The ATP World Tour takes a break this week after the final major of the season and the Davis Cup is where the men’s tennis action can be found.
The World Group semi-finals and play-offs are the main attractions over the next three days, with Great Britain trying to return to the elite level for the first time in five years and they begin with Andy Murray taking on 16-year-old Croatian Borna Coric and Dan Evans facing Ivan Dodig.
Even on his worst surface of clay, Murray should have few problems winning that match in straight sets, though Evans will find things far tougher against the in-form Dodig.
Radek Stepanek vs Juan Monaco
The Czech Republic take on Argentina for a place in the World Group finals in Prague, where doubtless the hosts will have made conditions as slick as possible against the clay court foursome of Monaco, Leo Mayer, Horacio Zeballos and Carlos Berlocq.
The Czechs are heavy odds-on for this clash and it’s not too hard to see why, with conditions indoors in Prague being ideal for the old team of Stepanek and Berdych, who will probably play singles and doubles here.
Stepanek loves these sort of occasions and although in the latter stages of his career he can still play to a good enough level to get the hosts off to a good start against Monaco. It will be their seventh career meeting of a series that Steps leads 4-2 overall and 4-1 on hard courts.
Monaco has never won a Davis Cup rubber on anything other than clay, losing all five singles matches on hard or carpet, while Stepanek has a winning record on hard.
With it being the opening rubber we might see Monaco giving it a real go here and it could go long, but it’s hard to see the Czech losing this one and the minus 2.5 games on the handicap at 1.77 looks good to me.
Thiemo de Bakker vs Jurgen Melzer
I think it’s worth taking a chance on the hit and miss skills of De Bakker here against Melzer, who’s had a nightmare on clay this season, winning just two of 12 matches on the dirt in 2013. The Austrian veteran lost both of his matches on the clay last time out in Davis Cup to Andrey Golubev and Evgeny Korolev in Kazakhstan and since then he’s won just four sets of 22 contested on clay.
Losses to the likes of Dominic Thiem, Tobias Kamke and Joao Sousa litter his record and after seemingly coming back to form on the hard courts in Winston Salem, he lost in round one in New York to Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets.
De Bakker meanwhile has warmed up for this by reaching the semi-finals of the clay event in Alphen in the Netherlands and he’ll be far more attuned to conditions than the Austrian.
The Dutchman is not one to put a huge amount of confidence in, as he can be very inconsistent. However, he showed good form on the dirt in Bastad, where he beat Berdych en-route to the semi-finals and when Melzer and De Bakker met at Winston Salem on hard a few weeks ago it went to a decider before the latter retired. At odds-against it’s well worth chancing De Bakker here at 2.10, against a player whose clay form this season has been dire.
Back Stepanek -2.5 games to beat Monaco at 1.77
Back De Bakker to beat Melzer at 2.10
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