Week 29 of the ATP Tour sees the players head to Gstaad and Umag to continue the mini-clay swing, while the hard court season begins for others in Los Cabos. Sean Calvert is back to preview these three ATP 250 tournaments from an outright betting perspective.
Week 28 saw us chalk up another one on the ‘good value loser’ list (and a very long list it is, too) when 40-1 chance Laslo Djere became the latest of our outrights to fail in a ‘for the money’ match and fail badly.
Djere was awful as slight underdog against Filip Krajinovic in Hamburg in the semi final, with our each-way hope never in it after the opening four games of the match, and it typical style Krajinovic was nowhere close in the final a day later against Pablo Carreno Busta.
I was right about Kevin Anderson in the top half of the draw in Newport, but the big-priced double on Anderson and Musetti failed at the first when Musetti lost in round one of Bastad to Henri Laaksonen.
Peter Gojowczyk had our hopes raised in Newport, but our 25-1 shot had an absolute shocker (as he tends to do on occasion) in the quarter finals there as slight underdog against Jenson Brooksby, who went on to make the final against Anderson.
I would never have picked Federico Coria to make the final in Bastad, but make it he did and he was comfortably beaten by top seed Casper Ruud, who became the first number one seed to win Bastad since David Ferrer in 2012.
Conditions and trends
The firs of this week’s clay 250s takes place in Gstaad and there they play at altitude of around 1,050m here, so conditions are often on the quicker side for a clay event and being able to control the ball here is key.
The weather forecast says it will be sunny and warm for most of the week, so conditions should be quick.
The last three editions of this event have produced some good-priced winners and finalists, with Albert Ramos winning it at 22-1 the last time it was held in 2019, beating 66-1 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.
The last qualifier to win here was Thomaz Bellucci back in 2009, but Yannick Hanfmann made the final as a qualifier in 2017 and Feli Lopez (2016) is the only number one seed to have won here since Federer in 2004.
In Umag they start their matches later in the day to avoid the worst of the heat and it’s set to be 30C in the shade again all week in this beautiful part of Croatia.
There are normally few tie breaks and a low percentage of service holds in Umag and it’s been known to produce a few big-priced finalists, notably Atilla Balazs in 2019 at a massive price and lucky loser Andrey Rublev won here in 2017.
Indeed, qualifiers have a fine record in Umag lately, with two winners, one finalist and a semi finalist from the qualie draw in recent years, while no number one seed has made the final in Umag since Nikolay Davydenko won here in 2009.
Los Cabos also plays its matches later in the day to avoid the heat and its timing makes it very difficult for European viewers to watch, so I usually pay more attention to Gstaad and Umag this week.
For the record, they play on a Solflex outdoor hard court that has something in it for the big servers (Karlovic won here in 2016) and for the clay courters (Fognini and Schwartzman have won here lately).
Thanasi Kokkinakis made the final as a 40-1 shot in 2017, but so far that’s about all in Los Cabos as far as big prices are concerned.
Swiss Open Gstaad
Number one seeds have a weak record here and although this week’s top seed, Denis Shapovalov, won down the road (or more accurately, round the mountain) from here a little while ago, he’s rather inexperienced at this altitude.
That said, Matteo Berrettini won here on debut in 2018, so it is possible to take the title here on your first attempt and he’s here rather than being in Tokyo, so I wouldn’t be that keen on taking Shapo on.
A lack of clay matches may be a problem, but his draw looks pretty nice early on, so maybe we’ll see a rematch of the Geneva final between Casper Ruud and Shapo in the Gstaad semi finals.
The one that stands out, as far as potentially upsetting the established order of things in the top half of this Gstaad draw is Yannick Hanfmann, who made the final here a few years back and who played well in unsuitably slow conditions in Bastad last week.
He’ll get more from his power by far in Gstaad and his only two main level finals so far in his career have come at this altitude at this time of the year (here and in Kitzbuhel).
Hanfmann crushed Ruud 6-2, 6-1 in Sardinia last autumn and Ruud has often struggled to play back-to-back events lately, so there are enough reasons to like the German’s chances in this top half of the draw at 20-1 (Unibet).
The returning to form Benoit Paire is another possibility, but he hasn’t played here since 2012 and never in Kitzbuhel, so there’s a question mark over his adaptability to the conditions.
The bottom half of the Gstaad draw looks strong, with Federico Delbonis, Roberto Bautista Agut, Cristian Garin and Laslo Djere the obvious picks, but don’t count out Dominic Stephan Stricker and Arthur Rinderknech as possible long shots.
Stricker made the quarter finals in Geneva a few months ago and also the quarters on grass in Stuttgart, so the winner of him versus Rinderknech could be a tricky opening match for RBA.
Bautista Agut has a decent record here (7-4 win/loss) but is yet to lift the trophy, while Djere lost to RBA in the semis in 2018 (but will probably win this week, as I backed him last week and he was poor in the semis) so he’s got form here, too.
Delbonis is 3-5 win/loss here, while Garin has never played here or at Kitzbuhel, but he made the quarters in Madrid at altitude at M1000 level, so he’s clearly a contender as well.
It all looks a bit tricky in the bottom half, with the likes of Hugo Gaston, Juan Manuel Cerundolo and Thiago Seyboth Wild also more than capable of upsetting a few of the more fancied players, too, so I’ll pass on this part of the draw.
Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag
The last man to win Gstaad before the tour’s hiatus was Albert Ramos, but he’s opted to play Umag instead this time around for only the second time since 2014.
Ramos has lost three of his last four matches here in a 3-5 win/loss record and he’s currently on a seven-match losing streak, plus he has a 2-4 record when he’s been seeded first for main level tournaments.
So, I’m happy to take Ramos on in the top half (it should be noted though, that Ramos is 5-0 head-to-head versus Jaume Munar) and the big-priced one that might be interesting is Andrej Martin, who’s won nine of his 14 matches (all levels) in Umag and always enjoys playing here.
He’s a big outsider in a half that also includes Filip Krajinovic and Carlos Alcaraz, but Krajinovic is notoriously injury prone and I wouldn’t in any way trust him to last the distance this week in very hot weather after that effort in Hamburg.
Salvatore Caruso is in awful form right now, but he did make the semi finals in Umag as a qualifier back in 2018 before suffering an unfortunate injury in that semi final, so maybe coming back here will be the boost he so desperately needs.
Alcaraz is perhaps the obvious choice in Q2, but he’s priced up too short by the layers for my liking in the most part.
In the bottom half we’ll see (if anyone wanted to) part nine of Aljaz Bedene vs Marco Cecchinato in a series that Bedene leads 7-1, but Cecchinato won the most recent one on home soil in Parma a couple of months ago.
Now it’s Bedene that’s perhaps likely to give it his all in what’s about as close to a home tournament as it gets at main level for the Slovenian, who has a typically patchy 7-7 record here and he’s yet to make the semi finals in Umag.
Cecchinato won this in 2018 and was then beaten by Bedene in the first match of his defence in 2019, but the winner of the 2021 Umag clash between that pair should make the quarters at least.
Richard Gasquet seems unlikely to go deep in this sort of heat with his fitness record and in his first Umag appearance since losing first up as number one seed to Albert Montanes in 2013.
I can’t see either Damir Dzumhur or Jiri Vesely doing much here, so maybe this Q3 of the draw could be one for the qualifier to stand a chance in.
Q4 looks very competitive, with 2019 champion Dusan Lajovic a strong possibility now that he’s finally shown something like good form at last with a decent run in Hamburg last week.
He’s won 10 of his last 14 matches in Umag, but he’ll have a tricky one first up against either Bernabe Zapata Miralles or Pablo Cuevas.
Cuevas doesn’t look the player he was though, while Zapata Miralles is coming straight from grass, so perhaps the winner of the mini-section of Gianluca Mager, Pedro Martinez, Corentin Moutet and a qualifier will threaten Lajovic more.
But I’m expecting a performance from Lajovic this week and at 14-1 (William Hill, Unibet) I’m prepared to play for one point and I’ll chance half a point each-way on Martin at 33s (several firms).
Mifel Open Los Cabos
Cam Norrie’s excellent form in recent months has seen him rise to number 32 in the world and as such he makes his debut as a number one seed in a main level event this week in Los Cabos.
He’s yet to win a main level tournament though and I’m still holding some pretty big reservations about Norrie mentally, so I’m happy to take him on this week with the weight of the mantle of top seed around his shoulders.
Taylor Fritz made the final (lost to Schwartzman) the last time that Los Cabos was played in 2019 and he appeared to show a remarkable recovery at Wimbledon from a bad injury sustained at the French Open.
The career series between Fritz and Norrie is tied at 3-3 and the pair appear to be the likely contenders in the top half, with maybe wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis offering some value to long shot backers.
He’s made the final here before, but the catalogue of injuries that he’s suffered in recent years makes him a bit of a risky choice as short as around 16-1.
I prefer taking a chance on young American talent Brandon Nakashima in the bottom half of the draw, with the soon-to-be-20-year-old having played well the last time the tour hit Mexico back in March.
On that occasion he was edged out in a final set breaker by Frances Tiafoe, having come through qualies without dropping a set and back on hard courts he’s a danger to all in this draw.
Nakashima has won 13 of his 18 hard court matches at all levels this season and while he’d have to face Sam Querrey in round two, that’s hardly a daunting prospect these days as Maxime Cressy showed last week.
Other than maybe Querrey and John Isner there’s not a lot in this bottom half of the draw to worry about and Isner is due to play Atlanta next week, where he usually goes well, so I’d be a little sceptical about his intentions on debut in Los Cabos.
When Bet Victor’s outright market opened up it had Nakashima as around a 20-1 shot, but rather unwisely (as it turned out) I opted to wait for other prices and when they duly came in they all had Nakashima at around the 7 or 8-1 mark.
Bet Victor’s market was pulled and unless another layer gives me a much bigger price I’m happy to sit Los Cabos out completely.
I’ll revisit this on Monday after qualies have finished, but for now, I’ll take 20-1 Hanfmann in Gstaad and 14-1 Lajovic in Umag. Nothing in Los Cabos.
1 point win Hanfmann to win Gstaad at 20-1
1 point win Lajovic to win Umag at 14-1
0.5 points each-way Martin to win Umag at 33-1