The world’s best tennis players head to Melbourne for the 2014 Australian Open, which begins in the early hours of Monday morning UK time.
It’s set to be a hot one at Melbourne Park on Monday, with temperatures forecast to be in the mid-30s, which will make conditions tough for the players.
There are 32 men’s first round matches on the card tonight and overnight, and although many such as Novak Djokovic are unbackable at prices like 1.01, there is some value to be found in the schedule.
Ricardas Berankis 3.25 v Alex Dolgopolov 1.32 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 04.05
This match begins at around 5pm local time, but it will still be hot and Dolgopolov’s record here is littered with arduous, four and five set matches of which this looks to be another.
Dolgo has played just one three-set match here in his last nine, and his slide down the rankings after a poor 2013 suggests to me that the 1.32 about him winning is much too short against an opponent who can be a great ball striker on his day.
Berankis also disappointed last year, but he’s very streaky and came through qualies very comfortably here.
He should be a match for the Ukrainian, whose form is hard to assess after wins over one injured and one fatigued opponent and a loss to Bernie Tomic this year so far. His ongoing health issues make this a tough venue for Dolgo and Berankis should be motivated enough to make this a very competitive affair.
For me this has overs written all over it and over 36.5 games at 1.80 looks good here.
Di Wu 2.02 v Kenny De Schepper 1.75 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 01.05
At around 1am UK time this match between the diminutive 22-year-old Chinese and the French leftie De Schepper begins, and I fancy the underdog in this one.
Wu has shown some glimpses of decent ability and should have beaten John Isner in Beijing at the end of last season before losing in three sets, but that match alone showed that he can handle big servers, as did a win over Rhyne Williams last week and at his home slam, and he’ll be determined to do well.
De Schepper meanwhile has played just the one match this season and lost it to Sergiy Stakhovsky.
He’s never won a Grand Slam main draw match on a hard court, losing first up in New York last season to Bradley Klahn and it’s worth chancing the 2.02 about Wu to continue that run here.
Juan Monaco 4.70 v Ernests Gulbis 1.18 – BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 01.05
The eccentric Latvian’s Grand Slam record is so poor that he simply can’t be backed to win this match at a price like 1.18 against an experienced and capable opponent like Monaco.
There has been much talk about the court speeds here at Melbourne Park, with Rafael Nadal moaning that they are the quickest he’s seen here, but in contract Andy Murray and Roger Federer say they’re the same as usual.
I would tend to side with the latter view, which means it’s at best a medium paced hard court, and Monaco shouldn’t have too many problems defending if that’s the case.
Gulbis has won just one match at the Australian Open and he has a 4-10 record in hard court majors since the start of 2008. He also has a 1-3 losing record to Monaco, who beat him here in 2010, and the Argentine surely has enough about him to win with a 2.5 set start at 1.87.
Back over 36.5 total games in Berankis/Dolgopolov at 1.8
Back Wu to beat De Schepper at 2.02
Back Monaco +2.5 sets to beat Gulbis at 1.87