French Open Betting: Djokovic to expose Muller's clay limitations

The second round of the 2015 French Open completes on Thursday after a day of stunning results, surprises, shocks and high jinks in Paris on Wednesday.

We had crowd violence and Fabio Fognini strops out on Court 7, while Ernests Gulbis could be seen smashing racquets and sliding down the rankings during a loss to Nicolas Mahut.

That was on top of defeats for short-priced sorts Simona Halep, Fernando Verdasco, Fabio Fognini, Roberto Bautista-Agut, and Juan Monaco, as well as Gulbis.

So, it wasn’t easy picking a cert yesterday, as Monaco showed by failing to take any of his 11 break point opportunities against a peak Teimuraz Gabashvili, who dumped Pico out in straight sets.

There was better news – just about – from my headline pick of the day when Pablo Cuevas held off an astonishing 20 of 22 break points to best Dominic Thiem in four very tight sets.

We got a decent run from long shot Thomaz Bellucci as set one underdog, but Kei Nishikori was too good in the end for the Brazilian, who didn’t help his cause by serving poorly at the wrong times.

Andy Murray vs Joao Sousa

There are a few options around for really short-priced backers today and they include Rafa Nadal, David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet, Novak Djokovic, Marin Cilic and perhaps the best of all, which is Murray.

The Scot faces what will be a jaded Joao Sousa after the Portuguese racked up 15 sets on clay in the last 10 days, while Murray has played three in the last 15 days.

Added to that there’s the match-up issue for Sousa that has seen him lose all 12 sets against Murray in five matches and you’re looking at a tall order for the world number 44.

He might point to the fact that all five prior meetings came on hard courts, but Murray’s form so far on the red dirt in 2015 surely negates that and his more aggressive approach this clay swing could spell trouble for Sousa.

Sousa will have to work mighty hard to win his service games here, with Murray having broken him 12 times in the five sets they’ve contested in 2015, and now that he’s attacking more on return it’s tough to see him turning that around.

The 1.34 on Murray winning in three sets looks decent here and will be my ‘sure thing’ for Thursday.

Kevin Anderson vs Yen-Hsun Lu

One short-priced favourite who looks like he could struggle more than most is Anderson, who has had plenty of problems with Lu in the past and although the latter is hardly a clay court god, neither is Anderson.

Indeed, of his last 18 completed matches on clay Anderson has won only three in straight sets, and they were against weak opposition.

One was against Axel Michon here last year, another against veteran Stephane Robert also here last year, and the other was Vasek Pospisil, who has only won one match ever on clay at main level.

In three meetings on his favoured hard courts Anderson is yet to beat Lu in straight sets, with Lu winning two of their career clashes, the most recent at Delray Beach this season.

Lu is usually written off when playing on clay by the layers and by opponents, but he has beaten Verdasco, Andreas Seppi, Federico Delbonis, and Simone Bolelli on the red dirt in the last few years.

That is decent and Anderson’s mediocre record of 21-20 against the top-65 on clay hardly inspires punters to rush out and back him at 1.10 here.

The South African probably will win this, but the over 32.5 games looks the one here at 1.98 with Anderson down in 64th place (out of 69) in return games won on clay in 2014 and in 79th place so far this season.

My long shot for Thursday is to rely on the irregular talents of Marin Cilic to record a quick victory over Andrea Arnaboldi doubled with Novak Djokovic to land the handicap over Gilles Muller.

Cilic has lost only one of his last 22 matches on clay against players ranked outside the top-100 and the one was to Pablo Andujar, who had slipped down the rankings at the time.

Arnaboldi looked pretty much cooked against James Duckworth in round one, but came back from two sets and a match point down in a four-hour marathon that will surely leave the Italian struggling today.

Our US Open champion found some form from somewhere against Robin Haase in round one after an awful showing in Geneva and if he serves as well again the Croatian should have much too much for Arnaboldi and under 29.5 games seems like good value at 1.92.

Djokovic covered a 9.5 game handicap against an in-form and determined leftie in Jarkko Nieminen on Tuesday and an opponent who struggles on the clay like Gilles Muller appears to be a perfect match for the Serb.

The Luxembourger just about crept past an ailing Paulo Lorenzi in a two-day five setter yesterday, but his big serve and net rushing tactics are surely doomed to failure in slow conditions here on the clay of Paris.

Djokovic should be able to pick Muller off at will and the latter’s lack of consistency from the back of the court won’t help the big man out either.

Best Bets
Sure thing: Back Murray to beat Sousa 3-0 at 1.34
Value bet: Back over 32.5 games in Anderson/Lu at 1.98
Long shot: Back under 29.5 games in Cilic/Arnaboldi and Djokovic -9.5 games in a double at 3.30