Things are looking up in LA, as Thursday brought two winners from two bets at the Farmers Classic. In the early match, Ricardas Berankis eased past Igor Andreev in straight sets before the night game saw my tip Michael Russell take down the number one seed Benoit Paire also in straight sets.
Even by the Frenchman’s patchy standards that was a poor effort. Paire served seven double faults and registered a pathetic 26% of first serves in during a first set that featured nine breaks. Fortunately we were on his opponent and Russell earned us the win with a solid second set that saw him through to the quarter-finals.
I’m sticking with this tough to predict tournament for one more day before the Olympic tennis event begins on Saturday. Tonight’s matches in Los Angeles are a fine example of the tight nature of this event, with three of the four quarter finals being basically even money matches.
There’s money to be made with the right picks and I’ll start by keeping the faith with Berankis against Nicolas Mahut at a price of around 2.00. I said yesterday that Mahut might struggle to justify odds of 1.33 against Paolo Lorenzi and although the Frenchman won, it was close and he just edged the second set breaker 9-7 to prevail.
I’ve never been convinced much by Mahut on outdoor hard and he won just 38% of his second serve points against Lorenzi last night. This won’t be good enough today against Berankis. The Lithuanian won 60% of the points on Andreev’s second delivery in their match and more good returning like that should see him through to the semi-finals.
Mahut and Berankis have played twice in the past, with one win apiece, but former top junior Berankis is a player to keep on your side when he’s playing well. These conditions suit his game more than Mahut’s in my view. I’m siding with Berankis tonight.
The matches between Russell and Marinko Matosevic and Leonardo Mayer and Rajeev Ram look too close to call, but Sam Querrey is a backable 1.55 to defeat Xavier Malisse. Big Sam loves playing in this, his home tournament, having won it twice in the recent past. His credentials on this surface give him a clear edge over the Belgian, whose hard court form lately has been very patchy.
Before beating Matt Ebden yesterday, Malisse had won just four of his previous 17 outdoor hard court matches and although he’s shown improvement here this week I still take Querrey to win this. The San Francisco-born player has a 2-0 head-to-head lead over Malisse, with both matches having been played on grass, which is probably the Belgian’s best surface.
Querrey is also effective on grass of course, but if he’s having a good day his game is just a little bit too big for Malisse to cope with and although this could be close – like their Wimbledon 2010 meeting – I expect Querrey to come through.
You’re never totally comfortable backing Querrey at odds on, as anyone who backed him to beat Dudi Sela in Newport will recall, but if the serve and forehand are on he’s a match for even some of the top players in these conditions.
Back Berankis to beat Mahut at 2.0
Back Querrey to beat Malisseat 1.55