It’s back to the bread and butter of the ATP 250s on the tour in week 14, with the start of the clay swing and two tournaments in Marbella, Spain and Cagliari, Italy for Sean Calvert to assess from an outright betting perspective.
This week of the tour usually sees the players head to Houston and Marrakech, but both of those tournaments have been postponed, so instead we have the Andalucia Open and Sardegna Open. But first a look back at Miami.
It was the right idea to take on Daniil Medvedev in Q1 of the Miami Open draw, with the Russian showing once again that he is vulnerable on slow courts and in conditions where heat and humidity make things tough.
Unfortunately for us, the main I chose to oppose him with at a big price, Reilly Opelka, was poor in his opening match and that sort of display has been quite widespread this season, with many players seemingly struggling to get motivated.
The lack of crowds and being forced to isolate in hotel rooms has taken its toll on many players – not just the obvious ones such as Benoit Paire – and that’s made it even tougher on the outright betting front lately.
I also said last week that it wasn’t a given that one of Medvedev, Rublev, Tsitsipas or Zverev would win and indeed both Tsitsipas and Rublev both admitted to feeling the pressure of expectation.
Of the two that did make the title match, I wouldn’t have picked Hubert Hurkacz to make a M1000 final, while I didn’t really fancy Jannik Sinner having the stamina to make it all the way in Miami’s high heat and humidity given his regular struggles with fitness.
Conditions and trends
The Andalucia Open is another of those one-year licence tournaments that the ATP have come up with to fill the void and this is an event that I’d have liked to have gone to had things been ‘normal’.
It’s played at the Club de Tennis Puente Romano in Marbella, where I once watched Cam Norrie beat Roberto Bautista Agut from two sets down in Davis Cup and it’s a very nice setting for tennis.
It’s right next to the coastline, so it can get a little windy here, and it just hosted a Challenger that’s just been won by Gianluca Mager (defeated Jaume Munar in the final).
There will be fans in attendance, as there were for the latter stages of the Challenger, while rain is forecast for most of the week after Monday, so at a guess it’ll be on the slower side in Marbella this week.
The Sardegna Open will this year be played in the city of Cagliari at the Cagliari Tennis Club after being staged at the Forte Village Resort as recently as last October.
Laslo Djere won the October event, beating Marco Cecchinato in the final, and the weather is forecast to be a little unsettled in Cagliari this week, with quite strong winds expected midweek.
And while there’s no real history to look back on with these two tournaments it is probably worth noting that on the last two occasions that the opening event of the clay swing was staged (in Marrakech in 2018 and 2019) the players that won it were 80-1 (Paire 2019) and 125-1 (Andujar 2018) outsiders.
The only top seed to have won Marrakech in recent memory was Stan Wawrinka in 2010, so the opening week of the clay swing often provides some surprises.
The tournament thought it had benefitted from the early Miami exits of Alexander Zverev and Fabio Fognini, who’d both taken late wild cards into Marbella, but Zverev pulled out injured on Saturday.
Roberto Bautista Agut and Andrey Rublev’s strong runs in Miami (and perhaps the memory of losing to Norrie from two sets and a break up at this venue in RBA’s case) has seen them also withdraw, along with Stan Wawrinka (foot surgery), Dusan Lajovic and Norrie.
So, it’s Pablo Carreno Busta that’s our top seed and joint favourite in Marbella this week and he’s been practicing at the JC Ferrero Academy in Alicante while others have been in Miami, so he should be well prepared for this.
That said, PCB hasn’t made a clay final since 2017 and only one semi final in his last 16 main level clay events, so if we add that to his lack of match action this season there are reasons to oppose him this week.
The one that does look interesting in his quarter of the draw is Francisco Cerundolo, who’s been playing so well lately and his main level breakthrough in Buenos Aires will have him full of confidence.
He showed in Buenos Aires that he has the power to beat the likes of Albert Ramos and provided he can beat a somewhat resurgent Facundo Bagnis in round one I’d expect him to get the better of either Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune or Soonwoo Kwon in round two.
Rune seems rather short in the betting to me given that he failed to qualify for the Challenger event in Marbella last week and while he may have a bright future it’s surely too soon to have him at 20-1 to win at this level.
Cerundolo did win his only career clash with Bagnis and he’s won 19 of his last 23 matches at all levels against lefties, so I’m happy to take Unibet’s 20-1 about Cerundolo this week, with lefties Bagnis and Ramos in his half of the draw.
The other one that interests me in the top half – and this is a real punt based on his recent form and fitness – is to chance the 50-1 (Unibet) about Juan Ignacio Londero, who has had all sorts of struggles lately but may be ready to show what he can do again.
A neck injury followed by Covid really set him back earlier this year, but that was a month ago now and if he’s fit and ready a draw against Norbert Gombos and then either Federico Delbonis (won two of the last three against him) or Roberto Carballes Baena (1-0 to Londero head-to-head) shouldn’t worry him.
Then it might get tougher – probably against Ramos – but Londero did beat Ramos on slow clay in windy conditions by the beach in Bastad two years ago and he even took a set this year against Ramos, despite being in poor form.
He’ll need a lot of improvement on what we’ve seen lately, but the neck problem may well have been contributing to his lack of form, and I don’t mind taking a chance at this price that he can recapture his old sparkle.
In the bottom half of the draw in Q3 we have the other joint tournament favourite Casper Ruud, who’s been practicing with Nadal the last week or so and he’s an obvious contender, but too short for me at 5-1.
He withdrew from Miami due to a wrist problem that caused him to quit in Acapulco and that’s only a few weeks ago.
That could open the door for the likes of Gianluca Mager, who won the Challenger here at the weekend, or perhaps young gun Carlos Alcaraz, who’s been in such impressive form lately.
He’s certainly one for the shortlist at around 16-1, but I wonder if he’s quite got the experience yet to be winning at this level?
Q4 also looks rather open, with Fabio Fognini’s level this week (or any week) anyone’s guess.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina is a live contender and probably my favourite to make the latter stages from this quarter, but he’s only won back-to-back matches once this season and consistency has been his problem.
I’d probably want bigger than 10-1 about him, while Jaume Munar looks way too short at 14s or so based on his showing in the Challenger last week and generally at main level in recent times.
He doesn’t have enough in his game to be that short at this level for me, while Pedro Martinez has struggled with injury this season and retired in Miami with a reoccurrence of that same abdominal injury.
Depending on who the qualifier is that will face Munar I might be tempted to go with them, but we’ll wait and see on that.
For the first time in his career, Dan Evans finds himself as the top seed for a main level tournament, but his record on clay suggests that he’s unlikely to justify that seeding.
Evans is working with Juan Martin Del Potro’s former coach Sebastian Prieto for this clay swing and his results on the red dirt suggest that he’s in need of that assistance desperately, with Evans holding a 4-12 win/loss mark on clay, losing the last nine in a row dating back to 2017.
On that form it’s hard to see Evans beating either Lorenzo Musetti or Dennis Novak in his opening match and Evans’ quarter of the draw also includes Laslo Djere, Federico Coria and John Millman.
Millman’s recent form has been poor and his clay results are usually little better than those of Evans, other than when he popped up and made the Budapest final on the dirt in 2018.
Millman hasn’t won back-to-back matches in any of his 14 main level tournaments on clay since then, so Q1 looks to be Musetti and Coria and you’d have to fancy the Italian on home soil.
Musetti played well in the Sardegna Open of last October and was unlucky to get injured in the semi final against Djere having taken a one set lead over the Serb in that match before being forced to retire.
He’s gone from strength to strength since then and Q1 looks a good opportunity for him to make another deep run at this level on the dirt, but the bookies are on to Musetti and he’s been made the favourite at around 6.0 which is a bit short for me.
Indeed, I can’t recall off the top of my head when the player who’s the last direct acceptance into a main level draw, as Musetti is this week at 119, was the tournament favourite.
Quarter two is harder to call, with the form of Nikoloz Basilashvili somewhat unpredictable to say the least and there are also four qualifiers to be placed into this section of the draw, plus Jan-Lennard Struff and Joao Sousa.
Sousa showed some signs of life in Miami, but it would be some turnaround for him to go deep this week in Cagliari, while Struff flatters to deceive far too often and really Basilashvili should be winning this section of the draw, but who knows what sort of level he’ll produce this week (or any week).
The 33-1 (BoyleSports) about Basil is worth risking in case he shows up and fancies it, but with four qualifiers in this section of the draw it’s probably worth waiting for them to be placed in the draw before we decide on anything else in Q2.
In the bottom half of the draw in Q3 we have several very capable clay players in Marco Cecchinato, Yannick Hanfmann, Tommy Paul, Stefano Travaglia, and Lorenzo Sonego, plus Gilles Simon and Thomas Fabbiano who couldn’t be totally ruled out of contention.
Simon has made one final on clay in the last nine years, while Fabbiano’s only finals on dirt have come at Futures level, but Paul can play on clay, although he was beaten here in Sardinia by Cecchinato in October.
I gave Cecchinato a couple of goes in South America and he didn’t produce, so I’m not keen on backing him again, but he could very easily be the one to progress from Q3.
Hanfmann played well in Sardinia in October before being beaten by Musetti in the quarter finals and he’s beaten both Cecchinato and Travaglia on clay in the last couple of years, so if he can get past Paul in round one he’s a possibility, too.
Travaglia has been disappointing since surprisingly making the Melbourne final and his record in Italy is worrying: just one final in his home nation at Challenger and main level in a 47-46 win/loss career mark.
Sonego seems to be more effective on quicker surfaces than this, with his only main level semi final on clay coming at altitude in Kitzbuhel, and he’s not for me this week at the prices.
Q4 looks really open, with Guido Pella making his comeback after contracting Covid and he’s barely played for six months, so he’d do well to go deep this week given his lack of action and recent history of injury and illness going back quite a while now.
Egor Gerasimov surely needs it quicker than this (he’s only ever made a clay final at Futures level and is 0-2 at main level) while the wild card Giulio Zeppieri has only played one prior match at this level (lost to Sonego in Sardinia last October).
Andrej Martin’s best clay results usually come at altitude at this level (or in Umag) but he’s a possibility, along with his round one opponent Jiri Vesely, who made the quarters here in Sardinia in October. It wouldn’t surprise me if the winner of that one went on a run this week.
The high seed in this half of the draw, Taylor Fritz has had some moments of success on clay, but he’s far from a natural on the red dirt and maybe Aljaz Bedene could go well here.
Bedene’s never won a main level tournament and hasn’t made a final on clay since 2018, but this looks within his ability level if he has a good week. The price of 16-1 isn’t the most appealing though given that he’s yet to break his duck at this level at the age of 31.
I’ll wait for qualies to finish before concluding my bets this week, but for now the 20-1 about Cerundolo and 50-1 about Londero will be the ones in Marbella and I’ll wait and see in Sardinia and just have Basilashvili at 33s at the moment, with Musetti just too short for me.
0.5 points each-way F.Cerundolo to win Marbella at 20-1 (Unibet)
0.5 points each-way Londero to win Marbella at 50-1 (Unibet)
0.5 points win Basilashvili to win Sardinia at 33-1 (BoyleSports)