The red clay action continues this week, with the ATP Tour making the short journey from Rome to Nice for the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur.
Despite being an ATP 250 event, the proximity in terms of geography and timescale to the French Open has meant that an above average field will take to the courts in the south of France this week. Today sees Fabio Fognini, Sam Querrey, Bernard Tomic and Nikolay Davydenko all begin their challenge for the 2012 title won last year by Nico Almagro.
The first bet that I like in Nice is for Alejandro Falla to take out number seven seed Denis Istomin at a price of around 1.7.
Istomin’s best form comes away from the clay and you have to go all the way back to 2010 in Hamburg for his last run of more than two consecutive wins in a tour level clay court event. He also has a pretty awful record against left-handers such as Falla, with just three wins over lefties in his entire career and a 3-13 overall record.
Add all of that to his current run of form (one win from his last eight matches since the start of the clay court season) and you’re looking at a player to be opposing at the moment. He’s also been struggling with some sort of ailment lately, as he retired in Estoril a few weeks ago, so he may not be in the best physical shape right now.
Falla hasn’t been setting the world on fire on dirt this spring either, but he did find some form on the blue clay of Madrid a fortnight ago, beating Juan Ignacio Chela and pushing Fernando Verdasco all the way. A repeat of that sort of level should be enough for Falla today on his debut in Nice.
My second selection today is over in Dusseldorf, where the grandly titled World Team Championships are taking place. The home players are always worth backing in this tournament: Germany have been finalists at their home event four times in the last seven years and won it last year, so they take it pretty seriously.
One of the stars of last year’s win was Florian Mayer, who won all of his matches against Viktor Troicki, Juan Monaco and Marcel Granollers. He also made the final in Munich in 2011, so he enjoys playing at home.
Today, Mayer takes on Igor Andreev for the first time in eight years and I would have thought that Mayer’s unorthodox style would be a nightmare for Andreev, who likes to be in a groove where he can thump his forehand on a regular basis.
The worry is Mayer’s recent form, which was prior to Rome was poor. He did, however, beat Milos Raonic and gave Rafa Nadal a decent game in Italy, so it looks like his touch is returning and a return to Germany should help too.
Andreev has been struggling with a shoulder injury and retired in Madrid after a decent win over Juan Carlos Ferrero, but he has lost three of his last four matches in this tournament and I can’t see him causing an upset today while carrying an injury.
Back Falla to beat Istomin at 1.7
Back Mayer to beat Andreev at 1.5