Delray delight for Nishikori

  • By: Tim Clement
  • Last Updated: February 18 2014, 8:52 GMT

Our Tim Clement is backing Kei Nishikori to come out on top in this week's Delray Beach Open.

Kei Nishikori: Can go all the way in Las Vegas
Kei Nishikori: Can go all the way in Las Vegas

Kei Nishikori looks a worthwhile gamble as he comes up a field led by two out-of-form forces at the Delray Beach Open.

The world number 16 returns to the scene of his first title, having announced himself onto the ATP stage here as an 18-year-old, and boasts the form to suggest it would be far less of a surprise for him to prevail again at 9/2 with Coral.

Nishikori pushed Nadal to tie-breaks in all three sets in his loss at the Australian Open, won both rubbers in the Davis Cup and then claimed his first title of the season in Memphis last week

Drawing Marin Cilic, who is widely considered the favourite but also available at 9/2 with Coral, in his quarter looks far from ideal on paper given that the Croatian enters on the back of winning nine of his last 10 matches.

However, Sunday's comprehensive final defeat to Tomas Berdych in Rotterdam is likely to leave him deflated and fatigued as he heads into a third tournament in as many weeks.

John Isner (13/2 with Bet Victor) is the highest-ranked player in their half of the draw but has not played since his opening-round withdrawal at the Australian Open, having been forced to miss USA's David Cup clash with Great Britain due to an ankle problem.

Top seed Tommy Haas (11/2 with Sky Bet), who also retired injured at Melbourne Park, looks almost as unappealing with recent results indicating age is finally catching up with the 35-year-old, failing to beat a player in the top 30 so far this year.

The German reached the final in Zagreb but Benjamin Becker (ranked 93) was the highest-ranked player in his path, while Brit Dan Evans (147) took a set off him.

My fancy for the indoors event at Marseille is a less convincing one but offers bigger odds, with Ernests Gulbis a top price of 6/1 (general) to secure the title.

Once again, my liking largely comes due to being unconvinced by the favourites with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (13/8) and Richard Gasquet (7/2 Ladbrokes) yet to produce the sort of results they should be producing this year.

Gulbis claimed the scalps of Grigor Dimitrov and Juan Martin del Potro in Rotterdam, also indoors, before losing to eventual champion Berdych, while his last title came in the environment in question at the St. Petersburg Open in September.

Once perilously inconsistent, Gulbis now has the game and form to suggest he can continue to climb the rankings by claiming the title here.

The top level event of the week sees the Rio Open make its debut as an ATP 500 clay event with Rafael Nadal looking a nailed on winner.

David Ferrer offers up the only real competition but hasn't beaten his compatriot on red dirt since their first meeting back in 2004, losing 17 successive meetings on the surface since.

If Nadal's knee does fall off then Ferrer is obvious choice to inherit the title but the 4/1 on offer still does not appeal.

  • Posted at 1820 GMT on 16/02/2014.