The 2021 ATP Tour moves on to Portugal and Germany in week 17, with two ATP 250 tournaments on clay this week’s focus: the Millennium Estoril Open and the BMW Open for Sean Calvert to assess from an outright betting perspective.
We’re in Estoril and Munich this week on the clay swing, but first a look back on events in Belgrade and Barcelona in week 16.
We did more or less as well as we could in terms of value picks in Barcelona last week, with 22-1 shot Jannik Sinner falling in the semi finals to number two seed and second favourite Stefanos Tsitsipas, having previously beaten third-seeded Andrey Rublev.
Our other bet, 25-1 Diego Schwartzman, should also have made the semis, having led 5-2 (and traded at 1.07 in-play) against Pablo Carreno Busta in the other semi final. You feel that Schwartzman would have given Rafael Nadal a much tougher test than PCB did in the semi final, so that was frustrating.
It was looking like being rather uneventful in Belgrade with three of the top four seeds contesting the semi finals, but Aslan Karatsev shocked a below par Novak Djokovic at the Serb’s own club to make his first main level final on clay.
The titles went to Nadal and Matteo Berrettini, so not a great week for the outright value-seeker, really.
Conditions and trends
Kei Nishikori talked about the conditions in Barcelona being: “Heavy conditions this week,” and he added: “It’s quite cold and the balls are heavy.”
I expect it will be similar in both Estoril and Munich, with rain forecast for much of the week at both locations, so that’s worth bearing in mind.
In Estoril they play until the late evening and it does get chilly there at this time of year at a venue where the average service hold over the last four years is 74%.
There’s a hint of altitude in Munich (around 500m) but that’s more often than not offset by the damp weather – as it was the last time this event was held in 2019 when there were 74% holds in the main draw.
Indeed, Munich averages 76% holds in the last four editions and just 29% tie break matches in the last seven editions of the BMW Open.
As far as champions are concerned, the best-priced one in recent times was 25-1 Christian Garin in 2019 (beat 50-1 Matteo Berrettini in the final) after Martin Klizan won it as a qualifier in 2014.
At least one qualifier has made the final in five of the last six editions of the BMW Open and only two number one seeds (Zverev in 2018 and Murray in 2015) have won it in the last 14 editions.
Top seeds don’t have a great record in Portugal either, with only three number one seeds winning the Portugal Open since Roger Federer won it in 2008.
The last four runners-up have ranged in price from 16-1 to 40-1 and the last qualifier to reach the Portugal Open final was Felix Mantilla back in 2001 before Pablo Cuevas did it as a lucky loser in 2019.
This year’s Estoril Open looks really open, with both halves of the draw looking ripe for an upset or two.
Top seed Denis Shapovalov is yet to make a main level final on clay and, somewhat bizarrely after stating in Barcelona that he has a bad shoulder, he’s decided that the best course of action would be to tale a late wild card into the very next clay event – Estoril.
You’d think from his comments (see below) that he’d maybe take a week off ahead of the back-to-back Masters events, but no, he’s here, as our top seed replacing Grigor Dimitrov, who had tooth surgery last week.
“I’m getting tight on my shoulder, I get some pain when I’m serving,” Shapo said. “It’s progressively getting better, we are dealing with it, but sometimes it comes back. It’s mainly on the serve, but it depends how much it is hurting whether to take anti-inflammatories or not.”
The next highest seed in the top half is Ugo Humbert – a man not noted for his clay game – and so there may be an opportunity in this part of the draw for a bigger-priced player.
Albert Ramos or Alejandro Davidovich Fokina seem the obvious choices, but Ramos has no sort of record at this venue and Davidovich Fokina remains frustratingly inconsistent.
Neither appeals that much at the prices and perhaps Corentin Moutet or Jaume Munar can cause a bit of a surprise in this very open half.
But I prefer taking a chance on one in the bottom half in Estoril.
The clear favourite in this half of the draw and indeed market leader for the whole tournament is Christian Garin and he’s an obvious danger in Q4, but I like the chances of Frances Tiafoe in Q3 at a decent price of 20-1 (Paddy Power/Betfair).
The American is a former finalist here and he was unlucky last week in Barcelona not to beat Diego Schwartzman in straight sets after having defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the opening round.
Tiafoe has played six matches on the red dirt this season, having opted to take part in the Golden Swing in South America in February, so he’s more than ready for this at a venue where he’s 6-2 win/loss.
He lost to Joao Sousa in the 2018 Estoril final and a year later he made the quarter finals, losing out to Pablo Cuevas, so his record here is very good and there’s not a great deal to fear from the opposition in Q3, although it looks competitive.
Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson and Kei Nishikori are not the players they were five or six years ago and qualifier Alcaraz could well put Cilic out in round one and be a threat in this quarter.
It’s not the easiest of early draws for Tiafoe, but round one opponent Anderson has only played one match (a defeat to Damir Dzumhur on hard) since early February and not on clay at all since last year’s French Open.
Nishikori would be next and he’s admitted that he only seems able to play one good set in matches at the moment, with the forehand side prone to breaking down much more than it did in his heyday.
Quarter four is where former champion and local hope Joao Sousa finds himself, but a repeat title for him looks pretty unlikely based on everything we’ve seen from him in the last year or so, but maybe 150-1 is worth considering in the event that a return to Estoril brings out the best in him.
Juan Ignacio Londero is still showing very little, while Richard Gasquet isn’t fit enough these days and Alexander Bublik is vocal in his dislike for clay, so it might be up to Cam Norrie or Pedro Martinez to try and oust Garin before the semis.
Garin has won at this time of the year before (in Munich in 2019) and the Chilean should be the player to beat in this half of the draw and indeed this whole tournament, but his price of around 4-1 is quite short.
Given that Garin has failed to make another final in any of his last nine main level clay events in Europe since that 2019 Munich win and that he lost poorly to Nishikori last week, that 4-1 looks tight.
And it’s Martinez that’s the tempting one, assuming that the injury problems that have held him back in 2021 so far are in the past now, but we’ll have to wait and see on his price.
Perhaps the poor record of number one seeds in Munich will continue this year, with our top seed this week, Alexander Zverev, having recently struggled with an elbow injury.
After losing to David Goffin in Monte-Carlo two weeks ago, Zverev said: “After the little elbow injury I didn’t know whether or not I would play this tournament [Monte-Carlo], so in short, that’s okay.”
He hasn’t played since, so we’re guessing a bit as to his current condition, but he does have a very good record in Munich, winning nine of his last 10 matches here and landing two titles.
I probably won’t take Zverev on in the top half of the draw, with no player really standing out to me, and instead the bottom half looks quite open and more appealing.
And one of several with possibilities is Thiago Monteiro, who beat Albert Ramos, Andrey Rublev and Jan-Lennard Struff the last time that Munich was held back in 2019.
The Brazilian lefty started the season very well on unsuitably quick hard courts, but injury [calf] hampered him in the South American clay swing and then he contracted coronavirus before finally a wrist problem set him back again.
He said on April 10 that “the first two weeks in Europe will be about retraining” and perhaps it might be a week or so early for Monteiro this week, but his price of 33-1 with Paddy Power/Betfair looks generous and probably won’t last (if you can get on at all with them).
I could also make cases for Monteiro’s round one opponent Nikoloz Basilashvili, as well as clay dogs Pablo Cuevas and Guido Pella, while I couldn’t dismiss the chances of Sebastian Korda, Aslan Karatsev and Daniel Elahi Galan either.
Cuevas and Pella probably aren’t fit enough to go a full week on heavy clay just yet after injuries, but Elahi Galan could be interesting at a big price after showing good form lately.
The Colombian made the semi finals on clay in Santiago in March and backed that up by beating Alex De Minaur on hard courts in Miami before two disappointing losses in Belgrade [Challenger and ATP Tour event].
He’s qualified well this week though and given the good record of qualifiers in Munich he’s not without some sort of a chance this week.
The obvious choice in the bottom half, of course, is Casper Ruud, but he’s coming off a missed tournament last week in Barcelona due to a sore arm, so there’s a little bit of a doubt about whether he’ll be fit enough for what could be a long week on heavy clay.
The other likely popular option would be Karatsev after his win over Djokovic in Belgrade last week and I’d suggest that his power game should be well-suited to hitting through the stodgy conditions in Munich.
How tired he’ll be after the high of beating Djokovic in the Serb’s own backyard is the worry about Karatsev though and at 5-1 he’s too short for me to take the chance.
Basilashvili has shown he can win on clay in Germany with two Hamburg titles, but that’s played in July usually and is a little less heavy than Munich in April, but the Georgian also has the power to go well in slow conditions.
I’m not sure how fit he is at the moment though after he retired with a wrist injury in Monte-Carlo and perhaps Korda could go well in this very competitive third quarter of the draw.
I’d like to see a bit more of him on clay though, as other than his French Open run last autumn he’s very inexperienced on the dirt at this level.
So, at the time of writing prices aren’t widely available for all of the qualifiers this week, but with what we do have I’ve gone with Tiafoe in Estoril and I may add Martinez, depending on the price.
In Munich the 33-1 about Monteiro looks the value (25-1 is also available and fair enough) there, with 66-1 Elahi Galan the back-up there for small stakes.
1 point win Tiafoe to win Estoril at 20-1 (Paddy Power/Betfair)
1 point each-way Monteiro to win Munich at 33-1 (Paddy Power/Betfair)
0.5 points each-way Elahi Galan to win Munich at 66-1 (Bet 365/Unibet)