The second major of the 2015 tennis season begins on Sunday with 16 round one men’s singles matches scheduled for day one of the French Open.
Conditions are said to be on the slow side by players and coaches who have been practising in Paris in recent days, with heavy tennis balls and coolish temperatures likely to make that the case.
In last year’s first round in the men’s singles there were shocks for the likes of Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori at very short prices and in total (not including set one retirements) there were just six underdog winners.
Ernests Gulbis vs Igor Sijsling
This 14:00 approx. start surely is unmissable viewing, with Gulbis trying to arrest what would be a disastrous slide down the rankings, which would be the case if he lost this one to Sijsling.
Defending semi final points from last year the Latvian has been little better than terrible in most of his matches this season and the expected revival simply hasn’t happened – so far.
It needs to start soon, as he would be out of the top-100 with a loss here and it is likely to be a nervy affair between two players low on confidence and looking for a way back to their best form.
Sijsling has been in a slump for some time, but he did beat Alexander Zverev the number two seed in qualies and that’s better form than anything Ernie has produced in 2015.
I wouldn’t have a brass farthing on Gulbis at 1.33 here and Sijsling could well be a bit of value, but the over 36.5 total games looks very good here at 1.83.
Gulbis has won one match in his last 17 stretching back to October last year in straight sets and he’d probably need to do that today for this match to go unders.
The Dutchman has won only one of his last 16 completed matches at tour level in straight sets in a run that goes back to August, so a 3-0 win to either seems unlikely.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez vs Steve Johnson
The American has been playing some decent stuff on the clay this season without much in the way of success and that’s likely to be the case agin in this 16:00 approx. UK time clash with the in-form Spaniard.
GGL is in good nick after winning Bucharest on the clay and he backed that up in Rome with wins over Marin Cilic and Alexandr Dolgopolov before running into the brick wall of David Ferrer.
Garcia-Lopez stunned Wawrinka as a big underdog in round one here a year ago and went on to make the last-16 before falling to Gael Monfils and it’s hard to see Johnson winning three sets against him here.
The American is yet to better the second round on clay at main level and he’s yet to beat a Spaniard on clay or win as an underdog of 3.0 or bigger on clay.
GGL has a 7-1 record on clay as a 1.20 to 1.30 favourite on clay, with the only loss being to an American here at the French Open to Jack Sock in 2013. Hopefully lightning won’t strike twice.
As for big-priced punts today none of the big outsiders appeal that much, but Maxi Gonzalez could go well, as could Sijsling, but I prefer an overs treble on day one.
Gonzalez can easily make things tough for Dusan Lajovic and four sets or more seems likely there, while Marcel Granollers has never won a French Open singles match in straight sets in 14 tries, and Mikhail Youzhny looks a shaky favourite against Damir Dzumhur.
The Russian has little left to offer, seemingly, and Dzumhur can surely take Youzhny past the 38.5 mark and the treble would pay 6.82.
Sure thing: Back Garcia-Lopez to beat Johnson at 1.25
Value bet: Back over 36.5 total games in Gulbis/Sijsling at 1.83
Long shot: Back overs in Lajovic, Youzhny and Granollers at 6.82