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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis


Before moving on to next week’s ATP tennis action I’ll just give a quick run-down of Monte Carlo. Rafa Nadal continued his dominance on clay by winning a record eleventh title and the world number one did it in his usual dominating fashion by not dropping a set during the tournament. Nadal defeated a resurgent Nishikori in the final 6-3 6-2 and Nishikori became the first unseeded player to reach the final since Coria back in 2003.

The ATP European clay court swing now moves on to Barcelona and a new tournament in Budapest, Hungary this week. Barcelona is one of three ATP 500 tournaments played on the red dirt and ten-time Barcelona winner and top-seed this week Rafa Nadal, who won an unprecedented eleventh Monte Carlo Masters title yesterday, will aim to achieve the same record at Barcelona this week. The Barcelona draw has been weakened somewhat with the withdrawal of second seed Cilic, third-seed Sasha Zverev and seventh seed Pouille, all due to injury.

The historical statistics at Barcelona bode well for Nadal’s chances of winning an eleventh Barcelona title as he’s won six of the last ten renewals, a Spanish player won eight of the last ten titles, the top seed has won six of the last ten titles overall (last Nadal 2016) and they were never a losing finalist during this period. The second seed has not performed as well at Barcelona over the last decade winning the title only once during this period (Nadal 2013) and they were a losing finalist three times during this period (last Nishikori 2016), which does not bode well for Monte Carlo semi-finalist Dimitrov’s chances this week.

Seeded players in general have a strong record at Barcelona and a player seeded no higher than five has won the last ten titles; a player seeded no higher than four was a losing finalist eight times during this period and the best result unseeded players have achieved was two losing finalists in 2014 and 2015.

From a betting perspective past statistics suggest going for players who are seeded five or below as a player seeded no higher than four won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than five was a losing finalist eight times during this period. Ten-time Barcelona winner top-seed Nadal is of course the hot favourite to win a record eleventh title and he’ll have to do it the hard way this week with the likes of fourth seed Goffin, sixth seed Djokovic, eighth seed Bautista Agut, ninth seed Chung and Monte Carlo finalist and fourteenth seed this week Nishikori in his half of the draw. While Nadal will no doubt find it harder to defend his title this week given the number of top-class players in his half of the draw, there were no real signs last week that anyone is playing well enough to stop him winning a record eleventh title.

Second seed Dimitrov hinted at a return to top-level form at Monte Carlo last week where he was the only player to push Nadal close in the first set of their semi-final, which Nadal won 6-4, but the Bulgarian could not maintain that level during the second set which he lost 6-1. Third seed and 2017 finalist Thiem resides in the bottom half of the draw and on paper he should be the player who reaches the final, but his performances so far this year and last week suggest he’s not hit top form yet and with that in mind he doesn’t appeal from a betting perspective.

There are no outright selections that appeal from a betting perspective at Barcelona, so I’ll highlight a couple of Quarter Winning selections that I believe could go close to reaching the semi-finals this week. NextGen star Rublev (7/1) resides in the Fourth Quarter, has proven form on clay having already won a title and he will like the quicker conditions this week. Jarry (33/1) from Chile also resides in the Fourth Quarter of the draw and he proved during the South American Golden Clay Swing back in February that he’s a potential star of the future reaching the quarter finals at Quito, semi-finals at Rio and final at Buenos Aires. If he can produce that level of form this week he should spring a few surprises and go close to reaching the semi-finals.

As the tournament in Budapest, Hungary is a new event it has little historical data to help analyse the draw however, we can use historical data from Bucharest the tournament it replaced, as the location and conditions are similar. The top-seed does not have a great record over the last decade winning three of the last ten titles (last Pouille 2017) and they were never a losing finalist during this period, however, defending champion Pouille returns this year and as he won as top-seed in 2017 his chances cannot be discounted this week. The Second seed has an average record winning two titles (last 2011) and they were never a losing finalist during this period, which does not bode well for Dzumhur’s chances this week.

Seeded players in general have performed well over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than five won eight of the last ten titles (last Pouille 2017) and a player seeded no higher than seven was a losing finalist four times during this period (last 2015). Unseeded players have also performed well over the last decade and an unseeded player won two of the last ten titles (last Verdasco 2016) and an unseeded player was a losing finalist six times during this period (last Bedene 2017).

From a betting perspective past statistics suggest siding with a player seeded no higher than five and its worth highlighting one or two unseeded players given they’ve won two of the last ten titles and were a losing finalist six times during this period. Top-seed and defending champion Pouille lost his last two first round matches at Indian Wells and Monte Carlo, he also missed the Miami Masters, which suggests all is not well, he could be carrying an injury and thus he does not appeal from a betting perspective.

From the top-half of the draw fifth seed and 2017 finalist Bedene (22/1) stands out as a potential winner given the record of players seeded five or less over the last decade and because he’s already reached two ATP Tour clay finals, at Budapest last year and Buenos Aires this season. He’s never beaten the main dangers in the top-half of the draw Pouille or third seed Gasquet, who impressed reaching the Monte Carlo semi-finals last week, but with doubts surrounding Pouille’s fitness and with Gasquet having exerted himself physically last week, this could be the time Bedene finally wins a long overdue first ATP Tour title.

From the bottom half of the draw second seed Dzhumur does not appeal given the record of the second seed over the last decade. Fourth seed Shapovalov does not appeal from a betting perspective due to his inexperience and lack of competitive top-class match play on the surface. Eighth seed Seppi would be of interest, but he expended a lot of energy at Monte Carlo last week reaching the fourth round from qualifying (six matches) and he played some long, tough three set matches that I think could catch up with him this week. Seventh seed Struff (10/1) showed good form at Monte Carlo last week reaching the fourth round where he pushed compatriot Sasha Zverev very close losing 6-4 4-6 6-4. If he can produce that level of form this week he should go close to reaching the final and challenging for the title.

As unseeded players have performed well over the last decade its worth highlighting a couple that could go well at big odds. Veteran Lorenzi (40/1) is a proven performer at this level on clay having won an ATP Tour title and multiple Challenger ones as well. He faces a tough opener against Basilashvili, who he leads the head-to-head against 1-0, which came at Kitzbuhel in 2016. If he can overcome this tricky opener he’s still capable at the age of 36 of challenging for titles of this nature and as he resides in the easier bottom half of the draw he’s worth siding with this week.

From a first round match betting perspective there are a few matches at Barcelona and Budapest I like that will hopefully return a profit. At Barcelona I think veteran Jaziri is playing well enough to upset Houston finalist Sandgren and Pella looks too short against the talented Gojowoczyk who leads the head-to-head 1-0. At Budapest veteran Istomin has been out of form so far this year and he is worth opposing against NextGen Russian and Wild Card Bublik and It could also pay to oppose eight seed and veteran Seppi against compatriot Fabbiano as Seppi may struggle physically after playing a lot of tough matches at Monte Carlo last week.


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