Sunday night was another profitable one for this column on the ATP Tour, as my advice of backing Brian Baker to trouble Jerzy Janowicz proved astute. In extremely windy conditions in Auckland it appeared like it was going to be one of those nights when JJ survived all 10 of the break points he faced in the opening two sets.
Baker finally managed to take set two on the tie break on his sixth set point to reward +1.5 set backers. Those who were braver and took the price on the American outright were celebrating as he took the decider despite almost blowing a 5-1 lead.
Tonight’s schedule in Auckland offers little in the way of value, but there are options over in Sydney, where the first round continues. I like the look of Jarkko Nieminen to land odds of around 1.57 in his match against Bjorn Phau, which begins at around 1.30am UK time out on Court 4.
Nieminen is the defending champion here in Sydney and after retiring last week against Alex Dolgopolov he’ll be looking to making sure he doesn’t lose any ranking points this week. This match should offer the Finn a good start in that quest.
The pair have met on four previous occasions and Jarkko has won three of them, but the most recent one was way back in 2005 and doesn’t hold much relevance tonight. More relevant is the fact that Phau has lost 12 of his last 13 matches against top-50 opposition – and the one win was over Carlos Berlocq on a hard court – so he’s just not quite up to this level most of the time.
He’s also lost his last 10 in a row against top 100 ranked left handers and he’s 2-17 lifetime against lefties in the top 100. Nieminen should be up for this one and I expect him to deliver against the 33-year-old qualifier.
Elsewhere, I will certainly not be backing Bernard Tomic at 1.30 against Marinko Matosevic tonight. Bernie’s odds are terrible and based on some decent form in the Hopman Cup exhibition, but he's got it all still to prove on the grind of the tour.
Likewise, Ryan Harrison seems awfully low at 1.29 against Roberto Bautista-Agut, while I wouldn’t fancy Kevin Anderson much at 1.24 over the improving Aljaz Bedene, who should trouble the big South African if he’s not tired after his journey from Chennai.
Back Nieminen to beat Phau at 1.57