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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis


After a break for the Davis Cup the ATP Tour now switches to clay for the European swing leading up to the second Grand Slam of the season the French Open. There are two ATP 250 tournaments to focus on this week in Marrakesh, Morocco and one in North America, at Houston Texas. Marrakesh usually suits aggressive clay courters from Europe as they’ve won nine of the last ten titles. Houston is a long-standing event that goes back to the 1970’s and it seems to suit big servers who adopt an aggressive game, especially American players who have won five of the last ten and three of the four last titles.

At Houston defending champion for the last two seasons American and top-seed Johnson returns to defend his title and go for three in a row. This year’s renewal has disappointingly attracted in a weak field with not one player ranked in the top twenty taking part. The top-two seeds have a poor record at Houston and the top-seed has won none of the last ten titles and they were a losing finalist only once during this period, which does not bode well for Johnsons chances of winning a third straight title this season. The second seed has not performed any better winning none of the last ten titles and they were a losing finalist once in this period (2012), which does not bode well for Frenchman Chardy’s chances this week.

Seeded players from two to eight have a better record in general at Houston and a player seeded no higher than six has won five of the last ten titles (last Johnson 2018) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist nine times during this period (last Sandgren 2018). Unseeded players have a good record at Houston over the last decade winning five of the last ten titles (last Monaco 2016) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (last 2009).

From a betting perspective the past statistics suggest opposing the top-two seeds Johnson and Chardy and and opt for an experienced, big serving aggressive seeded player between three and eight and also look to include one or two unseeded players whose profile and recent and/or clay form makes worthy of consideration from a betting perspective.

2018 finalist Sandgren (40/1) must be respected again this year as he’s been in decent form already winning a title and he looks overpriced as a result. Giant American and big serving Opelka (11/1) has been in decent form so far this year and if in the mood and taking to the different conditions this week he could easily serve his way to the title. Finally, sixth seed American McDonald (25/1) is a combative aggressive player who I like and is talented enough to challenge for a title of this quality if he can produce his best tennis this week.

At Marrakech three-time defending champion, Spanish veteran Andujar returns to defend his remarkable title win last year when he won ranked outside the world’s top 1200 and he arrives in form having reached the Spanish Challenger final in Alicante at the time of writing. The tournament has attracted a strong field this year with world number four and top-seed Zverev, the enigmatic clay specialist second seed Fognini, 2018 finalist and third seed Edmunds and 2016 winner Del Bonis to name a few.

The top-two seeds have a poor record at Marrakech over the last decade and the top-seed has won one of the last ten titles (last 2010) and they were never a losing finalist during this period, which does not bode well for Zverev’s chances this week. The second seed has won one of the last ten titles (Klizan 2015) and they were a losing finalist twice during this period (last Edmunds 2018), which does not bode well for Fognini’s chances this week.

Seeded players in general have performed quite well at Marrakech over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than eight won five of the last ten titles (last Delbonis 2016) and a player seeded no higher than seven was a losing finalist nine times during this period (last Edmunds 2018). Unseeded players also have a good record at Marrakech over the last decade winning five titles (last Andujar 2018) and an unseeded player was a losing finalist once during this period (Gimeno-Traver 2015).

From a betting perspective the past statistics suggest opposing the top-two seeds and siding with either a seeded player from three to eight or whose an experienced and talented clay courter, ideally from Europe. 2018 finalist, third seed and British number one Edmunds (14/1) proved he has was it takes to win at this level on clay last season with some impressive results and with some better form under his belt more recently he will hopefully feel confident enough to produce his best tennis again this week which should see him go close to winning the title if he does. The unseeded Serb Krajinovic (28/1) has been producing some decent form this season, he arrives this week on a high after reaching the Challenger final in France last week and if he feels physically capable and in the mood to continues his winning run he could be a lively outsider for the title this week. Finally, defending champion Andujar (50/1) has to be taken seriously again this year as a three time winner and he arrives in form after winning the Challenger in Alicante last week and if he’s physically in shape he’s more than capable of blitzing his way to the title again this year.


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