Christmas is done. New Year's has come and gone. Phish's four-night run at MSG is now but a memory in my iTunes. All of this could only mean one thing:
Tennis is back.
While the rest of the sports world is preparing for the heart of the NBA schedule – or the NFL playoffs – I have been doing my homework, counting down the days until the start of the tennis season for weeks now. And, alas, it's finally here.
The month of January is one of my favorites on the tennis calendar – and for a few reasons.
Aside from marking the start of a new campaign, it also signifies the commencement of the “Oceanic” portion of the tennis year (meaning the majority of the matches will be played at obscure hours of the night) leading up to the Australian Open.
Shout out to #TeamNoSleep.
This week, the new season kicks off with tournaments in Brisbane, Doha and Chennai. And while both Doha and Chennai present some intriguing matchups, I decided to focus solely on Brisbane today for this first betting preview of the season.
The action gets underway tonight at 20.00 (8 pm ET) and continues all night long so if you anticipate watching these matches, I'd get a fresh pot of coffee going around midnight.
Good luck, degenerates. Let's have a good season.
Johnson -125 over Troicki
Here we have two players who ended their 2015 campaigns on completely different notes.
In one corner, there's Steve Johnson. He finished last season on the best form of his career, including a final run at Vienna and a strong showing in Valencia, where he squandered six matches before surrendering to local favorite Roberto Bautista-Agut in the semifinal.
In the other corner, we have Viktor Troicki, who came completely undone last season after a decent first half (which saw him return to his top 25 ranking).
The mercurial Serb couldn't buy a win after Wimbledon – despite beating Cilic two times in five days on grass – and looked grim in consecutive losses to Groth, Youzhny, Fish and Jaziri to kick off his US Open Series.
With no prior history between the two, I'm keen on the American here – at least until Troicki can prove that he's found some type of form in 2016.
Expect Johnson to remain patient and jab away with his backhand slice, a shot that will invite Troicki to make his own errors (which he likely will with the forehand).
Prediction: Johnson in two sets (7-6, 6-4)
Kukushkin +115 over Istomin
Few players will leave you scratching your head as much as world no. 61, Denis Istomin.
After winning his first ATP singles title at Nottingham, he exited Wimbledon just days after in the opening round.
Yet, that seems to be the nature of Istomin: On any given day, he seems capable of beating – or losing to – anyone on tour.
For that reason, I don't fancy the idea of backing the Uzbek as a favorite this early in the season, especially against a player of Mikhail Kukushkin's class.
Keep in mind: Kukushkin, too, shows glimmers of brilliance – defeating Grigor Dimitrov at the US Open and taking defending champ Marin Čilić five sets deep – and plays with more consistency.
Given their tight H2H, which has seen each player trade victories over their past five clashes, I give the nod to the Kazakh to come out on top here.
Prediction: Kukushkin in three sets (7-6, 3-6, 6-2)
Pouille +125 over Nishioka
Yoshihito Nishioka is a player who most tennis fans expect big things from in 2016.
At just 20 years of age, the Japanese youngster has already racked up a few impressive results on tour, including a victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu at the US Open.
That being said, I still believe Nishioka has a long way to go, from both a physical and mental standpoint, and he's shown signs of immaturity (and loss of focus) as a result of his expressive nature.
Lucas Pouille, on the other hand, rarely loses his cool on the court. Although he's probably better suited for a slower playing surface, I reckon Pouille's experience will play a key role in tonight's match.
I see this clash coming down to a few key points and a few major swings in momentum I expect to go the Frenchman's way.
Prediction: Pouille in two sets (7-6, 6-4)
Disclaimer: These wagers are made strictly for entertainment purposes, take them with a grain of salt.