner and Leo Mayer going over 10.5 games in set one of their 10:00 start.
Fabio Fognini could get inspired now that he has a match under his belt here and 2.55 about the Italian in what will be partisan conditions isn’t the worst bet either.
Thomaz Bellucci vs Roberto Bautista-Agut
I’m going for the jackpot here with the Brazilian, who seems to be finding some of his old form, and can give RBA a real run for his money in the early 10:00 UK time start on Wednesday.
Bellucci has won six of his last seven matches and pushed the in-form John Isner very hard for two sets in Madrid last week before falling away in the decider in conditions that suited Isner really well.
Bellucci won the biggest match that the two have contested – in Davis Cup on clay last season – and this confidence player appears to be back on the up again at this moment in time.
The most sensible pick here would be something like the 6-3, 6-4 that RBA defeated the Brazilian by in Barcelona a few weeks ago, but this will be a very interesting test for the Spaniard against a more confident Bellucci.
I find it hard to see him winning in two, so the value lies with the big price about the 2-1 to the Brazilian.
Sure thing: Back Federer to beat Cuevas at 1.20
Value bet: Back Thiem to beat Simon at 2.35
Long shot: Back Bellucci to beat Bautista-Agut 2-1 at 6.75