The Australian Open is little over a week away, but first the men's tour has two more ATP 250 events ahead of the big one in Melbourne.
This week's tournaments are in Sydney and Auckland and of the two the former looks to be the more wide open and therefore offers the chance of a bit of value.
Being held so close to a Grand Slam makes it likely that the higher ranked players will withdraw if they feel any slight injury and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet are both non-runners this week already.
With the two Frenchmen out, John Isner is the top seed, but he withdrew from the Hopman Cup last week citing a knee injury and hasn't won a match on outdoor hard since sneaking past Kevin Anderson in three tie breaks in Shanghai when Anderson choked.
In fact, Isner's record since losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber in New York is 2-7 and his top half of the draw in Sydney looks a good opportunity for the likes of Anderson, Radek Stepanek, Fernando Verdasco, Aljaz Bedene, Feli Lopez, Denis Istomin, Julien Benneteau, Roberto Bautista Agut and Ryan Harrison, who are the main contenders in that top half.
Anderson is too short a price for my liking, but Bedene could be worth a few pounds at [100.0], as he looks to be on course for a decent season and the layers may not have cottoned on yet. He has had a long journey from Chennai after reaching the semi finals there, but he seems a decent back-to-lay bet at a big price.
Another good option could turn out to be last year's finalist Benneteau, who was beaten by last year's Sydney champion Jarkko Nieminen in the opener in Brisbane and will be after match practice and ranking points this week.
Benny is available to back at around [26.0] at the moment and the Frenchman may give a good account himself to his backers at that sort of price, as might fellow Frenchman Chardy at [42.0].
The bottom half of the draw looks more competitive with Grigor Dimitrov, Andreas Seppi, Gilles Simon, Bernard Tomic, Florian Mayer, Marcel Granollers and Nieminen all in with claims.
Brisbane finalist Dimitrov is the obvious choice, but I can't see him wanting two long weeks in a row before Melbourne and his price of [8.0] looks a little short to me.
Simon has won here before and he has a good chance again, but he hasn't made a final on hard since that 2011 Sydney title week and he looks too short as well at around [9.0].
Tomic is interesting as ever, but his price of [7.0] is based on beating Novak Djokovic in an exhibition and while it could be argued that he plays his best tennis in Australia, he's yet to do anything in a tour level event that justifies such a low price. He also has a tough first rounder against fellow Aussie Marinko Matosevic, in which the value will certainly be with Marinko.
Another Aussie, John Millman is also in that bottom half and he might cause a shock or two based on his form last week in Brisbane and I have a feeling that last year's winner Nieminen might have another good week here.
The Finn won this as a qualifier last year and retired last week in Brisbane against Alex Dolgopolov. Surely he didn't have one eye on protecting ranking points from last year when coming to that decision?
Jarkko is around [34.0] and likely to get bigger and he's worth a back-to-lay investment, as I'm sure we'll see a decent run from him this week.
Seppi lost all three matches in the Hopman Cup last week and has a poor record in Australia, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Mayer have a run this week.
You can never tell when Mayer will be on form and at [21.0] he's not out of contention, while Granollers is too big at upwards of [50.0].
The Spaniard has a poor record in Australia, but he's improving in hard courts and is constantly underrated by the layers. He produced a decent run on hard at the end of last season reaching a Masters 1000 quarter final in Toronto and also in Winston Salem and he could take advantage if Dimitrov is below par this week.
So, plenty of options for back-to-lay punters this week to choose from with Bedene, Granollers and Nieminen offering potentially great value.comments powered by Disqus