Back defending champ to win again in Marrakech
It is fair to say that Roger Federer has dominated the early stages of the 2017 season scoring all three of the major hard court titles contested in Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami.
However, the legendary Swiss will not follow up his achievements during the next few months as the tour moves from his favoured hard courts to his less loved clay. In fact, according to media reports it is unlikely we will see Federer in action until the end of the clay swing at the next Grand Slam event in Paris
Marrakech hosts the opening tournament on the road to the French Open. The Moroccan city is hosting the ATP tour for only the second season having switched venue from nearby Casablanca in 2016.
The Casablanca event had been dominated since 2009 by a series of clay loving Spanish players, but that trend was broken two years ago by the mercurial Martin Klizan, and in last year’s Marrakech competition by Federico Delbonis.
Both are in contention this year to win 250 ranking points and are joined by tournament favourite Grigor Dimitrov, who took a late wildcard into the event.
As ever with my tournament previews I dissect the draw quarter by quarter using a statistical overview to determine where the value lies.
Using this method I am over 66 Units up for the season to date.
I track the results, which you can read here – https://gavinnightmair.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/atpwta-tennis-market-outright-tracker/
This quarter is headlined by the aforementioned Dimitrov, whose form has dropped since the early weeks of the season.
Dimitrov is certainly capable on clay courts, and at 250 level events he tends to make a final every year. However, early defeats in Indian Wells and Miami plus a lack of a playing history in Morocco make me unwilling to pull the trigger on a man who is priced as low as Evens with some books to lift the title.
That said his route to the semi final is uncomplicated. Players such as Nicolas Almagro and Carlos Berlocq may be able to give the Bulgarian a decent match but are not in a condition to do so.
Last week Almagro lost early in a challenger event having missed the last few months through injury, whilst Berlocq has his own injury issues coupled with rather vague ‘family issues’ that excused him from competing in Miami.
The other seed in this quarter is Benoit Paire. The Frenchman made the final of a challenger event last week in which he was by far and away the highest ranked player. Paire has been seeded in 250 level tournaments on five occasions in the past three seasons and not once has he lived up to his billing.
Philipp Kohlschreiber heads the second section of the draw and is somebody that has the potential to have a good week.
The German finds his best results on the dirt, particularly at 250 tournaments, and his recent form has been steady. One matter of concern is that he has not chosen to play in Morocco since 2004, but even then I’d much prefer to be on the side of the veteran German rather than Dimitrov given their prices and the potential for their bracketed semifinal match to go either way.
Of course before any potential encounter with Dimitrov, Kohlschreiber will have to overcome the players in his quarter.
Jeremy Chardy has shown signs of life after a fruitless 12 months, but his long term clay record isn’t the best and despite being capable on his day, it is not the play for me.
Marcel Granollers is seeded 8 this week, but he is horrendous at playing to his seeding, his form is abject and there are plenty of better clay players in the field.
The third quarter looks particularly soft with a couple of vulnerable seeds in position.
Paolo Lorenzi has played a lot of tennis lately, and has struggled for wins. At the weekend he could be found in Davis Cup action in Charleroi losing a couple of rubbers to a decent, but not outstanding Belgian side.
The Italian is best avoided this week and will do well to get out of the starting blocks against a tricky opponent in Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who has historically gone well in Casablanca.
Mischa Zverev makes a rare clay outing and does so as the tournament’s 4th seed. The net rushing Zverev will unlikely be comfortable in conditions this week.
Beyond the seeds there is potential for an outsider to have a good week, and the two players I find most compelling are Nikoloz Basilashvili and Jiri Vesely, who incidentally play each other in the first round.
Basilashvili has been in good form for several months and at the weekend he obliterated rather limited Davis Cup opponents. Vesely on the other hand has been poor this season but found a good showing in Miami to suggest better things could be on the horizon. Vesely was a semifinalist last season and has found some good results on clay within the past 12 months.
If the draw opens up there is bound to be some value in either Basilashvili at 40s with several books or with Vesely at 25s.
The final quarter looks tough on paper as it contains several players that could do the business this week.
The seeded players are Diego Schwartzman and Albert Ramos, but I don’t fancy either of these players even though they have plenty of clay match play under their belt in 2017, and in the case of Schwartzman some decent form to boot.
Schwartzman has a tricky first round opponent in 2016 runner up Borna Coric, who may be one to watch during the coming weeks.
A pair of players that I really enjoy siding with in outright markets – Federico Delbonis and Martin Klizan – are lurking under the radar this week.
The two most recent winners of ATP events in Morocco are drawn to play each other in the quarter final stages. Whilst I find Delbonis a little on the short side his stats hold up far better than those of Klizan who is equally as likely to blow the field away as he is to crash and burn.
2 Units Kohlschreiber 9.5/1 10bet
2 Units Delbonis 9/1 Ladbrokes
I have also written my thoughts on this week’s ATP Houston event, which you can read here – http://welovebetting.co.uk/2017/04/atp-houston-verdasco-well-placed-to-win-again-in-houston/