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U.S. Open picks: Day 5 odds and matchup analysis By RICKY DIMON
DAVID NALBANDIAN (-130) VS. IVAN LJUBICIC (EVEN)
One of several blockbuster second-round matchups at the U.S. Open pits two well-known veterans against each other in Nalbandian and Ljubicic. Although Ljubicic is the seeded player in this matchup, his play seems to be going by the wayside at 32 years old. The Croat did not play on hard courts prior to this fortnight and it showed in a tough four-setter against Blaz Kavcic. Nalbandian is struggling in the rankings mainly because of injuries, which—for once—are not a problem at the moment. The Argentine turned in a solid performance in round one and the relatively close scoreline against Bobby Reynolds was not indicative of the match. In their most recent matchup, Nalbandian hammered Ljubicic 7-5, 6-0 last summer in Cincinnati.
STEVE DARCIS (-130) VS. JUAN IGNACIO CHELA (EVEN)
Darcis did well to come back from two sets down in his opener, outlasting Dmitry Tursunov in five. This is already a great U.S. Open result for diminutive Belgian, who is favored by the oddsmakers to advance one more round. But he shouldn’t be. Chela is in the midst of a resurgent year on the ATP Tour and he really isn’t that bad on hard courts. In fact, the Argentine once made it all the way to the quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows. While Darcis may still be feeling the effects of his grueling first-rounder, Chela spent exactly four games worth of energy on the court. He was leading 3-1 in the first set when Marinko Matosevic rolled an ankle and had to retire.
PARLAY: JULIEN BENNETEAU (-200) VS. DENIS ISTOMIN (+150) and NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO (-600) VS. POTITO STARACE (+350)
You can count on one hand the guys hotter than Julien Benneteau right now. Novak Djokovic? John Isner? Maybe Andy Murray and Gael Monfils? That’s about it. Benneteau won eight matches—yes, eight—in Winston-Salem (three in qualifying, then five en route to the final before losing to Isner) and he destroyed No. 10 seed Nicolas Almagro on Wednesday. Istomin scored a decent win over Ryan Sweeting in round one, but the Uzbek has been in mostly dreadful form this season. Throw in Davydenko, who is a borderline lock to dispose of Starace on a hard court. Starace is only a threat on clay, and Davydenko showed signs of his former self as he dismissed No. 32 seed Ivan Dodig on Tuesday.
Pick: BENNETEAU and DAVYDENKO
CHRISTINA MCHALE (-120) VS. MARIA KIRILENKO (-105)
Americans are finally making some serious noise at the U.S. Open, but none louder than McHale. Asserting herself as a possible next great American hope this summer, the 18-year-old has maintained her fine form in Flushing Meadows with a straight-set upset of Marion Bartoli on Wednesday. Playing in the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time, however, will present a different atmosphere. It’s one Kirilenko is familiar with, so count on the Russian being steady as she goes—as usual. Kirilenko is on the way to her best season on tour and although she needed a third-set tiebreaker to win her first match, she absolutely destroyed Vera Dushevina in round two.