The most unpredictable of the tennis majors had another trick up its sleeve on Sunday, as the French Open got off to a tricky start for punters.
Overs punters, including myself, took a battering as the first 13 men’s singles matches and 15 overall were finished in three sets or fewer on a remarkable day in Paris.
We had Mikhail Youzhny whacking himself over the head again; Dudi Sela winning a match on clay in straight sets; Roger Federer being descended upon on court by a selfie-hunting teen and that was just for starters.
My overs bets went up in smoke, with only one match going over three sets, and that was one that my ‘sure thing’ of the day, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez was beaten in.
GGL came back from two sets down to be a break up in the final set against Stevie Johnson, but an inspired performance – probably a career best – saw the American home.
We have 23 matches on the card for Monday and hopefully some sort of order will be restored for punters today.
Tomas Berdych vs Yoshihito Nishioka
This 10:00 start should prove to be a profitable one for short-priced punters, with Berdych proving surprisingly reliable as a 1.01 to 1.10 favourite of late.
The Berdman is 64-3 in his career at that price and hasn’t lost one since the 2012 Olympics, with a 31-2 record over best-of-five sets, and 11 of the last 14 of those have been 3-0 wins for the Czech.
Only once in the last six years has Berdych lost to a player ranked 140 or lower and that was to Stephane Robert here in Paris in a five setter back in 2011 and it would be nothing less than stunning if he were to lose this one.
Nishioka is a tidy young player, but he lacks any real weapons at this level, and this will be only his second appearance in the main draw of a major after injury forced him to retire in his maiden slam match in New York last year.
There are several options for favourite backers here, with the 3-0 to Berdych at 1.26 a good option or the Czech can be combined with Fernando Verdasco and Pablo Cuevas to make a 1.24 treble.
Verdasco has lost only three of 26 matches on clay against players ranked 140+ such as Taro Daniel and one of those was over a decade ago, while Cuevas has beaten Sam Groth on hard and should have few issues with the Aussie on clay.
Federico Delbonis vs Juan Monaco
I’m happy to take the odds-against on Delbonis here against his fellow Argentine Monaco, who has done little on this clay swing to justify a quote of 1.73 against the in-form Delbonis.
Monaco has made only one quarter final in five tournaments on clay this spring and was easily beaten by Leo Mayer in Nice last week, while Delbonis played some great stuff last week in Geneva.
Delbonis was a deserved winner against Stan Wawrinka and probably should have made the final in Switzerland and he won his only match on clay against Monaco very comfortably last season.
True, Monaco was far from his best last year, but the heavier ground strokes and bigger serve of Delbonis should make it easier for him to hit winners in these slow conditions.
Monaco has lost in either the first or second round in Paris in six of his last seven visits to the French Open and I’d perhaps have Delbonis as slight favourite for this 10:00 start.
There are numerous options for long shots on Monday, with my short list comprising Radek Stepanek, Lucas Pouille, Luca Vanni, Andrey Golubev, Steve Darcis, Ruben Bemelmans and Andreas Haider-Maurer all holding good chances as underdogs.
I also wouldn’t be too keen on the 1.77 on David Goffin beating Filip Krajinovic in straight sets, with the Belgian having only won three of his 19 grand slam matches by three sets to love.
But I’m going to plump for a double that would pay 5.80 if successful and it involves Pouille, who seems to love the big stage, and Vanni, who has a great chance of beating Bernard Tomic.
Pouille has nothing to lose against Gilles Simon, who has been struggling with a neck injury and the underdog looks a decent punt at 2.60 to win the opening set against the struggling Gillou.
It does seem as if the younger Frenchman plays his best tennis against the big names, with a win over Fabio Fognini, a very decent showing against Federer, and a five setter against Gael Monfils on his CV.
He’s likely to start fast and could nick the opener while Simon warms up his aching body.
Vanni has already beaten Tomic on clay once this season and with the Aussie retiring in Nice with a virus last week and having won only one of seven matches on clay this season and one of six here at the French Open the Italian is a lively underdog.
Sure thing: Back Berdych, Verdasco and Cuevas at 1.24
Value bet: Back Delbonis to beat Monaco at 2.08
Long shot: Back Pouille to win set one and Vanni to beat Tomic at 5.80