Tuesday at the Western and Southern Masters was a good day for this column, with three winning selections from four.
It was almost a perfect day, with Alex Bogomolov Jr providing a nice odds-against winner and Tommy Haas coming back to beat David Nalbandian in a bruising three-hour marathon.
Only a truly woeful display of serving from Santiago Giraldo let me down after Mardy Fish had cruised past Feli Lopez.
Giraldo managed to get just four first serves in play in the entire second set of his shock defeat to Carlos Berlocq and you’re not going to win many matches on a hard court with those numbers.
Elsewhere, I highlighted that Andy Roddick was worth avoiding at a very short price and so it proved, as a supposedly injured Roddick went down in two to Jeremy Chardy.
It wasn’t a good day if you were on the overs, with 10 of 12 matches being decided in straight sets and today sees the entrance to the Lindner Family Tennis Centre of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who are all in second round action.
Of the 16 men’s second round matches that took place in Cincy last year, only one was an upset and that was Bogomolov Jr’s win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is missing from the draw this year after walking into a fire hydrant.
Every other favourite, apart from Philipp Kohlschreiber, who was a narrow underdog to Lopez, was successful making 14 of 16 winning favourites in the second round 12 months ago.
It was the same in 2010, with 14 of 16 winning, so recent history would suggest that today is a good day to get on the favourites.
That said, this year is slightly different, as the Olympics has added a tournament to the schedule meaning that players are arriving here more fatigued than usual, so I won’t be investing in either Murray or Juan Martin Del Potro at short prices today for that reason.
Under different circumstances I would give Haas a decent shot against Delpo, but he looked weary early on against Nalbandian yesterday and I can’t see him being able to last the distance today after a lot of matches lately.
I’m tempted by Florian Mayer’s price against Nikolay Davydenko, but the German’s win over Fabio Fognini was his first ever in the main draw in Cincy, which puts me off.
A better bet could turn out to be Denis Istomin to beat Jeremy Chardy at odds of around 1.52
The Frenchman is having a decent spell at the moment, but it’s all about the match-up and he struggles against consistent types like Istomin.
In these fairly quick conditions the ball does tend to fly and when Chardy goes for those flashy winners here it could be ‘attention all pockets’ to borrow a snooker phrase.
Istomin hammered Chardy in their only meeting to date and as ever with him it’s a case of whether you think he’ll hit more winners than errors and despite the fact that this is Istomin’s first game on a hard court for some time, he should be too solid for Chardy.
My second selection today is for the old warrior Lleyton Hewitt to continue his good form lately by beating Viktor Troicki.
Despite having various metal plates in his toes, Hewitt can still move about well enough to force errors from the likes of Troicki.
His counterpunching game suits the quickish conditions in Cincy and in a battle of mental toughness it’s not really a contest between the Aussie and the Serb.
When Hewitt’s body allows him to, which isn’t often these days, he can still be a match for many in the top-50, as Mikhail Youzhny found out in the previous round and Troicki is going to have to have a day where he finds plenty of winners.
I didn’t see much evidence of that in his narrow first round win over Ivan Dodig and although Troicki beat Hewitt on a hard court back in January, Rusty wasn’t in decent nick at that time and he should turn the tables today.
For an accumulator today, I like Mardy Fish, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic, which pays 1.72.
Best Bets: Back Istomin to beat Chardy at 1.52; Back Hewitt to beat Troicki at 1.60; Back Fish, Nishikori and Cilic in a treble at 1.72.