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It was a good start to the new season for this column last week with two winners from three suggested match bets, while the other one lost from a great position in-play.
However, with a limited coupon to look at given the time difference with Australia, I’m frankly struggling to find a great deal of value in either Adelaide or Auckland, this week’s two pre-Australian Open stops on the ATP Tour.
However, I do like the chance of a first-set tie-break in this contest between two big servers, who will be competing in fairly fast conditions in Adelaide.
When these two met on grass in Halle last season, there were two tie-breaks in a three-set Huesler victory.
And so far this season, both men have again put up good serving numbers.
Each represented their country last week at the United Cup and both gave up their own delivery just once in two matches.
There’s enough there for me to think that serve will hold sway early on in this contest and over 12.5 games in the first set is the bet at +190 with FanDuel.
With underdog value thin on the ground, I’m turning to two favorites and putting them in a parlay for my other bet this week.
I’ll start it by backing rising American star Shelton to beat clay specialist Baez in Auckland.
Baez lost his season-opener in Pune last week, falling to Pedro Martinez, and that extended his awful run to 15 defeats in his last 16 matches, one which stretches back to July.
On hardcourts, Baez won just three of 18 at tour level in 2022 and Shelton’s game looks better suited to courts which were on the speedy side of average when the Greenset surface was used for the only previous time in 2020 – the fact Ugo Humbert won that week says much.
There’s also the real danger (for Baez) that the match gets moved indoors – much of last week’s WTA tournament in Auckland was played inside due to persistent rain and the forecast for the coming days is not good.
An indoor match would favor Shelton even more – he finished 2022 with three successive Challenger titles on indoor hardcourts.
Completing the parlay is Frenchman Halys, a player who caught the eye by seriously testing eventual champion Novak Djokovic in Adelaide last week.
He did end up losing 7-6 7-6 but should take plenty out of that match, as well as a comfortable first-round win over local lad Jordan Thompson.
Molcan, meanwhile, opened his season with a miserable 6-2 6-4 defeat to Laslo Djere, a result which really isn’t up to much.
Halys won two Challengers on indoor hard last season so he’s also looking good if matches get moved indoors due to the weather issues the New Zealand venue has suffered.
Molcan would be more at home on clay and so I’ll happily couple Halys up with Shelton in a parlay, the best odds for which are +110 with BetMGM.
The top four seeds in each event this week get byes to the second round, so which of them could be vulnerable to an early exit against a player who has already won at least one match at the venue?
Well, two stand out and both play in Adelaide.
Top seed Andrey Rublev lost his opener last week in the same city to Roberto Bautista Agut and it’s by no means certain he’ll notch his first win of 2023 this week.
The Russian will face Thanasi Kokkinakis or Alexei Popyrin. Both are Australian wild cards who have good credentials for an upset.
Kokkinakis is the defending champion at this event, while Popyrin made the quarter-finals of last week’s tournament in Adelaide, winning four matches in total, including one against Rublev’s top-10 colleague, Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Second seed Pablo Carreno Busta might also have an early battle on his hands.
That will be against a qualifier so it’s impossible to be confident about any upset but what we do know is that the Spaniard had an injury issue at last week’s United Cup and duly didn’t play for Spain. He had been due to be their second singles player.
With the uncertainty in Auckland about whether they will play outdoors or indoors, it looks wise to focus on the Adelaide event in terms of a futures wager.
I have a couple of suggestions.
From those towards the top of the market, Roberto Bautista Agut will have his backers at +850 (FanDuel).
Four of his 11 ATP titles have been won the week before a Grand Slam and so he’s proven he’s not one for giving a below-par effort – it would be no surprise to see a few withdraw with a niggle and head off to Melbourne a few days early.
He beat Andrey Rublev at this venue last week but then lost a tight clash with eventual runner-up Seb Korda.
For those who like a long shot, consider Jason Kubler.
The Australian went 2-0 at last week’s United Cup, one of his wins being against Briton Dan Evans.
He’ll be full of confidence after that effort took him to a career-high in the rankings and the Aussie doesn’t have a bad draw this week.
Kubler played well on faster surfaces last season, his results including a last-16 appearance at Wimbledon and a semi-final showing at a 250 event (the same level as this) in Newport.
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Andy is a sports journalist of more than 20 years’ experience and is a former betting editor of the UK-based website, Sporting Life. He has specialized in tennis for many years, previewing hundreds of ATP Tour events and reporting from tournaments such as the ATP Finals and Davis Cup final. Andy has also covered numerous other sports, with a particular interest in soccer and cricket.More info on Andy Schooler
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