Tough tests for Murray and Nadal in Sony Ericsson Open third round
Leading contenders are likely to find matches harder than the odds imply
The two standout Sunday evening encounters at the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open see second and fourth seeds Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in action…
Radek Stepanek v Rafael Nadal
For the third year running, we are in the strange position of approaching April without Nadal having bitten into his first trophy of the campaign, his three attempts so far halted by Gael Monfils, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
The Spaniard has never won the Sony Ericsson title before, despite contesting three finals, including last year’s against Djokovic, however he started his latest bid with a dominant 6-2 6-0 success over Santiago Giraldo.
Dominant is also the term some might opt for to describe his 5-0 head supremacy against Stepanek, but significantly none of those victories were acquired without a lot of hard work.
The Czech star took a set in two and forced three tiebreaks across the other showdowns, so even though Nadal is likely to vindicate odds of 1/50, expect Stepanek to make it difficult.
The 33-year-old veteran is 11/10 with a 5.5 game handicap advantage. That bet would have paid out in two of their prior collisions and come within a game of fruition in two others.
Milos Raonic v Andy Murray (UPDATE: Raonic has withdrawn)
Murray earned this match by defeating Alejandro Falla 6-2 6-3 and his supporters will hope that was the most important obstacle for the world number four to overcome in Miami.
Since winning there in 2009, the Brit has whimpered out in the second round twice and it was at that stage that he also made a shock exit at Indian Wells recently, so clearing that hurdle relieves plenty of pressure.
This is his first clash with Raonic though, who is enjoying an impressive start to the season, having reached the final of three tournaments, winning two. He has lost only three times in 2012, with just one of those coming in straight sets.
There is therefore a case for backing the Canadian to claim a set in a 2-1 defeat at 3/1, or alternatively over 22.5 games at evens, as that was the case in each of Raonic’s last two meetings with top-ten players.