It was back to winning ways on Tuesday on the ATP Tour, as my double on Jarkko Nieminen and Carlos Berlocq eased home.
Both of my selections won in straight sets for the loss of only five games in Nieminen’s case, while Berlocq gave up only three against Andrey Kuznetsov on the clay of Vina del Mar.
Wednesday’s play in Vina del Mar features the long awaited return of Rafa Nadal to singles play, although you’d think by the ridiculous over reaction to his doubles match last night that we were actually witnessing Shergar and Lord Lucan over the net from Lukas Dlouhy and Frantisek Cermak instead of Nadal and Juan Monaco.
It proved nothing of course and we’ll learn more from his match against fellow leftie Federico Delbonis at 9pm UK time tonight in which Rafa starts as a 1.04 favourite.
Delbonis really had to battle to get past Guido Pella last night and he’d be nowhere close to a fit Nadal on clay, but there is still that question mark over the Spaniard so it’s one to watch.
Of all the matches in Vina del Mar today I will be sticking with Berlocq again today when he takes on Santiago Giraldo at around 7pm UK time this evening.
Berlocq is in fine form at the moment and he clearly enjoys playing here, having reached the final last year and Charly is facing an opponent tonight who is still struggling for form following peritonitis surgery at the end of last season.
Giraldo just about sneaked through his opening round match with Martin Alund and for me he’s not yet back to the sort of form that he has shown in the past or when he defeated Berlocq in their Acapulco meeting on the dirt 12 months ago.
Over in Europe I fancy a couple of elder statesmen of the game to progress in Zagreb and Montpellier today.
Mikhail Youzhny generally has his best results indoors these days and he won the title 12 months ago, dropping just the one set in the process.
Today, the Russian takes on another exponent of the single handed backhand in Igor Sijsling, who despite possessing a decent serve doesn’t have the all-round ability of Youzhny and the serve won’t be enough today.
Youzhny plays big servers well, as his 5-0 combined record over John Isner and Ivo Karlovic highlights and although he hasn’t been at his best so far this season, he lost in the first round in Melbourne in 2012 and still went on to win the Zagreb title.
It’s very rare that Youzhny is beaten early indoors and even rarer that it happens at the start of the season and in this first meeting between the pair I don’t see it happening today.
Finally, over in Montpellier I take Michael Llodra to progress at the expense of lucky loser Kenny de Schepper in a battle between two French left-handers.
De Schepper benefited from the withdrawal of Tomas Berdych to get into the main draw after he was beaten by Adrian Menendez-MacEiras in qualifying despite thumping down 16 aces.
Indeed, De Schepper won the only previous career meeting between the pair which took place in the Mons Challenger at the end of last season, but these sort of indoor tournaments are the bread and butter of Llodra and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him go on the sort of run here that took him to the semi finals in Bercy last year.
Like Youzhny, Llodra handles big servers well, as his combined 6-1 record over Karlovic and Isner shows and on home soil in France Llodra looks the one to be on in the 6pm UK time match.
All three selections can be backed in three doubles and a treble. The doubles pay 2.13, 2.04 and 2.04 respectively and the treble’s odds are 2.98.
Best Bets: Back Llodra, Youzhny and Berlocq in three doubles and a treble.