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  • Chris Sobey


Mixed fortunes for my outright advice last week at Marseille, Delray Beach and Rio, but I managed to highlight a winner with Sock (11/2) at Delray Beach and a finalist with Carreno-Busta (14/1) at Rio, who was playing his final against Thiem at the time of writing this article. On to this week and it’s another busy one with three more ATP Tournaments; two are ATP 500 hard court events at Dubai and Acapulco in Mexico and there’s the final clay court tournament of the Golden Swing in Sao Paulo, Brasil.

Starting with Dubai and the event has attracted a strong field with three top-10 players including top-seed Andy Murray who returns to the ATP for the first time since his early exit at the Australian Open, second seed Stan Wawrinka returns to defend his title and the star attraction as always, 2017 Australian Open champion and seven time Dubai winner Roger Federer who is seeded 3 this year. The likes of fourth seed Monfils, fifth seed Berdych and sixth seed Bautista Agut add further quality to a competitive field.

The top two seeds have dominated the title over the last decade winning eight titles and the top-seed has won three titles in this period (last Djokovic 2013) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (2015 Djokovic). The second seed has the best record at Dubai winning five of the last ten titles (last Wawrinka 2016), including the last two, but they were never a losing finalist in this period.

Seeded players in general have a very good record at Dubai and a player seeded no higher than six has won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than seven was a losing finalist seven times in this period (last Djokovic 2015). Since 2011 two players seeded no higher than four have contested five of the last six finals, which suggests the winner will come from the top four seeds, and with only three unseeded players making the final (2007, 2008 and 2016) in the last decade going for one of the top-four seeds looks like the best strategy.

As the second seed has such a strong record at Dubai defending champion Wawrinka (11/2) appeals as does seven time winner and third seed Federer (7/2) and i will stick with the two as my selections for the tournament.

Sao Paulo is the final clay court tournament of the 2017 Golden Swing as the tour moves towards the first Masters 1000 Series tournaments of the season at Indian Wells and Miami in March. The tournament has not attracted any top-10 players or clay court heavyweights this year, but has attracted a handful of clay court tournament winners like defending champion Pablo Cuevas seeded three, Rio finalist and top-seed Carreno-Busta, second seed and Rio semi-finalist Ramos-Vinolas, fifth seed Fognini and sixth seed Schwartzman. Spanish (6) and South American (4) players have dominated the tournament over the last decade winning all ten titles and three South American players won the last three seasons (Cuevas 2016 and 2015 and Del Bonis unseeded 2014).

The top seed has a good record at Sao Paulo winning four of the last ten titles (last Nadal 2013) and they were a losing finalist three times in this period (last time 2008), which would bode well for Carreno-Bustas chances this week but he was contesting the Rio final on Sunday and it’s unlikely he will reach back-to-back finals. The second seed has a poor record at Sao Paolo winning only two of the last ten titles (last Robredo 2009) and they were never a losing finalist in this period, which does not bode well for Ramos-Vinolas chances this week.

Seeded players in general have performed well over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than five has won eight of the last ten titles, including eight of the last nine, but they were a losing finalist only three times in this period (last time 2011). Unseeded players have not done well at this event in terms of winning titles over the last decade with just one winner in 2014, but there have been seven losing finalists in this period, including the last five seasons, and that trend could easily continue again this year with none of the seeded players playing world class clay court tennis at present.

Given the overwhelming statistics regarding the past ten winners coming from Spain or South America and eight of the last ten winners seeded no higher than five we can narrow down our search for the winner to be a South American with only three Spaniards in the draw. Defending champion and third seed Pablo Cuevas (13/1) has to be respected this week in such a weak field and with unseeded players having a good record of reaching finals over the last decade its worth highlighting a couple that could spring a surprise at decent odds. Brazilian Thiago Monteiro (33/1) has been in good form during the Golden Swing and should raise his game enough on home soil to mount a decent challenge for the title this week. Victor Estrella Burgos (40/1) is a tough veteran who is proven at this level; he won the title at Quito for the third year running recently and if he can reproduce that level of form this week will be difficult to beat.

At the time of writing there was no draw up for Acapulco so I will provide you my thoughts on the tournament on Tuesday.

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