Miami Masters Day 2: Donskoy a false underdog against Bedene

Russian tennis player Evgeny Donskoy
Evgeny Donskoy is value as an underdog against Aljaz Bedene...
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First round action continues at the Miami Masters on Thursday, with matches again starting at 15:00 UK time. After going one from two last night at Crandon Park, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, checks out the value on day two...

"While Bedene's level on South American clay was indeed excellent, conditions were considerably slower even to what he's going to experience on these medium-slow hard courts, and he's always had a better record on the dirt than on hard courts, where he's only won three of 11 main tour matches in the last 12 months, and is 15-22 in the last three years."

Mixed day for Brits with Broady progressing

It was a mixed bag for our duo of British recommendations last night, with Cameron Norrie disappointing against Nicolas Jarry, but Liam Broady justifying my faith in him as an underdog, with the man from Stockport getting past Bjorn Fratangelo in straight sets.

With Kyle Edmund seeded and Andy Murray still yet to return to tour following injury, there are no Brits in action on day two, but there are some interesting matches worth discussing in our quest for profits.

Young wild cards in action on day two

I've made my feelings on wild cards quite clear in the past - I don't like them much, particularly when given to older players, players not even of Challenger level or reciprocal wild cards between federations - and today in Miami we see several young wild cards in action, in a rare step up from the Challenger Tour.

In early action, one of these young wild cards, Nicola Kuhn, a Spaniard, who turned 18 several days ago, takes on the Barbadian, Darian King, with King the [1.60] favourite. Much is expected of Kuhn, and I make him a more marginal underdog against an opponent whose mediocre serve is not much of a threat at main tour level. With the potential age-related upside of Kuhn as well, the [2.60] about the young prospect looks some value.

Kecmanovic unlikely to sustain break point over performance

Later on in the schedule, another 18-year-old wild card, Miomir Kecmanovic, takes on the Uzbek veteran, Denis Istomin, who is a very slight favourite at a current [1.87]. Istomin probably would prefer quicker conditions than are likely here in Florida, but I still feel that he's a little under-rated here by the market.

Primarily, the reason for this is Kecmanovic's mediocre service/return points won data at Challenger level. While his combined hold/break percentage, as well as his win percentage, makes him out to be a very strong prospect - and he possibly still could be - his break point performance on return has been absurd - converting at 6.6% above return point expectation this year across all surfaces, and an insane 7.6% above expectation in the last 12 months.

With serve break point performance also a little above average, it would be incredibly unrealistic to expect Kecmanovic to sustain such over-performance, and mean-reversion, which would make him more in line with the average Challenger Tour player, is more probable.

Kukushkin and Lajovic among those favoured tonight

In other matches, I expect Mikhail Kukushkin to back-up his win last week in the Irving Challenger - one of the premier Challenger events - having had a few days off, with victory over Marius Copil, a player who definitely prefers much quicker conditions, while Dusan Lajovic is tempting at [1.95] to get past the mediocre Horacio Zeballos. Radu Albot, as a slight underdog at [2.34], looks reasonable against Ricardas Berankis (another player who does his best work on quicker courts) also.

Bedene over-rated following strong clay performances

However, the last match I want to check out features Evgeny Donskoy, who we profited from a fornight ago at Indian Wells, with the Russian taking on Aljaz Bedene. I feel that the markets have got Bedene's expected level a little wrong for this, having produced some strong performances on clay in the Golden Swing recently.

While Bedene's level on South American clay was indeed excellent, conditions were considerably slower even to what he's going to experience on these medium-slow hard courts, and he's always had a better record on the dirt than on hard courts, where he's only won three of 11 main tour matches in the last 12 months, and is 15-22 in the last three years.

Donskoy is a very solid, and often under-rated hard courter, and is competent enough to be a slight favourite over Bedene according to my model, but instead, we see the Russian as a slight underdog, at [2.40]. That's good enough for us.

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