- Chris sobey
A quick recap on last week’s action and the young guns shone through in Europe as Dimitrov (advised 11/4) won his home title in Sofia beating Goffin in the final and NextGen star Alexander Zverev upset the odds to beat Gasquet (advised 5/1) to win the Montpellier title and his win was made even more impressive as he went on to win the doubles title with brother Mischa the same day, which won’t please the German Davis Cup captain as they both lost their respective singles matches and doubles together the weekend before Montpellier. At the time of writing it was an all veteran affair in the Quito final in Ecuador between defending champion Estrella Burgos aged 36 and Paolo Lorenzi (advised 7/1) age 35 and Estrella Burgos defied the odds and a 3-0 head-to-head deficit vs Lorenzi to win an historic third title in a row.
On to this week’s ATP action and there are three ATP tournaments to focus on again this week. We have the first ATP 500 event of the season, which is the traditional indoor tournament in Rotterdam, and two ATP 250 events in Memphis on indoor hard and in Buenos Aires, which is part of the Golden South American clay swing.
Australian Open finalist and world number six Nadal announced his withdrawal from Rotterdam this week on medical grounds, but the tournament has still attracted a very strong field. Top-seed Cilic, second seed Thiem, third seed Goffin, fourth seed and 2014 winner Berdych, fifth seed Dimitrov, sixth seed Tsonga and seventh seed Bautista Agut are all top-20 players and defending champion Klizan also lines up again, along with Gasquet and Sydney winner Muller which adds further strength to a quality field.
The top-seed does not have the best record at Rotterdam winning only three of the last ten titles (last Federer 2012) and has never been a losing finalist, which does not bode well for top-seed Cilic’s chances this week. The second seed also has a poor record at Rotterdam and has only won one of the last ten titles (last 2013) and has never been a losing finalist in this period, which does not bode well for Thiem’s chances this week.
Seeded players in general have a better record at Rotterdam and player seeded no higher than four has won seven of the last ten titles (last Wawrinka seeded four 2015) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist six times in this period (last Monfils seeded five 2016). Unseeded players have also experienced success in the past and there were three winners over the last decade (last Klizan 2016) and four losing finalists (last Cilic 2014).
Fourth seed Tomas Berdych (9/1) fits the profile of a potential winner based on past statistics and has a good record at Rotterdam winning the title in 2014 and reaching the final in 2015 (did not play 2016). He has a winning head-to-head record against all the main dangers in the top-half of the draw, including top-seed Cilic, sixth seed Tsonga and 2016 winner Klizan, and on that basis has to be sided with on this occasion.
The bottom half of the Rotterdam draw is packed full of young talent and features three finalists from last week; fifth seed Dimitrov, third seed Goffin and NextGen star Zverev, who is unseeded this week. Dimitrov and Zverev are more than capable of reaching back to back finals this week, but Dimitrov does not appeal at the prices and Zverev played in the Davis up the weekend before winning the Montpellier title and I think fatigue could catch him out if he reaches the latter stages.
As unseeded players have performed well at Rotterdam over the last decade its worth highlighting one who may go well this week at big prices. Defending champion Martin Klizan (66/1) looks over-priced considering he beat the likes of Monfils and Bautista Agut here last year on route to the title and pushed Wawrinka to five sets at the Australian Open after a long lay-off. However, he has a much tougher draw this year with an opener against Verdasco then potential encounters against Kohlchreiber or eighth seed Pouille, then either fourth seed Berdych, Gasquet or Troicki, at the quarter-final stage, all of who he has a losing head-to-head record against, and on that basis it’s seems highly unlikely he will defend his title this week .
Three time semi-finalist and veteran Gilles Simon (33/1) is unseeded this week and he stands out from the bottom half of the draw with second seed Thiem out of form and Dimitrov, Zverev and Goffin all featuring in finals on Sunday, especially as there are no first round byes this week and they will all have to play again on Tuesday. Simon has won five indoor titles during in his career, his last coming at Marseille in 2015, and while he didn’t win a title or reach a final last season he did come close a few times and for a player of his talent and experience it’s only a matter of time before he’s contesting ATP finals again and hopefully he will play well enough to achieve that this week.
North America hosts its first ATP tournament of the season at Memphis this week and world number five Kei Nishikori, who won the last four Memphis titles, does not return to defend his title this year as he’s committed to playing the Golden Clay Swing instead. As a result Memphis has only attracted one player in the top-20, top-seed Ivo Karlovic who will aim to become the oldest ever winner of the Memphis title. Second seed Isner is the next highest ranked player and will attempt to record his best result since reaching the final in 2010 and 2016 finalist and NextGen star Taylor Fritz lines up again and will attempt to go one better than 2016 and win his first ATP title.
The top-seed at Memphis has a good record winning five of the last ten titles (last Nishikori 2016) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (2007), which bodes well for Karlovic’s chances this week, but it must be noted that Nishikori won four of these titles as top-seed between 2013 and 2016. The second seed has a poor record at Memphis winning one of the last ten titles (2007) and they were never a losing finalist in this period, which does not bode well for Isner's chances this week.
Seeded players in general do have a good record at Memphis and a player seeded no higher than eight won eight of the last ten titles (last Nishikori top-seed 2016) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist five times in this period (last 2012). Unseeded players also have a good record at Memphis and an unseeded player won two of the last ten titles (last 2012) and an unseeded player was a losing finalist five times in this period (last 2016), including five of the last six seasons (three Wild Cards and two unseeded).
Third seed Sam Querrey (16/1) stands out as a potential winner/finalist this week as he won this event in 2010 and last reached the final in 2015 (lost to Nishikori). 2015 finalist Taylor Fritz (33/1) looks over priced again this year, he will enjoy playing in front of his home fans again and on hard courts and he’s playing well enough to challenge for the title again this year.
World number five Kei Nishikori has opted to play the Golden Clay Swing this year and lines up as the top-seed at Buenos Aires this week, but strangely defending champion and clay court expert Dominic Thiem has opted to play in Rotterdam indoors. The top-seed has a good record at Buenos Aires winning seven of the last ten titles (last 2015) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (last 2010), which bodes well for Nishikori's chances this week. The second seed does not have such a good record winning only one of the last ten titles (2009) and they were a losing finalist twice in this period (last 2014), which does not bode well for Cuevas chances this week, who’s best finish is two quarter-finals in 2014 and 2015.
Seeded players have a strong record and a player seeded no higher than five has won nine of the last ten titles (last Thiem seeded five 2016) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist five times in this period (last 2014). An unseeded player has never won the title over the last decade, but they were a losing finalist four times in this period, including the last two seasons (Almagro 2016) Spanish players have a strong record at Buenos Aires winning seven of the last ten titles and with that in mind I’ll side with fifth seed Ramos-Vinolas (18/1) and Carreno-Busta (11/1) this week.