5 Tournaments this week and again they are, on the whole, low calibre affairs.
In the ATP, we have two European clay tournaments as the clay season comes to a close, and in the European evenings we will have action from Atlanta (USA) in a hard court event.
In Europe, the tournament in Umag (Croatia) has the highest favourite success over recent years with 69% of favourites winning their matches. This above the 60% average of clay 250's, the overall 250 average of 63% and the overall clay average of 66%. Underdogs need to be treated with extreme caution there this week.
Last year there were very low service hold stats. Just 70.1% of service games were held which is 5.5% below the ATP mean of 75.6%, so we can definitely look to oppose players with a low projected hold this week in Croatia.
Last year Marin Cilic won the tournament in his home country but isn't defending ranking points as it was played 2 weeks previously in 2012. He doesn't play this week. Marcel Granollers was the 2012 runner up, but hasn't impressed me on clay this year. In 2011, Alexandr Dolgopolov won the event but he also cannot be backed with much confidence currently. It's worth noting that the last 5 tournaments there have been won by one of the top 4 seeds so it's tough to see a winner outside of that bracket - however with many shock winners and finalists this summer, who knows?!
Richard Gasquet is the top seed, and I make him the player to beat in the field, based on the stats. However the oddsmakers agree with me, unfortunately! He is the 3.25 (9/4) favourite. The top half of the draw is the tougher, with Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini, Florian Mayer and Albert Ramos all capable players on the surface. I can't for one minute think Fognini is capable of a decent run here having won events in the last two weeks. Surely the tank that everyone expected in Hamburg will actually happen this week!
Due to the bottom half of the draw being weaker, I will look at some players there with a view to backing to lay them on Betfair. Victor Troicki is not a reliable player by any means but he faces the very weak serving Antonio Veic in the first round, followed by either Tommy Robredo or Jan Hajek. Robredo has not looked fully fit at all in the last fortnight and is vulnerable in the first round against Hajek. The Serb is available at 34.00 (33/1) for the tournament and this looks a good opportunity to trade. The other player I'm looking at is going to surprise some readers. Jiri Vesely can be backed at 51.00 (50/1) and I like this bet with a view to trade for several reasons. Firstly, he has been in imperious form in Challengers, winning 20 out of 24 on clay in the last 12 months. Secondly, he has a nice draw, with Andreas Haider-Maurer first up, and then a winnable second round match against the second seed, Andreas Seppi. Seppi has won just four of 12 clay court matches in the last 12 months. The final reason is the most compelling. As a young player that is viewed as one with high potential, should he get to the quarter-finals and impress in the process, the market may over-react and make his price shorter than it should be. And that, considering I want to back to lay, is exactly what we want.
Over in Switzerland, the Gstaad event has pretty low favourite success of 61%, although that's not hugely below the 250 clay average. Last year the serve stats were slightly above average, with 77.8% of holds. The Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci is defending champion (and has a 12-1 record here) but has struggled with an abdominal injury since April, and has not produced much since his return to tour several weeks ago. Janko Tipsarevic was the runner up and is the third seed this year, but he has shown me nothing to make me think that he can repeat this showing. Furthermore he will have had to have travelled from Bogota this weekend.
Roger Federer is tournament favourite at 2.00 (evens) and this is very vulnerable in my eyes. I feel that Juan Monaco can definitely cause a potential upset in the semi-finals. With a weaker draw Stanislas Wawrinka is a more realistic Swiss prospect, but was very disappointing last year in a terrible performance against Paul-Henri Mathieu. The bottom half of the draw is marginally easier in my opinion, and it's unrealistic to expect Federico Delbonis to repeat his Hamburg heroics here. He faces Bellucci in the first round. Lukas Rosol doesn't look fit to me, Marcel Granollers doesn't impress, Feliciano Lopez is best suited to hard court or grass these days, and the rest of the players are of a lower level of ability. I'm going for one of those with a back to lay trade. Robin Haase is not everyone's cup of tea, and I'm often included in that. However his clay level is higher than other surfaces and he faces the qualifier Joao Souza in the first round, and then Tipsarevic, who I want to oppose, in the second round. At 51.00 (50/1) he's a gamble, but a potentially rewarding one.
In the hard court event in Atlanta, favourites have a horrendous record. Only 53% of favourites have won in my sample and therefore we will have no option but to favour underdogs this week in the USA. Last year serve was held 81.3% of the time, a little above ATP average. We will have a new champion after Andy Roddick, now retired, won last year. John Isner was runner up in 2011 and 2012 and is the tournament top seed and favourite at 4.00 (3/1).
However, I will be opposing the big American. I feel variance has been on his side in hard court events in the last 12 months. His record reads 17-8 in that time period, but he has held 89.8% of the time, and broken just 11.0%. That's marginally above 100% if you add those together, which makes his stats very unremarkable. He's obviously won a lot of close matches where the result could easily have gone the other way. Lleyton Hewitt is in Isner's half of the draw and is third favourite at 9.00 (8/1) but has only won 50% of his hard court matches in the last 12 months. I like the chances of either Ivan Dodig or Ricardas Berankis to spring a surprise result and get through to the semi-finals at least - the much bigger odds are on the Lithuanian at 51.00 (50/1) and I like those odds.
In a pretty weak tournament, I like the chances of Jack Sock (33/1) to get through to the quarter finals at the very least. He faces the Colombian clay courter Santiago Giraldo in the first round, who has an unspectacular hard court record. Then he has a very winnable match against the journeyman Michael Russell or the returning Mardy Fish, who surely will be rusty and lack confidence. Denis Istomin is a player who will welcome the return to hard courts and is another who can make a run here and is available at 26.00 (25/1). Kevin Anderson is an obstacle in the quarter finals and will be a tough match - however by then Istomin's price may well have contracted with several of the market leaders appearing very vulnerable.
The WTA event in Baku is very low quality, with 40th in the world (and defending champion) Bojana Jovanovski the top seed. To illustrate the poor quality of this event, Julia Cohen made the final last year, despite being unable to serve well and hitting moonball after moonball. Conditions here will be very hot and I can see many players struggling to cope with the heat. Last year featured a lot of players suffering with heat exhaustion and also there were 3 retirements. Furthermore there were 14 matches which went to 3 sets which shows that it's difficult to compete consistently in the conditions, and so opposing the first set winner may well provide rewards.
Last year only 58.8% of service games were held, well below the 63.1% WTA hard court mean. Again this illustrates how difficult it is for a player to be consistent in conditions. Opposing the server should be lucrative.
Outright odds are currently unavailable but, having looked at the draw, I like the chances of Karolina Pliskova, Donna Vekic and perhaps even Elena Svitolina to make a good run in the event.
The event in Stanford is a Premier event, but it's premier in name only. The field is mediocre with only Agniezska Radwanska competing out of the top ten players. Serena Williams won the last two tournaments here but isn't competing, having won in Bastad last week. Serve holds last year were very similar to WTA averages, so we don't have to consider court speed that greatly.
Radwanska is unsurprisingly favourite, but has the tougher top half of the draw. She is currently 2.88 (15/8) to win the tournament but I think that's vulnerable with her consistency not being particularly impressive lately. Plus she potentially faces a tough semi final with Jamie Hampton or Madison Keys being capable of springing a surprise. I liked the chances of Keys before I saw the draw, with her stats on hard courts being very impressive. However she faces a tough first round against Magdalena Rybarikova, and a quarter final against Hampton.
The bottom half of the draw is undoubtably weaker although it contains the second and third favourites, Sam Stosur and Dominika Cibulkova in it. I'm struggling a little to make a confident selection here as I don't like Stosur at 5.5 (9/2) although it's her half of the draw to lose. Urszula Radwanska has chances at 26.00 (25/1) and so does, oddly, Monica Niculescu at attractive odds of 67.00 (66/1). Her hard court record is impressive.
Recommended Back to Lays this week:-
Umag:- Victor Troicki (33/1), Jiri Vesely (50/1)
Gstaad:- Robin Haase (50/1)
Atlanta:- Ricardas Berankis (50/1), Jack Sock (33/1), Denis Istomin (25/1)
Stanford: Monica Niculescu (66/1)
Baku: No odds currently available, but I want to back Karolina Pliskova, Donna Vekic (if odds appeal) and Elena Svitolina possibly.
Gstaad: Roger Federer (evens)
Atlanta: John Isner (3/1)
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