ATP Dubai and Acapulco outright preview

Posted on

The ATP Tour moves on to Dubai and Acapulco in week 11 for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC – two ATP 500 events for Sean Calvert to take a look at from an outright betting perspective.


It’s been a pretty poor couple of weeks on the outrights from a tipping perspective, but Twitter followers will know that I got a little lucky last week in Doha when one of the inflated prices that Paddy Power came up with landed at 500-1.

I said last week that I’d taken some early prices (300-1 Fucsovics etc) that were too big, while Dusan Lajovic was laughably short at 9-2, and one of those was Nikoloz Basilashvili, who produced perhaps the biggest turnaround in form in recent memory in Doha.

Having failed to beat a top-100 opponent for an entire year, Basil took down Federer, Fritz and Bautista Agut back-to-back to land the spoils, but that was just a gut feeling bet that was hugely unlikely to come off and surely nobody in their right mind could have seriously tipped it.

In any case, that 500-1 was gone as soon as I’d taken my maximum stake of £4 on it, and hopefully that hasn’t used up all the luck that I’d been waiting so long for after a lengthy spell of semi final and final losers.

Conditions and trends

Several of the players only have a short trip to make this week, from Doha to Dubai, but Roger Federer won’t be one of them, after the Swiss veteran pulled out of Dubai after his two comeback matches in Doha.

At one stage it looked like the event had secured both Federer and Rafa Nadal, but in the end they’ve got neither of those two superstars.

They play on a DecoTurf II outdoor hard court in Dubai, with Wilson balls and while the surface is usually on the quicker side, the balls tend to fly here (especially in the faster day session) and it gets slower and colder at night – and it gets windy, too.

That tends to lead to few tie breaks and below average service holds and there were only 73% holds in Dubai in 2020, which is about the same as a slow clay event would expect to have.

Last week’s WTA event in Dubai was won by Garbiñe Muguruza, while the ever-helpful Karolina Pliskova said of the conditions: “This court is quite fast, like every year.”

Rarely does Dubai produce an unheralded champion, with one of the top-four seeds winning here each year since 2008 and Fabrice Santoro was the last unseeded champion, back in 2002.

And no qualifier has made the Dubai final yet since the tournament began back in 1983.

We’re more likely to get a big-priced winner in Acapulco, where they play on a slowish Solflex outdoor hard court with Wilson balls and similarly to Dubai it produces few tie breaks and not that many holds (77% on average in the last five years).

Taylor Fritz made the final as a 50-1 chance in Acapulco a year ago (lost to Nadal) and Sam Querrey beat Edmund, Goffin, Thiem, Kyrgios and Nadal to become champion at 90-1 back in 2017.

Acapulco hasn’t been great for qualifiers yet either, with none having yet made the final and none past the quarter finals since 2015.

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

With top seed Dominic Thiem looking out of sorts at the moment and admitting to still being troubled by an ongoing foot injury, the top half of the draw looks very open.

“I feel it almost in every match,” Thiem said after losing to Bautista Agut in Doha. “There is a little damage on both feet since a very young age on, and of course, it’s sometimes a little bit painful but nothing to worry about it. I feel it’s almost in every match, and I will be able to deal with it.”

The Austrian has only ever played one match in Dubai (lost to Bautista Agut in 2015)  and he’ll face a qualifier first up, followed, if he wins that, by possibly a clash with Filip Krajinovic, who beat Thiem comfortably right at the start of the season in Australia.

Krajinovic himself has a tough-looking opener though, against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and either one of those could make things tough for Theim, who, injury or not, isn’t looking at his best so far this season.

And I think the one to take him on with in the top half is Borna Coric, who has a good record here in Dubai and looked in good nick a couple of weeks ago in Rotterdam.

He was a bit short in price for me last week in Doha at around 16-1 when he ended up pulling out due to a shoulder problem, but at twice the price at an event where he’s twice been a semi finalist (9-4 win/loss) and only been beaten by Federer (twice), Bautista Agut, Kohlschreiber, I don’t mind taking a punt on Coric.

He’s beaten Thiem twice in five meetings, while two of the other three were very close and this DecoTurf II surface gives Coric a bit more zip on his ground strokes, which will help him.

Assuming he’s fit, Coric gets the nod ahead of other possible options in the top half, such as Krajinovic, Hubert Hurkacz, David Goffin, Alex De Minaur, Denis Shapovalov and Karen Khachanov.

Khachanov threatened a return to form in Rotterdam, but was beaten well by Matt Ebden in Marseille, while De Minaur still doesn’t look happy with no crowds to feed off and 16-1 feels short in conditions he’s yet to encounter and which may be too quick to be ideal for the Aussie.

Krajinovic has long been on my list as one that isn’t prepared to tough it out in windy conditions, which puts me off him here, but Hurkacz won (albeit against weak opposition) in Delray Beach, which suggests he can cope in the wind.

One I had on my shortlist in Singapore – and he went and won it at 25-1 after I passed on him – is Alexei Popyrin and he’s very familiar with conditions here, having “grown up on the Duabi courts” in his own words.

It’s hard to see him winning again, but he might cause a few problems for the likes of Khachanov in Q2 of this draw though.

Stan Wawrinka’s withdrawal (oddly, cited as fatigue when he’s only played two matches in a month) leaves Lorenzo Sonego, Dan Evans, Jannik Sinner and Roberto Bautista Agut as the seeds in Q3.

RBA looks the obvious choice to progress from Q3, but he’s too short for me at around 12-1 at best and maybe Evans can go well again in Dubai after a semi final run last year.

Evans would need to be bigger than the 25-1 or so that I’ve seen so far to attract my money and with the likes of Egor Gerasimov, Aslan Karatsev and Alexander Bublik in this section of the draw as well it looks one to leave alone for me.

Andrey Rublev was one of those beaten by Evans here a year ago and the Russian is the favourite to progress from Q4, but he looked rather off the pace in Doha last week having been handed byes all the way to the semi finals, where he was defeated by Bautista Agut.

His second match would be against either Basilashvili or Taylor Fritz – two in-form players right now – while another player on top form, Marton Fucsovics is also in this quarter, along side Pablo Carreno Busta, Dusan Lajovic and Vasek Pospisil.

It’s a quarter that Rublev would expect to win on his recent form, but he’s yet to prove himself in Dubai and Fritz is worthy of consideration in this section at 40-1 or so to win the tournament.

The American was favourite to make the final in Doha last week, but faded in the semi against Basilashvili and perhaps the wind that’s often a factor both here and in Doha might count against him.

It could also have been fatigue that cost Fritz in that match after two very tough matches prior and I don’t mind taking a small punt on Fritz each-way at the 50-1 on offer at Ladbrokes.

Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC

There’s been a 50-1-plus winner or finalist in Acapulco in three of its last four years on the tour, so it’s worth taking a chance on one or two in this year’s draw, with doubts over the top two seeds for me, too.

The conditions may well be too slow to be ideal for number one seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who’s coming off a rather poor loss to Pierre Hugues-Herbert in Marseille (a tournament he won twice in succession).

He also faces a tricky early draw against Benoit Paire first up and then probably John Isner, followed most likely by Felix Auger-Aliassime and either Diego Schwartzman or Grigor Dimitrov to make the final.

That looks a tough draw for most players and there’s also the likes of Kevin Anderson, Miomir Kecmanovic, Sebastian Korda, Marin Cilic, Adrian Mannarino and Frances Tiafoe in the top half, so it’s a pretty competitive part of the draw for Tsitsipas.

Anderson and Dimitrov both have good records in Acapulco, with Anderson 11-3 win/loss and Dimitrov also 11-3, but both have had injury problems lately and Anderson withdrew from Doha last week for unspecified reasons.

The lack of pace in the courts could well suit Schwartzman, who’s won in similar conditions in Los Cabos before, but it might suit Kecmanovic, too, with the Serbian having made the quarter finals on slow hard at Indian Wells a couple of years ago.

He’s been playing on the slow clay in South America in the last few weeks and did pretty well in making the semis in Buenos Aires in conditions that are surely a little too slow for him.

Now with arguably the best player never to have won a major (David Nalbandian) in his corner Kecmanovic could be the surprise package in the top half of the draw.

He should be beating Feli Lopez in these conditions in round one and then he’d probably have to beat Dimitrov, but that’s hardly an insurmountable obstacle these days.

I took the 66-1 that was on offer with our friends at Paddy/Betfair, but I’m not sure if that sort of price will be available still.

They also put Sebastian Korda in at 300-1, which again I’ve taken, as that price is clearly several times too big. Korda’s been impressing lately on the main tour and made the final of Delray Beach on a hard court that usually isn’t the quickest.

In the bottom half, Alexander Zverev’s ex-girlfriend has just given birth to a baby girl, which will surely just add to his likely pre-occupation with off-court issues in his life at the moment.

He’s been number two seed in each of his prior appearances in Acapulco, but he’s yet to win it and he lost in straight sets to Tommy Paul here a year ago and faces young gun Carlos Alcaraz first up, so I won’t be backing Zverev as 100-30 favourite this year.

Quarter three is interesting, with the layers fancying Milos Raonic to come through it, which he might well do, but he’s never played Acapulco before and his fitness is always under question for me these days.

Perhaps the best value alternative in Q3 might be Stefano Travaglia at 66-1 (Paddy/Betfair and Bet Victor), with the layers expecting him to lose first up to Fabio Fognini.

Travaglia beat Fognini as a 5.77 chance in the US Open of 2017 and also beat him (by retirement) in Umag on the clay in 2019, so Fognini is yet to beat his fellow countryman and how seriously Fogna will be taking a week in Acapulco is anyone’s guess.

Travaglia made the final on quick outdoor hard in Melbourne and made the quarters in slow conditions in Antalya, so he’s improving on this surface to the extent where it doesn’t seem that unlikely that he could be a dark horse in Q3.

Raonic has a tricky one in the first round in Tommy Paul, who beat Zverev here last year, and a potential route to the semis of Fognini, Cam Norrie and Paul or Dominik Koepfer doesn’t look impossible by any means for Travaglia.

In Q4, Casper Ruud is improving on hard courts, but he’d need to be bigger than 20-1 to tempt me and Carlos Alcaraz is a possibility here at a triple figure price (again Paddy/Betfair).

It’s probably too soon for Alcaraz to go all the way, but David Goffin can attest to the youngster’s ability on hard courts and Zverev will need to be on it from the first ball in that one.


So, Coric at 33s and Fritz at 50s look the ones in the top and bottom half in Dubai, while in Acapulco, the 300-1 about Korda has to be taken if you can get it, and I also like the 66s about Kecmanovic and Travaglia there.

Best Bets

0.5 points each-way Coric in Dubai at 33-1 (Bet 365)

0.5 points each-way Fritz in Dubai at 50-1 (Ladbrokes)

0.5 points each-way Korda in Acapulco at 300-1 (Paddy/Betfair)

0.5 points each-way Travaglia in Acapulco at 66-1 (several firms)

0.5 points each-way Kecmanovic in Acapulco (Paddy/Betfair)