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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis


Roland Garros brings to and end the European clay court swing and the ATP tour now switches to the grass courts of Europe, which leads up to the third Grand Slam of the season at Wimbledon next month. Before I provide my analysis and preview of this week’s ATP tour grass court tournaments at Stuttgart, Germany and s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, I’ll provide a quick recap of Roland Garros.

The King of Clay Nadal’s crown still sits firmly on his head after he continued his remarkable dominance of the tournament winning an unbelievable twelfth title yesterday. This achievement will probably never be matched or beaten again in a long time, if ever! He beat Thiem 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 and the first two sets were very high quality with little separating the two.

However, just when you thought Thiem may have a chance to push Nadal all the way to five sets and maybe win, the King of Clay found another gear, while Thiem started to fatigue and Nadal steam rollered him over the last two sets for the loss of only one game. There was a new winner of the women’s title and the multi-talented Aussie Ashley Barty won her first Grand Slam title in impressive fashion beating the talented young Czech Vondrousova 6-3 6-1, who was contesting her first Grand Slam final as well.

The transition from clay to grass has always proved to be a difficult one for many players on the ATP Tour and in the modern professional era, it’s become even harder to master and be consistently successful on both surfaces at Slam level due to Federer being so naturally gifted and dominant on grass for most of his pro career and Nadal on clay. To put into perspective how hard it has been over the last two decades to win back-to-back Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles, Federer has only managed it once in 2009 and Nadal twice in 2008 and 2010.

Not even Djokovic, who won Wimbledon three times in 2014, 2015 and 2018 and Roland Garros once in 2016, has been able to manage this amazing achievement yet, mainly due to Federer’s dominance at Wimbledon and more so Nadal’s continued dominance at Roland Garros. Even when the two greats weren’t dominating both Slams due to injury, Djokovic had to contend with other great players of their generation like Murray, who won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016 and Wawrinka who won Roland Garros in 2015.

I think to some extent this highlights how great Federer and Nadal’s generation were and still are especially considering their ages, and why the current and Next Generation of elite players are struggling to compete with them and make any significant any impact on their dominance. Realistically, even when Federer, Nadal and Djokovic do eventually retire it’s unlikely any current or future individual and/or group of elite players will get anywhere close to matching their individual and/or collective dominance and success.

However, while the men’s big five have dominated the majority of Grand Slams over the last two decades it has also meant they’ve contested less and less grass court ATP 250 and 500 warm up events as they’ve got older and due to injury, which has propelled less talented and more inconsistent lower ranked players in to draws and others being seeded.

I’ve kept profit and loss records of how the top five seeds have performed on the ATP and WTA Tours since 2010 at all the grass court tournaments leading up to Wimbledon based on opposing them to level stakes. I have also omitted all profit and loss returns for matches where top-5 seeds played each other, for walk overs and in play retirements and also if they qualify as a main bet when the historical statistics over the last decade are in the favour of a top five seeded player winning.

There’s only two tournaments, one on each tour that have returned a loss since 2010, Stuttgart on the ATP Tour and Nottingham on the WTA Tours and there has been a number of losing years across all the grass court tournaments since 2010 so obviously it’s not guaranteed to work at every tournament every season, but it does show a decent consistent profit over the long term, which if course an important part of any successful betting strategy.

Since 2010 on the ATP Tour it would have returned 95 points profit and on the WTA Tour 67 points profit both to a level one-point stake. So, it’s worth considering monitoring how the top-five seeds at all ATP and WTA Tour grass court tournaments perform this year again and where it qualifies you can consider opposing a top five seeded player on the exchanges with small stakes to start with.

Moving on to this week's ATP Tour action and there are two grass court tournaments in Stuttgart and s-Hertogenbosch, and I’ll start by analysing and previewing Stuttgart, which switched from a clay court tournament to grass in 2015. Having opted to play at Roland Garros this year after a four-year absence and reaching the semi-finals, defending Stuttgart champion Federer obviously does not line up to defend his title.

There’s only one top ten player in the field this year, which is Alexander Zverev who was not in the original line-up but was offered a late Wild Card after exiting Roland Garros at the quarter final stage last week. Second seed Khachanov also reached the quarter finals at Roland Garros and is verging on breaking in to the world’s top-ten for the first time in his career as a result.

Four of the other top eight seeds taking part this week are currently in the world’s top twenty, third seed Medvedev who is ranked fourteen, fifth seed Basilashvili who is ranked sixteenth in the world and two former top ten stars, fourth seed Raonic who is ranked eighteenth in the world and sixth seed Monfils who is ranked seventeenth. Seventh Seed Shapovalov and eighth seed Kyrgios add further quality to a competitive field.

The top seed has won three of the last ten titles (last Federer 2018) and they were never a losing finalist during this period, which does not bode well for Zverev’s chances this week especially after such a physical and emotionally draining two weeks at Roland Garros. The second seed also has a poor record having never won the title over the last decade and they were a losing finalist only twice during this period (last Kholschreiber 2013), which does not bode well for Roland Garros quarter finalist Khachanov’s chances this week.

Seeded players have performed well over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than five won eight of the last ten titles (last Federer 2018) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist seven times during this period (last Raonic 2018). Unseeded players have experienced some success over the last decade winning two of the last ten titles (last Ferrero 2011) and an unseeded player was a losing finalist three times during this period (last Lopez 2017).

From an outright tournament betting perspective at Stuttgart, the statistics over the last decade suggest a seeded player seeded from three to eight has the best chance of winning the title. 2018 Stuttgart finalist sixth seed Raonic (12/1) is an obvious choice as he’s got the best record on grass of all the field having reached three finals on the surface including Wimbledon and Queens in 2016 and he’s due to face a qualifier in the first round.

The one main negative is that he’s not played since the Miami Masters 1000 Series and missing the whole clay court swing. However, he will have been putting in plenty of practice in preparation for the grass swing and Wimbledon will no doubt be his priority as it’s realistically the best chance he has of winning a Slam and barring any unknown injury he should go close to winning again this year.

Veteran German Kohlschreiber (22/1) has always been a good player on home soil and is versatile having won titles on all surfaces during his long career including his only one on grass at Halle, Germany back in 2011. He also reached two grass finals on home soil at Halle 2008 and Stuttgart in 2016. Finally, fifth seed veteran Monfils (14/1) is also worthy of consideration having won a title on the surface at Eastbourne in 2017, but he faces a potentially tough opener against the out of form unseeded American Johnson who has won two grass titles so far in his career, but he trails the head-to-head 2-0 against Monfils.

Finally, the likes of third seed Medvedev and the unseeded Pouille and Kyrgios all from the bottom half of the draw must be respected as they have previous good form on grass. Pouille has won a title on the surface but is out of form, Medvedev has a 3-0 losing head-to-head record against potential second round opponent the out of form Pouille and Kyrgios is just too inconsistent to back with any confidence due to his erratic attitude and behaviour, but he could stroll to Sunday’s final if he wakes up on the right side of bed every day.

At s-Hertogenbosch French veteran eighth seed, Gasquet is the defending champion and must be respected, but he’s still early in to his comeback from injury and it’s unlikely he’ll win back-to-back titles with little form to call on so far this year. The tournament has been able to attract one top-ten-star, Greek NextGen star and world number six Tsitsipas. Second seed Coric accepted a Wild Card this year and he won Halle last year and is the only other player ranked in the top twenty at fifteen.

The top-seed does not have a good record at s-Hertogenbosch having only won one of the last ten titles (last Ferrer 2012) and they were never a losing finalist during this period, which doesn’t bode well for Tsitsipas chances this year especially as he’s got little grass experience and form.

The second seed hasn’t performed much better either over the last decade winning one of the last ten titles (last Gasquet 2018) and they were a losing finalist twice during this period (last Goffin 2015), which doesn’t bode well for Coric’s chances of winning another grass title this year but he still has to be respected as he’s got the ability and is playing well enough to buck the poor trend of the second seed.

Seeded players between three and eight have a better record at s-Hertogenbosch over the last decade winning five of the last ten titles (last Muller 2017) and a player seeded no higher than seven was a losing finalist six times during this period (last Karlovic 2017). Unseeded players have a good record at s-Hertogenbosch over the last decade winning five of the last ten titles (last Mahut 2015) and they were a losing finalist four times during this period (last Chardy 2018).

From an outright tournament betting perspective, the statistics over the last decade suggest opposing the top two seeds and siding with a seeded player from three to eight or an unseeded player including qualifiers. I’m going to focus on experienced unseeded players who have proven form on grass first.

From the top half of the draw, 2018 finalist Chardy (28/1) excelled on grass last year reaching the final here and semi-finals at Queens (lost to Djokovic) and as he seems to be fit and healthy he’s worth siding with again this year (tipped him last year). The only concern is that he has a losing 2-1 head-to-head record against experienced versatile first round opponent Italian veteran Seppi, who has been successful on grass in the past.

From the bottom half of the draw unseeded Aussie Ebden (66/1) is a proven performer on grass, he has a decent winning match record on the surface over the last few seasons and he reached his only ever ATP tournament final at Newport back in 2017 and as a result, he looks over priced to me. As they’ve won one of the last ten titles and was a losing finalist twice over the last decade, I’ll side with one seeded player as well. If Second seed Wild Card Coric (7/1) can reproduce his Halle winning form from last year he’ll be difficult to beat this week.

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