After the excitement of Wimbledon fortnight, we are back down to earth with a bang as there are 5 much lower quality tournaments to get our teeth into this week.
There are 3 men’s tournaments, in Bastad and Stuttgart on Clay, and Newport on Grass.
The women take us to Palermo and Budapest, both on Clay.
As I wrote about in the new article on favourites success in the various tournament categories, the lower calibre tournaments often feature more underdog victories so we definitely need to bear that in mind this week. Furthermore, it would appear that tournaments immediately pre and post slam also bear those hallmarks so we need to be careful when backing favourites, and also trading them when losing in-play.
Bastad has the highest favourite success percentage, but even then it’s marginally below ATP clay average, and pretty much level with 250 events on clay. Stuttgart does not feature favourite success at all and is one of the worst tournaments in the ATP calendar for that. Newport is pretty average for a grass 250.
Newport played slow last year with there only being 80.8% service holds (compared to the 83.0% ATP grass average) so we can possibly look to oppose the server there more than some of the quicker grass venues. John Isner has won the last two tournaments there so clearly is going to be one of the players to beat, although he hasn’t been in the best of form lately.
Bastad also played similarly slow for a clay event featuring 73.2% holds (compared to the 75.6% ATP clay average) so again opposing the server in good spots looks a decent way to go. David Ferrer is defending champion but hasn’t entered this year, and perhaps Nicolas Almagro can take the title having won in 2010 and been runner up to Ferrer last year. Juan Monaco will welcome the return to clay and is defending ranking points after making the final of Stuttgart last year. He is one of the major threats as well.
German players tend to feature strongly in their native tournaments although in Stuttgart, a German player has not made the final for over ten years. However, the Germans Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber are the top two seeds. How Kohlschreiber will play after his bizarre retirement against Ivan Dodig at Wimbledon is anyone’s guess…
Last year the courts also played a bit on the slow side featuring 73.3% holds, very similar to Bastad. Defending champion Janko Tipsarevic is not playing, and it’s interesting to see the Spanish success here (5 winners in the last 10 years, including 3 not by Nadal, and two runners up). Perhaps we could see one of the four unfavoured Spaniards (Marcel Granollers, Pablo Andujar, Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Albert Montanes) get to the final at long odds.
Over in the women’s tournaments, both tournaments, in Budapest and Palermo, are the lower calibre International Events. Both fields are weak, especially at Budapest – Palermo at least has the two top seeds – Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci – playing in their home country tournament.
It’s worth noting that Budapest was played in April 2012 so players are not defending ranking points from that tournament (it’s done on a date basis as opposed to defending a specific tournament’s points). Errani and Vinci won the last two tournaments but are playing in Italy this week, so we will get a new winner. Simona Halep has been in excellent form on clay this season and will fancy her chances, whilst Alize Cornet often thrives in these low quality events (but can throw in a horrific performance and lose to a nobody as well). Lucie Safarova is the top seed. There were 61.8% of service holds in last year’s event, which is pretty close to the 61.3% WTA average.
Finally in Palermo, it’s tough to look past the top two seeds as the rest of the field is pretty weak. Errani, in a strange quirk of fate, is also defending champion here so actually is defending ranking points this week. Last year she beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the final and after a ban for a banned substance, the Czech will need to make sure she goes deep in the tournament to ensure her ranking doesn’t drop even further. Polona Hercog made the final in 2011 and when looking at the entry lists I fancied her for an outside shot at this, but unluckily she is drawn to face Vinci in the second round. Of course, it isn’t a given that Vinci would win that, and with her bad form taken into account, if Hercog can get past that hurdle then the draw would open up nicely for her.
Court speed in Sicily is slow. There were only 59.8% of holds last year, so we can definitely (especially taking the players in the field into account) expect breaks.
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