There’s round two action on the clay on day three of week 14 of the 2016 ATP World Tour in Marrakech and Houston.
You can always rely on the clay swing to produce some bizarre results and on Tuesday we were on the right end of one such match when my tip of Marcos Baghdatis +2.5 games won in spectacular fashion in Houston.
Baggy landed the spoils with a 6-0, 6-0 success over Diego Schwartzman and all that despite once again struggling on serve.
There can’t be many players that win a bagel set while landing only 31 percent of their first serves, but Baghdatis managed it on a day where there were five underdog winners – all in straight sets – and despite being well-backed (in to 1.48 from 1.76 for the handicap) Dmitry Tursunov was largely awful against Lukas Lacko, while Carlos Berlocq didn't serve well enough against Fernando Verdasco.
We didn’t see much in Marrakech on Tuesday, as most of the matches were moved to untelevised courts due to rain and running repairs to their centre court, but the only one I fancied there, Daniel Gimeno-Traver was an odds-against winner.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs Evgeny Donskoy
For the first ‘sure thing’ of the week I’m siding with Carreno Busta against what will probably be a fatigued opponent that tends to shy away from clay wherever possible.
Donskoy won the Raanana Challenger on Sunday in Israel on Sunday and given that the Russian has a 1-10 record at main level on clay he could be forgiven for being less than enthusiastic about this 11:00 UK time start against PCB.
This pair met only a few weeks ago on slow hard at Indian Wells when PCB emerged victorious in straight sets and it’s hard to see Donskoy turning that around after a long week and on his worst surface – one he hasn't played on at any level since last June and at main level since last February in Quito.
Donskoy did actually beat Carreno Busta on clay in 2012 and 2014, but they were at Challenger level and in qualies, and such successes on the red dirt are rare indeed for Donskoy.
His only victory on clay at main level came at the 2013 French Open when he beat Jan-Lennard Struff and with PCB having made the final in Sao Paulo in his last clay outing I’d expect a win from him today in these circumstances.
Hyeon Chung vs Tommy Paul
I haven't seen anything from Chung on clay to make me fancy him much on this surface and his laboured round one win over a dismal Victor Estrella Burgos has done little to change my view of the often-overrated South Korean.
Estrella gave Chung little to think about and the latter should have won in two, but eventually lost a tie break before bagelling the Dominican veteran in the decider, but in terms of experience on these sort of Fast-Dry courts and an apparent unsuitability to clay Paul has to be some sort of value in this 02:00 UK time start tomorrow morning.
Paul grew up playing on the green American clay and, of course, is the current French Open junior champion, so despite not turning 19 until next month he has the edge in terms of clay court craft over Chung and he showed that in round one by dishing out a straight sets beating to a real clay court specialist in Paulo Lorenzi.
The American won 24 of his 32 matches on clay last year and although most were at Futures level he's clearly confident on this surface and his forehand that did the damage against Lorenzi can expose the quesitonable movement of Chung, whose weak serve could be in line to be attacked all too easily in these conditions.
It's worth taking a chance on the 18-year-old as underdog at around the 2.30 mark today to continue his winning ways against an opponent who looks very beatable on this surface.
Juan Monaco vs Benoit Paire
Like his fellow Argentine Schwartzman yesterday Monaco looks a tad short in the betting here against the unpredictable Paire, who can certainly play on clay and seems like decent value in what will be the fourth career meeting between these two.
Monaco has won two of them and he's probably been put in as favourite based on his decent record in Houston, while Paire has never played here, but those glory days are pretty much gone for Pico, whose struggles with injury over the last few years look to have taken their toll, and I wouldn't be trusting him as favourite in this one if Paire's forehand and brain are on good days.
Pico, typically for him these days, struggled past the fairly feeble challenge of Gerald Melzer in round one in three sets and prior to that he was very average in a loss on slow hard to Michael Berrer in Indian Wells and goit a retirement from Ivan Dodig in Miami.
I've seen nothing from him in this most recent comeback from injury that gives me confidence in this one and if Paire is in the mood it could be a comfortable day for the Frechman. It is a big 'if' though, hence the inclusion in the 'long shot' category for a 2-0 win at 3.85.
Sure thing: Back Carreno Busta to beat Donskoy at 1.28
Value bet: Back Paul to beat Chung at 2.10
Long shot: Back Paire to beat Monaco 2-0 at 3.85