Round one of the Apia International and ASB Classic completes on Tuesday, with a dozen matches scheduled across our two ATP 250 tournaments in week two.
It was a nice start to the week on Monday, with the Matthew Barton vs Kyle Edmund match going pretty much as I suspected it might and the only annoyance there was that I didn’t go with the Barton win, rather the set one overs.
Jiri Vesely and Horacio Zeballos also just went past the 9.5 games in set one in Auckland, so we enjoyed a winner there too.
Yen-Hsun Lu vs Karen Khachanov
Lu is generally a player to keep and eye on the week ahead of majors, with the man from Chinese Taipei often going deep in such weeks, but I expect the up and coming Khachanov to win this one.
Lu made the final here in Auckland in 2014 and lost to John Isner in a couple of tie breaks, and he’s also a semi finalist in Winston-Salem, which is held the week before the US Open and he’s made at least the quarters there the last three years.
He’s also performed well on grass prior to Wimbledon, so he’s not here just for the match time, but Khachanov should have too many weapons for Lu, who may well lose to a young Russian for the second straight week.
Daniil Medvedev took Lu down in straight sets last week in Chennai and for me Khachanov is the better player of the two young Russians, with Khachanov holding some great numbers over the last year.
Khachanov has held serve 90% of the time and broken 22.5% of the time on outdoor hard at main level this past year and he’s won 64% of his main level hard court matches in the last four months or so.
Winning Chengdu was the breakthrough for him and only a poor loss to Damir Dzumhur in Moscow looks bad on his record in his last 14 main level hard court matches.
And that loss to Dzumhur was the result of several bad chokes from Khachanov, who had numerous chances to win it, yet lost from 1.01 in-play.
Khachanov’s last two defeats have come in four tie breaks against Ivo Karlovic and he won’t be facing anything like that sort of match today against Lu, who struggles to break serve at this level.
Lu breaks only 18.3% of the time at this level on outdoor hard in the past year and while his stats are decent overall (82.8% holds) he's getting a bit long in the tooth now at 33 and he's won only three of his last-14 matches against top-60 ranked opposition and I’m happy with a price of 1.85 on Khachanov in this one.
Adrian Mannarino vs Marcos Baghdatis
Mannarino is a former finalist here in Auckland and he won the Noumea Challenger in his usual pre-season warm-up, but I can’t have him as a 1.64 favourite against Baghdatis in this 05:30 (approx.) UK time clash at the ASB Classic.
The fact that this match has been given top billing on Centre Court suggests that Baggy has overcome the ankle injury that saw him retire against Radek Stepanek last week in Doha, as does the fact that he played doubles the day after.
And given that Baghdatis has a very good record against left-handers and has proven winning form in this week of the season I can only assume the layers are going with Mannarino’s win over the Cypriot in their one prior meeting.
That meeting was on indoor hard back in 2014 and I wouldn’t put much value on one match in any case, so I’m a bit at a loss to understand the pricing here.
Since losing that match to Mannarino Baghdatis has won 14 of his last 18 matches against lefties and having compiled a 10-2 record in Sydney he’s no stranger to playing well early in the season.
The value of Mannarino’s win in New Caledonia is highly questionable, with his highest ranked opponent that week being number 162 Kenny De Schepper and the Frenchman has won only two of his last-13 matches at main level.
The service hold/break stats don’t suggest anything other than Baghdatis has edge either, with Mannarino having a total of 97.4 in the last year on outdoor hard at main level compared with the 100.3 of the Cypriot.
All told there looks to be a bit of value on Baghdatis in this one.
1 point win Khachanov to beat Lu at 1.85
1 point win Baghdatis to beat Mannarino at 2.25