The finals of week two’s ATP 250 events in the run-up to the Australian Open are in-play on Saturday featuring three qualifiers and the world number 44.
It’s always a tricky week ahead of any major, but if you have the names of Jiri Vesely, Adrian Mannarino, Mikhail Kukushkin or Viktor Troicki on your outright betting slip this week you’ve done rather well and can probably put your feet up during Melbourne.
For the rest of us we’re left to try and figure out two very tricky-looking finals and the tournament directors of Sydney and Auckland will no doubt be off for a lie down in a darkened room somewhere.
On the positive side on Friday my ‘sure thing’ was a winner when Kevin Anderson and Jiri Vesley went past the overs mark in set one of their semi final at the Heineken Open, but there was no success elsewhere.
Kukushkin saved all 11 break points he faced to edge past Leo Mayer in Sydney, but unfortunately there was no tie break in that one, while we did get the quick finish I was after in the other semi – but it went the wrong way.
Mikhail Kukushkin vs Viktor Troicki
This will be the first ever ATP World Tour final between two qualifers and it looks set to be a close match, with little to separate the pair.
Kukushkin is on a great run after beating Argentines Juan Martin Del Potro and Leonardo Mayer, while Troicki took full advantage of a nervy performance from Gilles Muller to take his place in the Sydney final for the second time in his career.
Troicki lost out to Gilles Simon in 2011 and although he has a slightly better chance this time in terms of the odds (he was a 1.87 shot for the Simon match) I prefer the overs here.
Not only are the pair closely matched in terms of ability, but their last encounter – also in Australia at the Open in 2012 – went to five sets and seven of the last nine Sydney finals have gone past the 22.5 total games mark.
Only one of the last nine has been settled in fewer than 19.5 games, which was last year’s rout of Bernard Tomic by Juan Martin Del Potro and the 1.34 about this one going to 20 games or more at 1.34 is today’s ‘sure thing’.
Jiri Vesely vs Adrian Mannarino
I was impressed by Vesely in his win over Anderson on Thursday and particularly the way he came back from failing to serve out the match to play a very good tie breaker to beat the South African.
That will stand him in good stead today and into his first ever ATP World Tour final the Czech should have enough adrenaline to keep him going after a tough week involving half a dozen matches already.
But Mannarino won’t exactly be high on energy either after a very tough semi final against lucky loser Lucas Pouille (who Vesely beat in straights in qualifying) and I can’t help but think that Mannarino has had a very nice draw here this week.
Federico Delbonis, a sick Roberto Bautista-Agut, an out of form Alejandro Falla and Pouille is pretty handy and with Vesely banging down the serves at ferocious speeds this looks far tougher for the Frenchman.
Against big servers, Mannarino has often been found wanting, with a 5-13 record on outdoor hard against the ones on my list and Vesely should be able to provide more big serving misery for Mannarino in this one.
The 1.84 about minus 1.5 games on Vesely looks good to me and will be second bet of the day.
With only two matches on the ATP World Tour on Saturday, there’s no long shot wager today.
Sure thing: Back over 19.5 total games in Troicki/Kukushkin at 1.34
Value bet: Back Vesely –1.5 games to beat Mannarino at 1.84