The humidity in Cincinnati blew a few fuses yesterday in what was a bizarre opening to the tournament, event by Masters Series standards.
The sweat factor went up while the quality of some players’ displays dropped like a stone, not least the pathetic effort that we witnessed from Alex Dolgopolov that denied my double.
The Ukrainian was simply awful against Nikolay Davydenko and had a complete meltdown in the heat, coughing up 27 unforced errors in 14 games of a 52 minute 6-1, 6-1 thrashing.
Robin Haase also lost his cool and was chuntering away to himself and lobbing his racquet around early on in a performance riddled with shanks and mishits against Andreas Seppi.
It was generally a strange day, with plenty of favourites going down, notably Dolgopolov, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Mikhail Youzhny, Marinko Matosevic, and Julien Benneteau all losing at odds-on.
Some things don’t change though and Donald Young made it 17 defeats in a row against Jesse Levine and he moves ever closer to Vinny Spadea’s record of consecutive losses.
There were six odds-against winners in the entire first round at the Western and Southern Masters 12 months ago and we had five yesterday, so in theory we should have more of a predictable day today.
The weather is cooler than it usually is here, but with that high humidity that sends everyone bonkers, so it should be another watchable day’s tennis.
If heat-induced meltdowns are your thing then there’s every chance of one in today’s early match, which is another popcorn tennis showdown between two of the game’s veterans in Tommy Haas and David Nalbandian.
This pair of former top-three ranked stars met for the fourth time in Toronto last week with Haas winning again and surely only fatigue will see Tommy come up short here.
The German is playing some lights out stuff at the moment, but we might only squeeze a match or two out of him this week, as he played a lot lately.
Nalbandian hasn’t won a match since defaulting at Queen’s and he’s been pretty unlucky (or is it tennis karma) with his draws in the tournaments following that debacle.
So, this pair are at opposite ends of the form spectrum and the 4-0 head-to-head clearly favours Haas, so he has to be the bet at around 1.45
The match that takes place at the same time of 4pm in the UK between Marcel Granollers and Kei Nishikori looks trappy, with Nishikori a 1.45 shot, but his hard court form since the Australian Open has been poor, so I don’t like him at that price.
I fully expect Mardy Fish, who has a fine record here, to take down Feliciano Lopez, who has a pretty awful record in Cincy.
Feli has lost in the opening round in six of his last seven appearances here and won only three matches in the main draw in Cincy in nine years of trying.
Fish has won four of their last five meetings and Lopez has lost four of his previous five matches on hard courts, so Mardy is surely good for this one.
You would expect Sam Querrey and Andy Roddick both to win, but I wouldn’t be on either at around 1.25 the pair.
One player who will be trying to avoid another meltdown today is Alex Bogomolov Jr, whose form and on-court demeanour are both awful right now.
But despite having lost 17 of his last 20 matches he’s playing Jarkko Nieminen, who’s lost seven of his last nine and who hasn’t made it past the first round here since 2007.
The American-turned-Russian has a stack of points to defend from a last-16 spot here last year and if he ever has a chance of snapping a bad run it’s here. He wasn’t far away against Viktor Troicki last time out – the Serb’s 16 aces effectively won that match and at 2.28 it could be worth the risk.
For my double today, I’m hoping to avoid any repeats of Dolgo’s shocker yesterday and Santiago Giraldo should be a solid first leg against Carlos Berlocq.
Berlocq has a 1-16 record against top-50 ranked opponents on hard courts (yes, you’ve guessed it, the one was Ernests Gulbis) and a 0-2 record against Giraldo, who is much more effective on hard courts. Giraldo and Fish together will pay around 1.92
There’s also the option of backing the in-form Richard Gasquet at odds-against versus Milos Raonic, but he’s never done well here and I don’t trust him not to do a Dolgo after a tiring week in Toronto.
Best Bets: Back Haas to beat Nalbandian at 1.45; Back Giraldo and Fish in a double at 1.92; Back Bogomolov Jr to beat Nieminen at 2.28.