Before I give a run down of this weeks ATP tennis action at Marrakech and Houston I wanted to advise one more player outright at Marrakech, which was on my shortlist, but I wanted to see how they got on in their first-round match before advising them. Spanish veteran Andujar (66/1) is playing under a protected ranking after struggling and fighting a troublesome elbow injury for the last few years that nearly ended his career prematurely. Andujar warmed up well for this week by winning the Alicante Challenger last week and if he can maintain that level of form and build and improve on it this week, he has a good chance of challenging for the title as he’s got winning form on clay against the remaining main dangers from the top-half of the draw, Ramos-Vinolas and this seed Kohlschreiber, who gets his campaign underway today against Wild Card Ouahab.
There have been plenty of upsets and talking points so far this week at Marrakech and Houston. At Marrakech its not been a good start for seeded players with three going out in the first round, but the top-two seeds Ramos Vinolas and Edmunds are through to the second round. Fifth seed Haase lost his opener against the unseeded Basic as advised on Monday. Sixth seed Paire (advised 16/1) lost his opener against compatriot Simon 6-2 6-7 7-6 in what was a real ding-dong battle after the first set. Seventh seed Dolgopolov also crashed out in the first round against qualifier Arnaboldi, but he can be excused as this was his first match since the Australian Open and returning from injury.
Fourth seed Gasquet broke a four-match losing streak at Marrakesh yesterday dispatching Fabbiano in straight sets and veteran eighth seed Mischa Zverev also impressed dispatching the experienced Italian veteran Lorenzi in straight sets. In addition to Andujar doing well so far this week he was joined by compatriots Carballes-Baena and veteran Garcia-Lopez from the bottom half of the draw, who both won their first-round matches in impressive fashion. They will both need to match and probably improve on their first-round performances next up against Simon and fourth seed Gasquet respectively. Of the two I would go with Carballes Baena as on current form he’s capable of beating Simon on clay and Gasquet leads the head-to-head 4-0 against Garcia-Lopez, which does not bode well for his chances today. Sousa (advised 20/1) is also through to the second round and he will face Basic for the first time.
At the time of writing fifth seed Verdasco was the biggest upset of the first round at Houston after he lost against qualifier Kudla in straight sets. Eighth seed Sandgren (advised 66/1) is through to the second round after winning his opener against Kavcic on Monday night, as is NextGen American star Tiafoe, who ousted compatriot McDonald in straight sets on Monday. By the time you read this article all the first-round matches should be complete, including sixth seed Johnson (advised 25/1), who was due to face compatriot and 2017 semi-finalist Escobedo, and the top-four seeds like Isner, Querrey, Sock and Kyrgios will all get their campaigns underway today and tomorrow.