Gael Monfils v Ugo Humbert

Back Monfils to Cover the Games Handicap (+1.5) @ $2.05

French duo Gael Monfils and Ugo Humbert meet for the second time in a matter of days in the first round of the Dubai Championships.

Rejuvenated veteran Monfils stormed to a 6-2 6-4 victory in last week’s Qatar Open quarter-final showdown, turning the tables on Humbert, who progressed after both of their previous encounters – at Wimbledon in 2019 and the 2023 Miami Masters – when Monfils retired.

The 37-year-old Monfils has been majorly hampered by injuries over the past two years and started 2024 in modest form. But the former world No.6 started finding his feet again in Rotterdam, beating Denis Shapovalov and taking a set off Australian Open champ Jannik Sinner.

Monfils, now ranked 54th, enjoyed his best run in recent memory in Doha, eliminating Botic van de Zandschulp and Zhizhen Zhang as well as Humbert, before going down to teenage sensation Jakub Mensik in three sets.

Humbert recently rose to a career-high ranking of No.18 by winning the Open 13 – ousting Hubert Hurkacz and Grigor Dimitrov on his way to the trophy – but has been unable to maintain that momentum, losing to Emil Ruusuvuori first up in Rotterdam before his defeat to Monfils.

The 25-year-old is a $1.55 favourite to reverse the Qatar Open result, but Monfils has his tail up again and is thriving as an underdog.

Maximilian Marterer v Christopher O’Connell

Back O’Connell to Cover the Games Handicap (-1.5) @ $1.85

Aussie journeyman Christopher O’Connell kicks off his Dubai Championships campaign against German qualifier Maximilian Marterer.

World No.68 O’Connell has had a reasonable start to the season, reaching the Adelaide International quarters and winning a five-setter against Cristian Garin in the first round of the Australian Open.

The 28-year-old withdrew during the first round of a Challenger event in Bahrain a couple of weeks ago but returned at the Qatar Open, upsetting Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-4 before going down to Emil Ruusuvuori convincingly.

Former top-50 player Marterer is currently 96th in the world has lost six straight ATP main draw matches since reaching the European Open semis in October.

The 28-year-old lost to Hugo Grenier 7-6 7-5 in the first round in Qatar after winning a pair of qualifying matches. He beat Yanki Erel and Luca Van Assche on the weekend to earn his spot in the Round of 32 in Dubai.

This pair’s only previous clash was at Challenger level in 2017, with Marterer claiming a straight-sets win.

O’Connell has a strong record of beating players ranked below him and should be able to extend Marterer’s run of first-round exits.

Jakub Mensik v Borna Coric

Back Mensik to Win @ $2.15

Czech 18-year-old Jakub Mensik is coming off a breakout performance at the Qatar Open and provides tantalising value as an underdog in Dubai against former top-20 staple Borna Coric.

Mensik garnered significant attention when he made the third round of the US Open on grand slam debut as a qualifier last year. Otherwise honing his craft on the Challenger circuit, he knocked over Denis Shapovalov at the Australian Open after winning three qualifiers.

The teenager grasped his next ATP Tour opportunity spectacularly last week, beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev and Gael Monfils to reach the final in Qatar, where he lost 7-6 6-4 to Karen Khachanov. His ranking soared to No.87 as a result.

After a couple of seasons hampered by injury, world No.31 Coric enjoyed some great runs at ATP 1000 level in 2022-23 but struggled to put his best on the court consistently.

The 27-year-old reached his first final in 18 months at the Open Sud de France earlier this month, beating Holger Rune in the semis before losing a three-setter to Alexander Bublik. He lost to Bublik again in the first round in Rotterdam.

With some big notches on his belt already and considerable momentum after his heroics in Doha, Mensik has to be considered a massive chance of advancing at Coric’s expense.

Daniil Medvedev v Alexander Shevchenko

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World No.3 Daniil Medvedev is just $1.10 to progress to the Dubai Championships’ second round past Alexander Shevchenko, who already has a top-10 win to his credit this month.

The pair met for the first time at the 2023 Madrid Masters, Medvedev forced to dig deep to achieve a 4-6 6-1 7-5 victory.

Medvedev’s only competitive outings in 2024 were at the Australian Open, where he was super-impressive in reaching the final before giving up a two-set lead against Jannik Sinner.

The 28-year-old won this tournament last year without dropping a set, leaving the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev in his wake.

A first-round casualty at the Australian Open at the hands of Jaume Munar, world No.47 Shevchenko has since made quarter-finals at the Open Sud de France and the Rotterdam Open – beating seventh-ranked Holger Rune at the latter – but was upset by Richard Gasquet first up at the Qatar Open.

There may be a bit of rust for Medvedev after a month off, but he should nevertheless put away Shevchenko in straight sets.