Following a controversial week in Madrid, it’s straight over to Italy for the Internazionali BNL D’Italia for more clay court action – this time on the red dirt.
And the first player that I fancy to record a win today is Alexandr Dolgopolov, who takes on Fernando Verdasco in the opening match of the day on Court Centrale.
Verdasco has been made favourite for this at around 1.73, presumably based on the fact that he beat Rafa Nadal in Madrid, but that was a pretty unique situation and normal service was resumed the day after when Tomas Berdych thrashed the Spaniard.
The pair are yet to meet on the ATP Tour but my feeling is that Dolgo’s unique style will tempt Verdasco into going for his winners too early and from the wrong positions on court, leading to him racking up unforced errors. The Madrid man has struggled in the past against the likes of Florian Mayer and Bernard Tomic, and this match-up could present similar problems for him.
Dolgo is coming into form and it was largely fatigue that meant he didn’t give Juan Martin Del Potro a better match last week after a good win over another power player in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
It’s a bit of a gamble this one, but at 2.06 I think it’s worth chancing that the Ukrainian’s style will frustrate Verdasco and lead him into enough blind alleys to allow him to beat himself – something that happens on too regular a basis with Verdasco.
The second bet I fancy today is backing Santiago Giraldo (at 1.57) when he takes on Bernard Tomic at around lunchtime today. This will be the first meeting between the pair, but Giraldo should enjoy the classic clay court conditions at the Foro Italico more than today’s opponent, who is making his Rome debut.
The Colombian is making his third appearance at the Rome Masters and will have good memories of his debut here in 2010, when he made the last-16 as a qualifier. He’ll no doubt feel that he’s on his way to achieving something similar this year. After two wins in qualifying already over former Rome semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis and Victor Hanescu, he'll be tuned in to the conditions more than Tomic.
I watched both of these players in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. Tomic was a real mixed bag in losing to Albert Montanes, whilst Girald seemed to be lacking belief as he lost to Andy Murray. But Tomic is still very much on a learning curve on clay, while Giraldo should have too much know-how for the young Aussie in these conditions today.
Finally, scheduled for mid-afternoon on Court Centrale is one for the home fans: Fabio Fognini takes on Marcos Baghdatis for the second time in a matter of weeks. Italian hope Fognini will be keen to improve upon his average record at the Foro Italico and today’s match-up presents him with a great chance to do just that.
The 24-year-old is much the better performer of the two players on slow clay surfaces such as the one he’ll encounter in Rome this week. Having reached the quarter finals at Roland Garros last year, Fogna should be looking for a similar result in this Masters 1000 event.
Baghdatis, on the other hand, is in no sort of form on the dirt right now and hasn’t beaten a top-50 ranked player on clay for two years. He’s lost 10 from his last 11 against top-50 opponents on clay and he’s 4-15 lifetime versus the same opposition.
Fogna won their recent match in Bucharest in straight sets and he’s worth backing at around [1.62] to repeat that result today.
Back Dolgopolov to beat Verdasco at [2.06]
Back Giraldo to beat Tomic at [1.57]
Back Fognini to beat Baghdatis at [1.62]