The clay court action continues in week 17 of the ATP World Tour with another dozen matches scheduled for Thursday in Barcelona and Bucharest.
Wednesday was a very good betting day, with four of the five names on my shortlist for yesterday winning, including my two best bets of Jurgen Melzer and Santiago Giraldo.
Melzer admitted to getting rather tight towards the end of an otherwise comfortable win over the hapless Jerzy Janowicz, but that can be forgiven as it was only his second match win of 2014, but it was a stroll in the park for Giraldo.
The Colombian faced barely any resistance from Fabio Fognini and handicap bets would have been settled before the Italian retired at 0-6, 0-4 down, as the +4.5 game start that Giraldo had made it impossible for Fogna to have won on that basis.
There are four matches on the card at the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy on Thursday and the two I like there are Adrian Ungur at odds-against versus Denis Istomin and Mikhail Youzhny, who faces an opponent he loves to play.
Mikhail Youzhny 1.50, Robin Haase 2.50
The Russian surely can’t wait for this one, having faced Haase on five occasions and not dropped a set to the Dutchman on clay, grass or hard courts in their head-to-head series.
The score reads 12-0 to Youzhny in sets and what better time for the former world number eight to record his first win on the singles court since beating lucky loser James Ward in Dubai back in February.
Mikhail has struggled with all kinds of sickness and physical ailments this season, but he managed to get some much-needed match practise under his belt in singles and doubles last week in Monte-Carlo, where he made the last four with Max Mirnyi.
Things haven’t gone well for Haase lately either, splitting with his coach Marcos Gorriz this week and also having injury problems – namely his knee.
Indeed, Haase tweeted after an opening round win over the feeble Matt Ebden, here asking: “does anyone have a spare knee to give or sell?” so at a guess, things aren’t going that well on the injury front right now.
Youzhny has shortened from 1.60 to 1.50 overnight for this and the minus 2.5 games on the handicap on the Russian now looks the better option at 1.80.
In Barcelona there are several appealing betting options today after a bad day for favourite backers on Wednesday when the number 2, 3, 7, 8, and 13 seeds all went out and there are more that look vulnerable today.
I don’t like Kei Nishikori at 1.20 one bit against the capable Andrey Golubev in the 11.00 UK time start and I have to side with Fernando Verdasco in the all-Spanish battle at 13.30 UK time.
Fernando Verdasco 2.02, Nicolas Almagro 1.75
I’m not entirely sure why the layers have Almagro as favourite in this one, other than his great record here at the Real Club de Tenis de Barcelona.
A finalist last year, Almagro has a 22-10 record here, but a poor one against today’s opponent, who he lost to in straight sets in the final of Houston on American red clay just a matter of a fortnight ago.
Indeed, the leftie from Madrid has won seven of their 10 career meetings and the last four in a row on clay, which when combined with Almagro’s poor form this season is surely enough to make Verdasco favourite for my money.
Almagro tried his best to choke against Martin Klizan yesterday before edging through 7-5, 7-6 and he’s also under a bit of an injury cloud having quit in Monte-Carlo citing a foot injury that he said left him unable to walk.
That seems to have cleared up quickly, but Fernando should have no concerns of that nature after taking a week off last week.
It all points to Verdasco to me and 2.02 seems very reasonable.
The only other one I fancy today is Marin Cilic at odds against over Tommy Robredo, who’s looked out of sorts on a number of occasions recently and looks a shaky favourite at 1.7 if the Croat serves well.
Back Youzhny –2.5 games to beat Haase at 1.80
Back Verdasco to beat Almagro at 2.02