Side with Tsonga in Rotterdam
Our Andy Schooler previews this week's action on the ATP World Tour with an 80/1 selection among his fancies.
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Plenty of the ATP's big names gather in Rotterdam this week, the field being led by Roger Federer.
The Swiss will doubtless have his supporters at odds-against given his record indoors but, at the prices, I'm prepared to take the defending champion on with Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
- 1pt win Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win ABN AMRO World Tournament at 8/1 (Coral, Betfred, BetVictor) - Looks to have improved during the off-season. Worth backing at the price.
- 0.5pt e.w. Paolo Lorenzi in Brasil Open at 80/1 (bet365, 1/3 1,2) - Knows his way around a claycourt, in good nick and has decent draw.
- 3pts Milos Raonic to win the SAP Open at 5/2 (Coral, Betfred) - Looks the class act in the field and has won event without dropping a set in past two years.
Sadly Tsonga has landed in the same half as Federer - he's the third seed behind Juan Martin Del Potro - but he showed at the Australian Open last month that he's quite capable of giving the world number two a game.
Federer was pushed hard by Tsonga in the Melbourne quarter-finals and needed five sets to progress, a fact that undermined his title chances.
Certainly Tsonga looked a rejuvenated player from the one that looked all at sea against top opposition for much of 2012.
His link-up with coach Roger Rasheed has undoubtedly helped and the way he went for his shots in that Australian Open last-eight clash was a delight to watch.
This is usually a time of year when he performs well with the slick indoor courts helping his game.
A best-of-three match is a more winnable proposition for Tsonga should he meet Federer in the semis in the Netherlands and at 8/1 he looks worth a small-stakes bet.
Del Potro made the final here 12 months ago but looks worth opposing in the bottom half.
Beaten in the third round Down Under by Jeremy Chardy, he also faces the dangerous Gael Monfils in the first round here.
I've already mentioned this season how Andreas Seppi is much improved and the Italian, a winner indoors in Moscow and a finalist in Metz last autumn, looks big at 50/1.
The problem is he skipped Zagreb last week due to illness so may not be 100 per cent here.
Viktor Troicki also has potential at 200s. He made the quarters here last season and the semis in 2011. But again there's a cloud surrounding him as he was forced to quit during last week's event in Montpellier with a leg problem.
Richard Gasquet is the other man to consider. With two titles in the bag already this season and just one defeat on the CV, the Frenchman is flying and is tempting at 20/1.
However, Gasquet had some tough matches in Montpellier last week and with another 'home' tournament to come in Marseille next week, I'm not convinced this is the best week to side with him.
Instead I'll turn to the Brasil Open for my each-way long shot.
With Rafael Nadal in the field and likely to dominate - just as he's done in Chile this past week - the bottom half is where you'll need to turn.
Nicolas Almagro, last year's champion, is the man seeded to reach the final but there's a chance he'll be caught cold in his first match by Vina del Mar finalist Horacio Zeballos, who will bring plenty of match sharpness into their proposed clash.
I'm prepared to take him on with a long-odds shot in the shape of Paolo Lorenzi.
The Italian made the quarter-finals in Vina del Mar, beating Tommy Robredo, a decent claycourter, before losing to the in-form Chardy.
He may be 31, but Lorenzi is currently sitting at a career-high of 57th in the ranking list.
He's basically full of confidence having racked up plenty of wins on clay, albeit many have come on the Challenger Tour.
Lorenzi made eight claycourt finals in the 'second division' last season, winning two. Notably, one of the wins and four of the runner-up efforts came in South America.
He's in a decent section of the draw with Juan Monaco, a first-round loser last week, the man seeded to come through the quarter.
Although 200/1 is on the odds grids, that's in a win-only market. bet365 go 80/1 with a third of the odds for a place in the final which is the way we'll have to go.
The week's other tournament sees the last ever SAP Open take place in San Jose.
Milos Raonic looks a worthy favourite to end the tournament's run in California by completing a title hat-trick.
One of the ATP's rising stars may have been outclassed by Federer at the Australian Open but there's no-one of his calibre on show here.
Home hopes John Isner and Sam Querrey would appear his biggest challengers, but Raonic would fancy his chances against both men.
The Canadian's huge serve has been a big weapon in these indoor conditions in the past two years and last season's first-serve points won leader will be prove tough to break.
He's yet to lose a set in eight matches at this venue, so I'm happy to take quotes of 5/2.
- The Rotterdam tournament is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports from Thursday.