Round one of the 2021 BNP Paribas Open concludes on Friday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, with the remaining 16 matches in-play on day two of the main draw.
“I’ve lost every time we’ve played since we were 10 years old…” Alexei Popyrin told the five people in the crowd after beating Miomir Kecmanovic on Thursday and that kind of set the tone for the opening day of Indian Wells for me.
Three of the first four matches to finish on day one of the main draw went the way of the underdog and I managed to back the only one that lost, but we did find a 2.75 winner in Guido Pella, so it wasn’t a total disaster, on a day that ended up being heavily in favour of the betting favourites.
We’re expecting a cooler day on Friday, with temperatures of around 25C and with a bit more wind around of 13mph speeds at times, so nothing majorly problematic if that forecast is correct.
Albert Ramos has only ever lost here to top-50 ranked opponents and five of his seven losses have come against top-20 opposition.
Today, he looks to extend that sequence when he faces the out of sorts Lorenzo Musetti, who’s lost nine of his last 11 matches and hasn’t beaten a top-150 ranked player since the French Open.
Last week in Sofia he was beaten by number 226 Dimitar Kuzmanov, so this clash with Ramos looks tough for a Musetti currently miles away from his best form.
Adrian Mannarino let us down rather last week in Sofia when he was beaten in round one by Gianluca Mager and it would be pretty typical if Manna came back the next week in unsuitably slow conditions (this is scheduled for around 8pm local time) and beat Andy Murray as a 3.50 chance.
And it’s hard to rule it out completely, with Murray’s level fluctuating match-by-match these days, but Manna will need a huge improvement on last week to make it happen and he’s barely played since getting injured at Wimbledon, so he’s lacking matches.
Two players who both need a win are Jan-Lennard Struff and Daniel Elahi Galan, with the pair combining for just five wins from their last 24 matches (Struff is 2-10 win/loss and Elahi Galan 3-9).
So, both are in poor form, but it’s actually the Colombian that’s posted slightly the better numbers in the last 12 months at main level on outdoor hard: 81% holds and 17% breaks (98 total) compared to the 79% holds and 18% breaks (97 total) of Struff.
The German is 4-4 win/loss at Indian Wells and was 1-3 before a 2019 effort that saw him beat Alexander Zverev and make the last-16.
Elahi Galan has never played Indian Wells before, but with Struff he’s either hitting his spots and overpowering the opposition or he’s misfiring and losing, so it’s often feast or famine with the German.
Lately it’s been famine and on their hard court stats of the last 12 months and the conditions at Indian Wells that often play into the hands of the clay courters I don’t mind Elahi Galan at around 3.0.
We profited with a handy 2.75 winner last week in Sofia when we backed James Duckworth against Emil Ruusuvuori and it paid off despite Duckworth’s awful start.
That was a classic Ruusuvuori match in many ways, with the Finn losing a match he looked the better player in and his level does dip alarmingly at times, making him difficult to back with much confidence.
Despite his high-risk, hit or miss approach, the Finn has actually won 15 of his 19 main level matches on outdoor hard when priced up as favourite, which did surprise me a little bit.
We risked Ruusuvuori’s opponent, Dominik Koepfer, last week and he was rather poor against an admittedly in-form Cam Norrie and I’m slightly tempted to back him again, but it could well be too slow for Koepfer here at Indian Wells.
Denis Kudla is 3-8 win/loss at Indian Wells and you would have thought that Kudla would prefer a quicker, lower bouncing surface to play his brand of tennis, so maybe Alejandro Tabilo needs to go on the shortlist today.
He qualified nicely, beating Michael Mmoh and Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets and not being broken in any of his 18 service games, while Kudla was beaten in qualies of San Diego last week by Federico Gaio (then lost when badly prepared as a lucky loser to Andy Murray).
Kudla is 4-13 win/loss in his main level career against left-handers, so I don’t mind having a small interest in Tabilo here at 2.35 (Betfair).
It occurs to me that Brandon Nakashima is much better with pace coming at him, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up in a bit of a grind in these conditions against Federico Coria.
It’s hard to see Coria winning the match given his struggles away from the clay, but here at Indian Wells he might make it close against Nakashima in what will be an evening match.
As might Gianluca Mager against Marton Fucsovics, with the Italian having played really well last week on indoor hard in Sofia, where he beat Mannarino and Kecmanovic before losing to Gael Monfils.
Mager was serving very well in Sofia and the slow conditions here at Indian Wells may well help him to test out the often-suspect Fucsovics, who has only won one match since making the quarter finals of Wimbledon.
He lost to Andreas Seppi at the US Open and he’s yet to go well at Indian Wells, with a 1-3 record here so far and he’s a player who I’d prefer on a slicker surface than this.
If he carries on in the manner that he did in Sofia the Italian has a decent chance of at least making this competitive in what should be suitable conditions in the evening (probably around 8pm local time).
I wouldn’t be surprised, either, to see Pablo Andujar roll back the years and take down Aleksandar Vukic as underdog in their clash on Stadium 5 at (not before) 6pm local time when conditions will be pretty slow.
Andujar did say a little while ago that this will be his last season and he’s still capable of beating decent players.
He took out Mikhail Kukushkin and Philipp Kohlschreiber at the US Open and didn’t play badly against Daniil Medvedev either and you’d imagine that he’ll be really up for this (probable) one last go at a tournament as prestigious as Indian Wells.
Vukic has been playing well at Challenger level lately, hence the prices today, but he’s 1-5 at main level, with the one win coming over the virtually retired Yen Hsun Lu (ranked 1008), so he’ll be nervous today.
But, I think the best value today lies with the clay courters Elahi Galan, Tabilo and Mager, so I’ll take those three for small stakes.
0.5 points win Elahi Galan to beat Struff at 3.0 (generally)
0.5 points win Tabilo to beat Kudla at 2.35 (Betfair)
0.5 points win Mager to beat Fucsovics at 3.35 (SBK)