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  • Chris Sobey


It was close but no cigar for my Tournament selections this week as both third seed Frederico Delbonis (4/1) at Bucharest and sixth seed Benoit Paire (26/1) both fell at the semi-final stage, while Guido Pella (14/1) at Bucharest lost a nail-biting quarter final 7-6 3-6 7-6 against top-seed Garcia-Lopez.

World number five and top seed Rafael Nadal sent out a clear warning to his French Open rivals by winning back-to-back Monte Carlo and Barcelona titles for the first time since 2012. Nadal added an unprecedented ninth ATP 500 Barcelona title to his resume yesterday and in doing so won a record equalling 49th clay court title, joining Guillemo Vilas at the top of the charts. Nadal denied second seed Kei Nishikori a third consecutive Barcelona title winning Sunday’s final 7-5 6-4.

Sunday’s final at Bucharest between Fernando Verdasco and first time ATP finalist Lucas Pouille, who are both unseeded, was delayed by persistent rain yesterday and will be played today. 2016 was the third time in the last decade two unseeded players made the final and it was the fourth year running an unseeded player made the final.

On to this week’s ATP action and there are three ATP 250 tournaments at Munich, Estoril and Istanbul. Munich is the longest running of the three tournaments and it has been dominated by Northern European players over the last decade and no Spanish player has won the even in the last 20 years. German players have a good record in recent years with two winners and four of the last five finals have featured a player from the home nation.

The top two seeds don’t have a great record at Munich over the last decade. The top seed has only won one of the last 10 titles, which was Andy Murray last year, and they’ve been a losing finalist twice in this period, the last year being 2014. The second seed has won two of the last ten titles, the last time being 2010 and they’ve never been a losing finalist in this period.

World number 13 and top seed this week David Goffin returns to the ATP Tour after losing at the fourth round stage at Monte Carlo a fortnight ago. He’s a solid player on clay and has won one title on the surface at Kitzbuhel in 2014 and reached the final at Gstaad last year, losing against Dominic Thiem. World number 15 and third seed week Dominic Thiem is in the top half of the draw along with Goffin this week and is a prolific winner on the surface winning 44 of 64 matches, four titles at Nice, Umag and Gstaad in 2015 and he also won the title at Buenos Aires this year.

On paper Goffin and Thiem should face each other in Saturday's semi-finals and with the top-seed having such a poor record over the last decade Thiem would seem like the logical choice. However, he’s lost five of the seven matches he’s played against Goffin and with this in mind I will focus on the bottom half of the draw in terms of providing a selection.

Monte Carlo finalist and second seed this week Gael Monfils is the tournament favourite at 7/2 and will be a popular choice after his exploits at Monte Carlo a fortnight ago. However, he’s only won one ATP title on the surface at Sopot back in 2005 and has been a losing finalist five times during his career. Fourth seed and Barcelona semi-finalist Philip Kohlschreiber is a two time winner at Munich (2012 and 2007) and he’s also made the final twice in 2015 and 2013. He’s also won two other clay court titles at Dusseldorf in 2014 and Kitzbuhel last year and made two finals at Kitzbuhel in 2012 and Stuttgart in 2013.

On paper Monfils and Kohlschreiber should be contesting the semi-finals this Saturday and with the second seed winning the title only twice and having never reached the final over the last decade, it’s worth siding with Kohlschrieber at 10/1 given his overall record on clay and at this tournament.

At Estoril this week defending champion Richard Gasquet cannot defend his title due to injury, but 2015 finalist and second seed Kick Kyrgios at 7/2 does return, and if he plays to his full potential it will be difficult to stop him reaching consecutive finals this week.

The top two seeds have performed well at Estoril over the last decade; the top seed has won three of the last 10 titles (last 2012) and they were a losing finalist twice in this period (last 2014). The second seed has won one of the last ten titles (last 2013) and they were a losing finalist four times in this period (last 2012).

Top seed Gilles Simon has won five ATP titles on clay, the last coming at Bucharest in 2012, and he also has a winning head-to-head record against the two main dangers in his half of the draw, third seed Benoit Paire, who has won one clay court title (Bastad 2015) and reached one final (Belgrade 2012) and fifth seed Garcia-Lopez, who has won three clay court titles (Kitzbuhel 2009, Casablanca 2014 and Bucharest 2015).

At the odds Gilles Simon at 5/1 makes the most appeal as he’s an experienced pro who’s been in consistent form this year and has won the majority of his titles at this level on clay. He should progress to the semi-finals without too much drama and if he faces Paire or Garcia-Lopez at this stage his winning head-to-head record against the two suggests he’s the best bet of the three this week.

Istanbul is the one other ATP 250 tournament this week and the draw is headed by top seed Bernard Tomic and second seed Grigor Dimitrov. Neither player has performed that well on the surface over the last 12 months and as a result don’t appeal from a betting perspective at their respective odds.

Fourth seed Frederico Delbonis continues to be a consistent performer at this level on clay. He’s has won two titles on the surface at Sao Paulo in 2014 and Marrakech this year and reached two finals during his career. He reached the semi-finals at Bucharest last week and with the top half of the draw looking the weakest on paper he has every chance of reaching the final this week.

However, the way he lost at the semi-final stage in straight sets against the unseeded Loucas Pouille last week suggests a busy year and plenty of travelling so far maybe catching up with him and at odds only slightly bigger than last week he makes little appeal.

One unseeded player in the top half of the draw who has been playing well on clay lately is Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur at 14/1. He showcased his talent at Miami and Monte Carlo recently where he defeated top-10 players Nadal and Berdych respectively and also pushed Raonic extremely close losing by a whisker on a third set tiebreak. If he can repeat that level of form this week he is more than capable of springing a surprise and reaching his first ATP Final.

From a first round match betting perspective it could be worth opposing Loucas Pouille against Illy Marchenko at 16/5, considering the young Frenchman still has to play the Bucharest final today and could suffer from a quick turnaround and fatigue (that’s if he does not withdraw). Also, at Estoril there are four first round matches that catch the eye and are worth putting in a 4-fold or a Win Lucky 15 at 10.5/1.

Inigo Cervantes should make it 4 wins in a row against compatriot Munoz-De La Nava, Pablo Carreno-Busta is more than capable of beating Bucharest finalist and veteran Fernando Verdasco, Kyle Edmund can make it two wins in a row against Gimeno-Traver and at Munich Ivan Dodig can inflict further misery on the woefully our of form Ernest Gulbis.

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