Oppose big guns with big prices

  • By: Andy Schooler (Twitter: @NetTalkTennis)
  • Last Updated: March 19 2013, 22:05 GMT

With two of the 'big four' missing in Miami, our tipster Andy Schooler has some big-priced picks for the Sony Open.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; Among the staking plan at 50/1
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; Among the staking plan at 50/1

Novak Djokovic has won in Miami in each of the last two years and starts favourite for this season's Sony Open.

Rightly so, too. While the world number one missed out in Indian Wells, losing in the semi-finals to an inspired Juan Martin Del Potro, he did not play at all badly and the Argentine proved he is capable of beating anyone when he gets that booming forehand going.

It should be remembered that Djokovic lost to John Isner in similar circumstances in last year's Indian Wells semis but duly turned up in Miami and took the title wthout dropping a set.

I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see that happen again, particularly given that this year both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are missing from the field.

That helps to explain the 5/6 quote Djokovic has got here; in Indian Wells, when both were present, he was 5/4.

It's certainly worth considering but I just can't bring myself to back him at such a price, even given his record at Crandon Park - he also won here in 2007.

Instead I'm going to look to the other side of the draw in search of some each-way value - if ever there was a Masters event to do that in it's this one wit just two of the 'big four' playing.

In Federer's absence, Andy Murray is seeded second and expected by many to reach the final.

However, as in Indian Wells, I'm happy to take him on. This period of the season has consistently been Murray's worst in recent years and despite him often practising at this very complex - he was here as recently as last month - 10/3 is not for me.

While he did make the final here last season, 2011 saw an opening-round defeat to Alex Bogomolov, while the year before it was Mardy Fish upsetting the Scot.

Murray did make the last eight in Indian Wells but only after a scare against the unheralded Evgeny Donskoy in his opener.

A repeat of his slow start in California here is more likely to be punished with Bernard Tomic set to be his opening opponent.

The draw has not been at all kind with two other rising stars of the tour, Grigor Dimitrov and Jerzy Janowicz, also lurking in his section. Both have the talent to trouble the big guns on their day, as Janowicz showed when defeating Murray in Paris last autumn.

Essentially, Murray is short enough for me at 10/3 and I'm going to take him on with some big-priced outsiders.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is chalked up at 50s which seems rather big.

In three of the last four years he's made the last eight here, losing to Nadal in 2010 and 2012 and Djokovic in 2009.

The Frenchman is in decent enough form. He made the quarters in Indian Wells before being blown away by Djokovic. However, he can't face the world number one until the final here.

Serving well, Tsonga won a tight contest with Milos Raonic and a last-eight appearance in a Masters is no disgrace.

It certainly backed up some good results under new coach Roger Rasheed.

Tsonga pushed Roger Federer to five sets in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and won indoors in Marseille.

He may be in Murray's quarter, but 50/1 about a player of his talent is too big.

The same can be said about the aforementioned Raonic - he's 100/1 in the weaker third quarter, one which the bookies expect to be won by Tomas Berdych.

Raonic and Berdych could meet in the last 16 and it's worth noting that the Canadian won their only previous meeting - on a hardcourt in Cincinnati last season.

He has the best serve in the game at present and while his return game isn't the best just yet, he showed at times against Tsonga that he's no slouch in that department.

Raonic may come up short against the very best but he may not have to play such players to reach the final here.

Berdych has played a lot of tennis of late so could be vulnerable while Raonic is a player who has caused Murray problems in the past - he leads the Briton 2-1 having won their last match on the hard surface in Tokyo last October.

It would be remiss not to note that the conditions may not be ideal for these two in Miami where the Laykold court is rated medium-slow - as was the case in Indian Wells.

The humidity may also slow the balls down, but both Tsonga and Raonic do have the power to hit through the court, so I'm not overly concerned.

Given that the courts and ball are likely to play fairly slow again, it makes sense to also have someone who relishes such conditions onside, so I'm going to throw some small change at 400/1 shot Andreas Seppi.

I've mentioned Seppi a few times this season for he's had some impressive results over the past 12 months, ones which have taken him to a new career-high ranking inside the top 20.

A claycourter by nature, the Italian has added some strong hardcourt results to his record. All in all, the slowish conditions here should suit.

He has already reached the semis in Sydney and the last eight in Dubai, not to mention the fourth round of the Australian Open.

In Indian Wells he was edged out by Ernests Gulbis, losing 6-4 in the third - not a bad performance given the Latvian's sparkling run of late.

OK, he's unlikely to beat Murray if they meet in the last 16 but with his confidence high I'm not sure he'd fear any of the other players in his quarter were Murray to fall early, something more likely than usual given the draw.

Certainly from a back-to-lay perspective it could be a goer, while if any quarter markets go up he might be worth a look at another big price.

  • The tournament gtes under way at 1600 GMT on Wednesday, although the seeds do not enter until the second round on Friday. The action is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports from Saturday.