The grass court tennis continues in week 25 of the ATP World Tour on Monday with round one action from the AEGON Open in Nottingham.
This ATP 250 tournament is in its final year before moving back to Eastbourne in 2017 and it’s played on medium to slow paced grass usually with the heavy Slazenger Wimbledon balls in preparation for next week.
We signed off from a good week in Halle and Queen’s with a win for one of the ‘value bets’, which was an easy success for the +1.5 sets on Florian Mayer, who beat favourite Alexander Zverev in three sets.
There was no luck in the other bet, as it took Andy Murray a set and a half to get going in the Queen’s final against Milos Raonic, and he was forced to a tie break in the opening set, before winning the last two sets 6-4, 6-3.
Last year’s tournament in Nottingham produced only four underdog winners from 16 matches in round one and the biggest of those was 2.60 on Taylor Fritz against Pablo Carreno Busta.
There were only seven tie breaks played in 34 sets in round here in 2015 and only two in the opening sets, which for me highlights a surface that isn’t exactly quick.
Denis Istomin vs Damir Dzumhur
It’s a rare day indeed that I trust Istomin as a short-priced favourite, but I’m prepared to make an exception here, with the Ukbek defending his only career title (at main level) this week.
And he couldn’t have found a less experienced round one opponent on a grass court than Dzumhur, who has played only four matches at senior level on this surface and has only one win – over then 192-ranked Dusan Lojda in Wimbledon qualies in 2012.
Last time out Dzumhur retired in the Prostejov Challenger on the clay, but he has at least ventured onto the grass at exhibition level in Liverpool in the last few days, where he faced another giant of grass court tennis in Paulo Lorenzi.
Dzumhur’s grass stats aren’t worth much, as he’s played so few matches on it, but his lack of weapons on this surface are apparent and Istomin’s are decent, with 85.7 percent holds and 16.4 percent breaks.
He should have few problems breaking Dzumhur’s weak delivery on grass and we can make a 1.80 double by backing Ernesto Escobedo to take down Diego Schwartzman.
The latter has played only two career matches on grass and in those he’s managed to hold 60 percent of the time and break 7.2 percent of the time, while Escobedo has begun his grass career far better.
The American has now played eight matches this swing on grass and recorded some good wins and strong serving performances, yielding a 93.6 percent hold mark and he should be able to break the weak serve of Schwartzman or take it on tie breaks.
Jiri Vesely vs Horacio Zeballos
Vesely and Zeballos would be much happier playing this match on clay, but on grass it’s a decent opportunity for a set one overs bet at a tempting 1.72 for over 9.5 games.
Vesely has only once in his last 10 opening sets ended one in fewer than 10 games and that was when he dropped set one to Amir Weintraub at Queen’s Club last week.
The Czech’s service hold stats are good at 88 percent on grass, but he breaks his opponent’s serve only 11.4 percent of the time and that 1-6 set against Weintraub was the only one in 10 sets played at Queen’s that ended in fewer than 10 games.
Zeballos is even worse in terms of breaking serve on grass, with a 6.9 percent mark in that category and so we’re looking at two players here who really struggle to get breaks of serve.
Vesely will probably win it, but Zeballos isn’t as bad as you’d think on grass, and he’ll be confident after winning a Challenger on clay last week.
In seven sets on grass last year Zeballos played four tie breaks against Ivan Dodig and David Goffin, so he’s not a no-hoper and I like the over games in set one in this match.
Jan Hernych vs Dudi Sela
Sela looks rather short in price to me against the veteran Czech in this 13:00 approx. start, which will be the fourth career meeting between the pair, and it’s probably down to the 3-0 head-to-head in favour of Sela.
Those matches were from 2012 and 2013 on hard courts though and the Israeli has hardly impressed this grass swing so far, with one very tight win over Dennis Novikov to his name.
A poor David Ferrer in his first grass match for a very long time beat Sela in Rosmalen and Hernych has a better service hold percentage than Sela in his career on grass and a very good break ratio too.
Hernych’s 81.6 percent hold and 21.7 percent break record compares with the 77.5 percent and 24.5 percent of Sela and this will probably be a tight contest, with 2.60 on Hernych a decent option.
He made the last eight as a qualifier in Newport last year before slipping badly and injuring himself in the quarters against Jack Sock and he has the ability on this surface to cause a minor upset.
To make a 5.46 ‘long shot’ double I’ll take a chance on youth with Jordan Thompson, who’s impressed me in the times I’ve seen him and he faces a potentially injured Benjamin Becker.
The German pulled out mid-match against Zverev with a back injury and you wouldn’t have thought he’d do that at a home tournament without it being impossible to carry on.
Thompson has beaten some decent players on grass this swing in Surbiton and Ilkley and only lost in the semis of Surbiton in a final set tie break to Yen-Hsun Lu and he may well be far more enthusiastic about this match than a potentially hobbled 35-year-old.
Sure thing: Back Istomin and Escobedo at 1.80
Value bet: Back over 9.5 games in Vesely/Zeballos at 1.72
Long shot: Back Hernych and Thompson at 5.46