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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis preview 2017

The 2017 ATP Tennis season gets underway on Sunday evening and if 2016 is anything to go by it is sure to be an enthralling one with World number one and two Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic set to battle it out again for the honour of ending the season as World number one. The two are more than likely to extend their respective Grand Slam tallies in 2017 and I expect Murray and Djokovic to contend the Australian Open final, and it would be fitting if Murray made it sixth time lucky after losing five finals at Melbourne.

I can also see Murray going close at the French Open again, but I think Djokovic will defend his crown this year as there will be far less pressure and expectation on him, compared to 2016, and because he’s the more natural clay court player of the two. Murray will be the clear favourite for Wimbledon again if he arrives there in the same form as 2016, and there’s no reason why he can’t defend his title as he’s clearly the best grass court player on tour at present.

The US Open has been by far the most open of the Grand Slams in recent seasons and I can see that being the case again in 2017. Any of the current top-six are more than capable of winning the US Open in 2017 as five of the current top-six have either won it, or made the final.

Just like the Grand Slams the Masters 1000 Series events were all dominated and won by top-10 players in 2016 and 2017 looks like it will be no different. Djokovic won four Masters Series titles in 2016 (Miami, Indian Wells, Madrid and Toronto) extending his all-time record to 30 in total, Murray won three (Rome, Shanghai and Paris), Nadal won one (Monte Carlo) as did Cilic (Cincinnati). I expect Djokovic will dominate the Masters Series scene again given his imperious record at these tournaments, Murray will be hot on his heels again no doubt and the likes of Raonic, Nishikori, Nadal, Cilic, Bautista Agut, Thiem, Goffin, Kyrgios, Zverev, Pouille and possibly Federer could be amongst the finalists at some stage as well.

Of the 65 ATP Tournaments played in 2016 (including Grand Slams) 30 were won by current top-10 players. There were seven debutant ATP tournament winners in 2016, which included NextGen stars like Zverev, Pouille, Carreno-Busta, Schwartzman and Kachanov, and 14 ATP tournaments were won by a player aged under-26 (Raonic 1, Thiem 4, Kyrgios 3, Carreno-Busta 2, Zverev, Pouille, Schwartzman and Kachanov all 1).

However, the majority of ATP tournaments were won by more experienced players and 51 of the 65 ATP Tournaments were won by a player aged 26 or over, and 26 were won by a player aged 30 or over. I expect the younger players mentioned above, along with Thiem and Kyrgios, will reach more finals and win more tournaments in 2017 and close the gap on the more experienced players aged 26 or over. However, I expect this will only be marginally as I believe the more experienced players aged 26 and over and the veterans will dominate again in 2017.

Players who I think are on the brink of becoming debutant ATP Tournament winners or finalists in 2017 are Guido Pella ranked 80, who reached his first ATP final on clay at Rio De Janeiro in 2016, and I think he will go close to winning an ATP 250 clay court tournament in 2017 and also break in to the top-50. Both Pierre-Hugues Herbet ranked 78 and Damir Dzumhur ranked 77 are more than capable of winning or reaching the final of an ATP 250 tournament judging by their best form in 2016 and I’ll be very surprised if both don’t break in to the top-50 as well this season.

Dan Evans ranked 66, Jan-Lenard Struff ranked 63, Mischa Zverev ranked 51 and Borna Coric ranked 48 are all experienced and talented enough to win their first ATP 250 titles this season, or in Evans and Struff’s case reach their first ATP finals at least. I expect all four to challenge mainly at outdoor and indoor hard court and clay court events in Europe and North America this season.

From a 2017 ATP season betting perspective there are a handful of season-long bets that I like. The first is the Top American and the market is headed by favourite Jack Sock ranked 24 and John Isner (2/1) ranked 17. Isner is my idea of the winner of this market because he finished higher ranked last season (highest ranking 9 April) even though his season was plagued by injury, which he’s now recovered from, he’s vastly more experienced than Sock having won 10 ATP Tournaments compared to Sock’s one, and he has the best serve in the men’s game right now, which landed him the Most Aces served title in 2016.

Another ATP bet that interests me is the ‘To Finish in Year End Top-8’ and it’s a surprise to see Dominic Thiem (9/4 Skybet) priced so big considering he ended the 2016 season ranked 8, and he only looks like he’s going to maintain or better this ranking in 2017 based on the way his career has progressed so far.

The final ATP bets I like for next season are the Over/Under rankings finish bets (all with Skybet. Juan Martin Del Potro ranked 38 has announced he will miss the Australian Open and possibly the first few months of the season due to lack of match fitness and injury. He’s priced up to finish Over 8.5 (11/10) in the rankings and given his light schedule in 2016 and ongoing fitness/injury troubles I think he’ll struggle to finish in the top-10 this season and thus this is a pretty safe bet in my view.

Tomas Berdych looks like a player on the decline to me and he’s available to finish Over 11.5 (Evens) in the rankings. He only won one ATP Tournament in 2016 and with his performances at the Masters Series and Grand Slam events waning I think his ranking will drop about 5 places this season and that will be enough to land this bet comfortably. Finally veteran David Ferrer’s career looks to be on the decline now as well at the age of 34 and I only see his ranking falling again this season. He’s available to finish ranked Over 22.5 (10/11) and with his ranking currently at 21 and his form dipping alarmingly last season I see this bet landing comfortably.

Finally, the WTA Season Ending Number One market is surprisingly headed by Serena Williams, even though she was surpassed in the rankings in 2016 by current World Number One Angelique Kerber (9/4). I don’t see 2016 being a flash in the pan for Kerber and I expect her to consolidate her position as the best female player on the planet this season as she has the talent, game and experience to challenge for the majority of the major tournaments and the mental fortitude now to back up being the number one player.

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