Fast-starter Murray worth backing
Andy Murray has a track record of winning in the opening week of an ATP season so he's our 7/2 pick for success in Doha.
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Andy Murray can make a winning return to the ATP World Tour when he opens his season in Doha this week.
The Briton has not played at this competitive level since September having undergone back surgery which ended hs 2013 season early.
However, there were few signs of any lingering problems in Abu Dhabi last week where Murray lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stanislas Wawrinka in an exhibition tournament.
The real stuff begins now and with the Australian Open just two weeks away (and no event scheduled next week), you can rest assured that Murray will want a good run at the Qatar Open so he is well prepared for Melbourne.
He has picked comfortable surroundings for his return for Murray's last three visits to Doha have resulted in three final appearances - he won the title in 2009 and 2008 and was runner-up in 2007.
It should be pointed out that these tournaments were not all played on the current Plexicushion surface but the conditions were not vastly different. In addition, Doha is just down the road from Abu Dhabi so Murray will be used to the climate.
He's landed in a cushy part of the draw too - excuse the pun. His first-round match is against a local wild card ranked outside the world's top 2,000. It could well end 6-0 6-0. His quarter-final opponent is seeded to be Fernando Verdasco.
Meanwhile, in the quarter below, Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils, Nikolay Davydenko, Alexandr Dolgopolov and David Ferrer will all fight it out for a last-four spot. They could well have played a lot of tennis come next Saturday.
Rafael Nadal is the top seed and odds-on in places. He's admittedly in the easier top half, but he was hardly at his convincing best in Abu Dhabi and has also never won the title here, with just a single final appearance on his record.
At the prices, I much prefer Murray, who can be backed at 7/2. Having also won the Brisbane tournament in this opening week in the past two years, he's a proven performer at this time of year - those of you who read my preview of the Brisbane International will know that's something I'm looking for in a potential winner. He just looks too big to me.
The price appears to have injury concerns built in but, with little to suggest Murray is likely to struggle on that front, it's a quote I definitely want some of.
Another man who consistently starts fast is the aforementioned Davydenko, who can be backed at 80/1 which looks a little risky from a bookies' perspective given the Russian's record here.
He won in Doha in 2010, made the final in 2011 and 2013 and also has three other semi-final appearances on his CV.
What puts me off is the fact that he's landed in by far the toughest part of the draw. Some of you may be tempted though and I thought his credentials were worth mentioning.
One price I'm not going to resist though is the 16/1 on Vasek Pospisil winning the Chennai Open.
The Indian event never attracts the strongest field, although to be fair this year it has three of the world's top 20 with 2011 champion Stanislas Wawrinka heading the line-up.
Canadian Pospisil enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2013 and will be looking to push on from his current career-high ranking of 32nd this season.
His big serve is a real weapon and all his best results have come on hardcourts.
In a decent section of the draw - his seeded foes are Fabio Fognini (QF) and Wawrinka (SF) - Pospisil is a good each-way proposition at 16s. Some firms have him as short as 7/1. I'll have a small play.
- The tournament in Doha is being televised live in the UK on British Eurosport.