Well it has been good to go on a solid little run over the weeks since the Australian Open. Looking for the trend to continue this week, and hoping to start the week off by backing a bit of value given the current situations players find themselves in.
Match Number 1: Ernests Gulbis vs Jarkko Nieminen
Location: Marseille, France
Time: 3rd up on Centre Court (play starts 9pm AEDST)
In terms of popularity of late, you would have most likely heard of Nieminen far more than Gulbis of late. There are a few reasons I am focusing on this match, and why I am backing Gulbis.
Winning form isn’t necessarily always considered good form. It is amazing how often you see a player dominate and make a final or semi final one week, to only be bundled out the next week by a lowly ranked opponent. If they do advance deep into the second week tournament, this fatigue is only compounded. That is, of course, if the player decides to even back up the third week and play.
This is the exact situation Nieminen is in this week in Marseille. He made the semi finals in Montpellier, defeating Serra (rank 144), Davydenko (37) and Stakhovsky (105), before losing to Richard Gasquet.
He then hopped over to Rotterdam and backed up, defeating Goffin (49) and Bachinger (125) before falling to Del Potro 6-3 6-4.
So seven matches have been played in the last two weeks and now Nieminen is backing up against in Marseille. Not many players attempt this. Gasquet is, however he bombed out early in Rotterdam. Llodra pulled out last week to set himself for Marseille. Paire retired round 1. Youhzny pulled out Rd 1 last week after going deep the week before. It happens. It’s common.
Gulbis is fresh. An interesting interview with Gulbis last week gave us a bit of insight into his off-season. Gulbis has all the talent in the world, it is the application that has been missing. Besides admitting he liked Rotterdam as they legalise marijuana (can’t have it anyway due to drug testing), he gave a very honest account of himself.
Gulbis scrapped plans to go to Australia due to his ranking. He didn’t see the point of flying half way across the world to potentially be knocked out in qualifying. Instead, he stayed home and got an extra month of training in. He has also claimed to have kicked some habits that make high level performance difficult. He stated he has given up smoking, drinking and staying up late, with the hope of breaking back into the top 20 this year. Yes, it is a big goal considering his current ranking, but in his case, half the battle is applying himself.
Both players have played similar opponents in the last fortnight. They have both played Stakhovsky (Nieminen won in 3rd set tiebreak, Gulbis won 6-3 6-4), and Del Potro (Nieminen lost 3-6 4-6, Gulbis 6-7 3-6). Casting an eye over the highlights, Gulbis appeared to play a higher quality of tennis vs Del Potro.
Trends of the Past
Casting an eye over 2012, it appears Nieminen had a rollercoaster year. After winning ATP Sydney, Nieminen backed up the next week for the Australian Open, having to retire hurt trailing 4-6 2-4. He then undertook the exact tournament swing he has this year. He went Montpellier -> QF, Rotterdam -> QF and Marseille -> Rd 1 loss to Roger-Vasselin 2-6 6-7. Moving forward in the hardcourt year, Nieminen made the SF in Bangkok, before backing up days later to be bundled out in Tokyo by Tommy Robredo 2-6 4-6. So outside of Rotterdam last year (and this), he struggles to back up.
Yes, Nieminen has had a solid start to the year. To be honest though, he hasn’t had any great wins outside of defeating Tommy Haas, who at this point of his career prefers best of 3 sets to the best of 5 they battled for in Australia. He has also found himself in 3 set struggles against players who are far less talented than Gulbis.
There is a chance Gulbis will make me look like a fool for backing him, but I can’t ignore the situations of the players. Although it is going back years ago, Gulbis holds a 3-0 head to head record, with 2 of those on hardcourt.
Gulbis really impressed me vs Del Potro. He will get more than his fair share of opportunities on the serve of Nieminen. If he serves like he did in Rotterdam, and at a similar percentage, I think he wins this.
Suggested Bet: Ernests Gulbis h2h at $2 at Betfair
Match Number 2: Benjamin Becker vs Feliciano Lopez
Location: ATP Memphis
Time: 4th match on Grandstand (Play starts on court at 3am AEDST)
Not going to beat around the bush with this one. I like Becker here for a few reasons. Becker has been playing decent, consistent tennis at the moment. He is 6-4 in his last 10 indoor hardcourt tournaments, and 32-18 across his last 50 hardcourt matches. He finished 2012 off with an indoor hardcourt Challenger title in Italy, then backed up to make the Challenger final in Finland. He also made the Semi Final here in Memphis last year, and there is nothing like defending rankings points to keep a player motivated.
Lopez has gone 3-7 in his last 10 indoor hardcourt matches, and 23-27 in his last 50. His losses on indoor hardcourt in 2012 were to Ramos (rank 48), Querrey (22), Stakhovsky (92), Sijsling (97), Henri-Mathieu (733, but was on the comeback from injury), and Rufin (209).
Not only is Becker the better player on indoor hardcourt, he is also the player with more match practice under his belt. Lopez has not played since the Australian Open, having picked up a stomach injury playing in the doubles. Before picking up the injury, Lopez went on a 2-7 run from Mid-October 2012.
I like Becker to get the win here, and the money is coming for him.
Suggested Bet: Benjamin Becker H2H at around $1.95 on Betfair.
Tuesday Night Multi
I think there are a few $1.20 to $1.50 shots overnight who represent a bit of value. Each leg is listed below, with a little bit of reasoning behind making it a play.
Leg: Llodra to defeat Goffin – Don’t read too much into Llodra withdrawing last week in Rotterdam. He went deep into the Montpellier tournament, and I would suggest would have been happy to stay in his home country of France in preparation for Marseille. Also, Goffin is yet to beat a top 100 player this year, and struggles against left handers. Added to this, Llodra is an incredibly solid indoor hardcourt player.
Leg: Paire to defeat Devvarman – Paire is on a similar page to Llodra. Although he went to Rotterdam, he retired round 1 due to general fatigue. Back in France, I think he gets the job done here quite comfortably vs Devarrman.
Leg: Monfils to defeat Granollers – This match is well and truly on the racquet of Monfils. Indoor hardcourt, and in France, favours Monfils. I don’t think Granollers has the weapons to match it here with Monfils.
Leg: Hewitt to defeat Lu – Hewitt was impressive against Querrey last week, going down in a 3rd set tiebreak. Lu hasn’t played since withdrawing from an ITF tournament (the level below challenger, which is the level below Challenger, which is the level below ATP). We last saw Lu at the Australian Open vs Hewitt. I saw him in person, and was orginially impressed, however he lacked composure in key moments. I like Hewitt here.
Multi: Llodra/Paire/Monfils/Hewitt at $3.37 at Betfair
That is all for tonight. Don’t hesitate to get in contact with me regarding advice about any matches on offer, or if you are after alternate multi legs.