Round one action continues at the Indian Wells Masters on Friday evening, with matches again starting at 19:00 UK time. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns to preview the action, after having an excellent start to the campaign yesterday...
"In the last six months, Troicki’s level has dropped off a cliff, breaking opponents a mere 14.7% of the time, and this coincides with the birth of his son - it is more than possible that off-court distractions have taken their toll on the Serb."
Several winners get our Indian Wells campaign off to a strong start
With another 16 men's singles matches on the card tonight, a repeat of the successes of yesterday would be extremely welcome, after Ivo Karlovic and Max Marterer combined to play a first-set tiebreak at odds-against, while Evgeny Donskoy - our other selection - nicked a final set tiebreak to oust countryman Karen Khachanov, recommended at a generous [3.75].
In addition, I also made the point that the anticipated slow conditions in California would suit clay courters - or not suit serve-orientated players with a preference to quick courts - more than the typical hard court event, and this was rubber-stamped with the discussed exits of both Marius Copil, at the hands of Peter Polansky, and Ryan Harrison, with Federico Delbonis despatching the home favourite. Dusan Lajovic, who got the better of Lukas Lacko in straight sets, also fits this bill.
Kukushkin favoured in battle of 'least worst'
In tonight's action, there are a number of intriguing clashes, and to start my run-down of these, there's a battle which can realistically be described as 'who can be the least worst', with Michael Kukushkin taking on Mischa Zverev, and the Exchange market is finding it difficult to split the duo, with Kukushkin a narrow [1.86] market favourite.
Zverev's level this season has been absurdly bad, with him winning 55.4% of service points and 31.8% on return (combined 87.2%) which isn't even of a decent Challenger Tour level. With this in mind, it's unsurprising that he's only won one of seven main tour matches in 2018. Kukushkin, who has played three himself, is yet to open his win account, and if it wasn't for some injury question marks, I'd be keen to look at the Kazakh veteran as a marginal favourite.
The Colonel a heavy underdog against Sousa
Both Mikhail Youzhny and Joao Sousa have also been poor so far this season, both winning just 33% of their matches, but Sousa does have the better data in his sample - his issues have largely stemmed from an inability to save break points on serve, saving a mere 48.9% (from a solid 66.7% of service points won) so far. This will almost certainly correct itself in the short or medium term, and goes some way to establishing a reason why the market has him at a short-looking [1.61] to get past The Colonel tonight.
Nikoloz Basilashvili looks a little generously priced at [2.56] to defeat Tennys Sandgren, but with both players capable of exhibiting a wide contrast of levels, and the Georgian, Basilashvili, likely to prefer quicker conditions, I'll look at the final match of my assessment for tonight's recommendation.
Fucsovics with a nice edge over dismal Troicki
This sees Marton Fucsovics as a narrow [1.78] favourite to dispose of Viktor Troicki, and my model priced the Hungarian as a stronger favourite, at around [1.40]. In the last six months, Troicki's level has dropped off a cliff, breaking opponents a mere 14.7% of the time, and this coincides with the birth of his son - it is more than possible that off-court distractions have taken their toll on the Serb - and it's also worth noting he's struggled in recent months when a pre-match underdog as well, not being able to increase his level.
Fucsovics, on the other hand, has stepped up to the main tour in his ten appearances in this time period, winning six matches, and recording an impressive 105.0% combined service/return points won percentage. While this level flatters him, he should be quite capable of seeing off an off-colour Troicki this evening.
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