There was more carnage all around for punters in week 43 of the ATP World Tour on Wednesday as more seeds fell in Valencia and Basel.
I said on Wednesday that we are up against it at this stage of the season and although this column went one from two in bets yesterday there will plenty of punters feeling short-changed from some of the performances we’ve seen this week.
Kei Nishikori was the latest to offer a feeble effort, as he was taken down 6-1, 6-2 by Ivan Dodig, while Richard Gasquet was also a straight sets loser to Michael Llodra and over in Valencia there were poor efforts from the likes of Benoit Paire and Marcel Granollers.
At least Paul-Henri Mathieu was as motivated as I thought he’d be and he took the win over Denis Kudla in two sets, while one player who was surprisingly sprightly was John Isner, who produced a determined effort to beat a frustrated Ernests Gulbis in two tie breaks.
There are six second round matches on the card in Valencia on Thursday and once again I’m after the players with something to play for, or failing that, ones facing injured opponents.
Joao Sousa vs Jerzy Janowicz (starts at 13.05 BST)
This match falls into the latter category with Janowicz suffering from an apparent recurrence of the arm injury that has bothered him for a while.
The big Pole struggled to put away Pablo Carreno-Busta in round one and was fortunate that there was very little coming back from the Spaniard to trouble him, but there will be today with the seemingly indefatigable Sousa likely to put a lot of balls back in play and with a bit more on them.
Janowicz was seen in practice receiving treatment and with an ice pack on his elbow on Wednesday and I suspect he wouldn’t be playing if he didn’t have so many ranking points to defend next week in Bercy.
Sousa has been in fine form in the latter stages of the season and has won 11 of his last 13 matches on the tour, including a title indoors in Kuala Lumpur. If he isn’t feeling it after a lot of tennis lately he should be able to take a set here at 1.72.
Nothing much else appeals in Valencia today, with Jarkko Nieminen likely to beat Alejandro Falla, but anything under 1.65 isn’t worth backing really at this stage of the season and Nico Almagro is way too short at 1.16 against the ‘Polish Federer’, Michal Przysiezny.
In Basel, Juan Martin Del Potro may be vulnerable against Marcos Baghdatis, who always seems to cause the Argentine problems. Delpo was lucky to have faced no hope wild card Henri Laaksonen in round one having arrived here late after reportedly celebrating his grandfather’s 80th birthday. Baghdatis +4.5 games or +1.5 sets are options in that one.
Paul-Henri Mathieu vs Michael Llodra (BET and WATCH LIVE on Unibet TV from 15.05 BST)
I think it’s worth sticking with Mathieu here at odds-against when this battle of the Frenchmen takes place at around 3pm UK time.
Motivation is the key factor for me here, with Paulo trying to defend semi final points here in Basel and Llodra surely with an eye on one of his favourite tournaments in Bercy next week in what are home conditions for the Paris-born veteran.
Llodra has made the semi finals in Bercy in two of his last three visits there and although conditions also suit him here I can’t see a man with 32 retirements/walkovers under his belt busting a gut a week before defending semi final points in a Masters 1000 event.
Mika’s win over Richard Gasquet yesterday was accompanied by a market move for Llodra, which suggested that Gasquet was unlikely to be giving his all, which was borne out by the end result.
Today is a different situation though and, in this first meeting for over four years between Llodra and Mathieu, I much prefer the chances of the latter in these circumstances and at 2.25 I’m happy to side with Paulo here, who has all to play for. Llodra, meanwhile, has never been past the second round here and there is a reason for that.
Llodra is also in the doubles here with Nicolas Mahut and due to play this evening and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Llodra favour the doubles, as he tends to do these days.
Elsewhere in Basel, Daniel Brands looks short at 1.45 and can’t be trusted at that price against the honest Lukasz Kubot, while Edouard Roger-Vasselin vs Tobias Kamke is surely a coin toss of a match.
Back Sousa +1.5 sets to beat Janowicz at 1.72
Back Mathieu to beat Llodra at 2.25