After a great week in Madrid, the Rome Masters didn’t get off to the best of starts on Monday with the wind playing havoc at the Foro Italico. It was more like a scene from Lawrence of Arabia on Court Centrale yesterday as gusts of wind blew the clay into the faces of the players and officials for most of the day.
Alex Dolgopolov’s retirement with some sort of stomach complaint downed my opening bet before the wind blew away Santiago Giraldo’s game plan against Bernard Tomic.
At least Fabio Fognini handled the conditions well and easily won my final bet with a straight sets thrashing of Marcos Baghdatis.
So, Tuesday at the Foro Italico sees another homegrown hero take to the courts, as Potito Starace takes on Poland’s Lukasz Kubot.
Starace is not the easiest of players to win with, but he should at least be putting in 100 percent in front of his home crowd today and he faces a player against whom he has dominated in their four career meetings so far.
Indeed, Starace has won nine of the 10 sets contested between he and Kubot so there’s clearly something about the net-rushing Pole’s style that the Italian enjoys.
Kubot is no mug and many will recall his performances at Roland Garros last year when he defeated Nico Almagro and Carlos Berlocq, but he has only ever won one match in the main draw here.
Starace has some good wins to his name in Rome, with the likes of Dolgopolov, Viktor Troicki, Marin Cilic and Carlos Moya all having been beaten by the Italian and 1.72 is a fair enough price for him to get another Rome win today.
My second bet today concerns world number four, Andy Murray, who returns to the tour after a couple of weeks away with a back injury.
The Scot has not been seen on court since a defeat to Milos Raonic in Barcelona and hopefully, as far as his fans are concerned, he’s been spending the time wisely, soaking up some clay court know-how from Ivan Lendl.
Murray faces a familiar foe in David Nalbandian today and he could have wished for an easier starter in this tournament than the Argentine, but Murray has won their last five matches and I can’t see him slipping up today.
This will be their first ever meeting on clay, but I don’t believe that this will present a problem for Murray, as Nalbandian hasn’t beaten a top-10 opponent on clay since way back in 2006.
Furthermore, Nalbandian has a 2-13 record against top-10 opposition in his last 15 matches and, sadly, his time at the top of the game is long gone.
He still has it in him to produce the odd top class performance, but he hasn’t won a title for two years and he’s been beaten by the likes of Giraldo, Andreas Seppi and Filippo Volandri on dirt this year.
Murray should prove to be the more consistent of the two and on this slow, clay surface I can’t see Nalbandian being able to hit enough winners to take a set from the Scot.
The bet in this one is to take Murray minus 1.5 sets on the handicap at around 1.8. This could also be a day for accumulators, with David Ferrer, Gilles Simon, Juan Martin Del Potro, Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all looking nailed on, providing the wind doesn’t become a big factor again today.
Best Bets: Back Starace to beat Kubot at 1.72 and Back Murray to beat Nalbandian –1.5 sets at 1.8.