Time to take on Federer
Our tennis tipster Andy Schooler is taking on Roger Federer in Hamburg this week, while he also has a strong fancy in Bogota.
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Roger Federer returns to the ATP World Tour this week in Hamburg but he looks worth taking on.
The Swiss requested a wild card for the event - and next week's in Gstaad - following his first-week exit at Wimbledon, presumably to try to get some wins under his belt before preparation begins in earnest for the US Open next month.
- 4pts Kevin Anderson to win the Claro Open Colombia at 15/8 (Coral) - only two top-50 players in field & Anderson's form is much better than Tipsarevic's
- 1pt e.w. Xavier Malisse in Claro Open Colombia at 20/1 (1/2 1,2, Stan James, BetVictor, Ladbrokes) - top half looks weak; Belgian has nous to pounce at a decent price
- 1pt e.w. Nicolas Almagro in bet-at-home German Open at 12/1 (1/2 1,2, Coral) - favourite Federer looks opposable; Almagro in good nick & has done well at event in the past
Heading to the clay at this time of year is not something the 31-year-old has done for years but, having slipped out of the world's top four for the first time a in a decade, it appears a change of plan is required.
Some may describe it as a panic measure. That's open to debate but what shouldn't be is that Federer is a skinny price at 6/4.
He's won just one tournament this season - on grass in Halle before Wimbledon - and there's no doubt his standards have slipped this season.
He was well beaten by Julien Benneteau in Rotterdam back in February, lost from a winnable position against Tomas Berdych in Dubai and then there's the Sergiy Stakhovsky loss in SW19.
On the clay - most relevant in terms of this event - he went down to Kei Nishikori in Madrid and although losing in Rome and Paris to Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was hardly a disgrace, the heavy nature of those defeats hardly inspires confidence.
Take out last year's triumph in Madrid (which is fair to do given it was played on blue clay which played significantly different to the red stuff) and Federer hasn't won a claycourt tournament since his famous Roland Garros triumph of 2009.
Critics will point out the majority of the clay events he's played have featured the likes of Nadal and Novak Djokovic, which is true, but the field here is hardly shabby with four other top-20 players involved. Given Federer's current form, I'd imagine the likes of Tommy Haas, Nicolas Almagro, Jerzy Janowicz and Juan Monaco will fancy their chances.
The man I'm taking Federer on with is Almagro.
I took him on with Fernando Verdasco last week (a decision which prved correct after Almgaro lost a tight quarter-final) but there's no doubt 'Nico' was in good nick back on the clay in Bastad and a few days' rest will be an advantage here.
A semi-finalist last year and runner-up in 2011, Almagro has performed here in the past.
He's in the opposite half of the draw to Federer, an added bonus, with Monaco and Haas his scheduled quarter- and semi-final opponents.
Monaco did beat Almagro here last season but that defeat was avenged in straight sets in Barcelona earlier this year and Almagro now leads their head to head 5-3.
He has never beaten Haas but they've played only once on clay and that was eight years ago. If they meet in the last four here, Almagro looks likely to start favourite.
At 12/1, I'll happily side with him. And at that price each-way is certainly a worthwhile option - make sure you get a firm who offers half the odds for a final place though.
While Federer will hog the headlines, this week's other tournament - the Claro Open Colombia in Bogota - may actually offer the best value.
Despite the event being in South America, it's being played on hardcourts and for that reason - and many others I'm about to outline - I like the look of favourite Kevin Anderson.
The South African really does look the class of the field.
Only two of the world's top 50 are present - the other is top seed Janko Tipsarevic, whose form has suffered this season, undermined by a foot problem.
As has been the case all season, the Serb is worth taking on and Anderson is clearly the man to do it with.
He's been in fine form this season and has racked up a 27-12 win-loss record, one which has taken him to a career-high ranking and close to cracking the world's top 20 for the first time.
On the hardcourts, he's been the Sydney final, the last 16 of the Australian Open and the quarters in Indian Wells.
With the top four seeds receiving first-round byes, he will also need to win only four matches to claim the title, the first of which will be against a Colombian wild card or a qualifier.
Santiago Giraldo, another Colombian more at home on the clay, is slated as a quarter-final foe with world number 55 Igor Sijsling supposedly in wait in the last four.
Anderson is a best of 15/8 and that looks worth snapping up. He's already as short as 5/4 in places.
With my doubts over Tipsarevic already penned, I'm also going to pick an each-way outsider from the top half and the man for the job is Xavier Malisse.
As usual, the Belgian enjoyed some decent results on the grass, making the semis in 's-Hertogenbosch, which should have picked up his confidence after the clay campaign which never suits his game.
Back on the hardcourts, where all three of his ATP titles have come, Malisse is certainly a long shot but if you decide to take on Tipsarevic there's hardly a standout candidate with which to do so.
I can certainly see an odd name reaching the final and Malisse has the experience to come good.
His results this year are not outstanding but look closely and he's beaten some decent sorts on the hardcourts - Jeremy Chardy and Martin Klizan were both ranked in the top 30 at the time of their defeats to Malisse. It's also worth noting he saw off his first-round opponent here, local boy Alejandro Falla, in straight sets, while current world number three David Ferrer was among his victims in that grass event in Den Bosch.
The 32-year-old may not have reached a final since Chennai in 2011 (also played on a hard surface) but he's also rarely played in a field as weak as this one.
At 20/1, I'm prepared to play, keeping stakes small.