Melzer looks sweet at 16s
Jurgen Melzer headlines Andy Schooler's selections for this week's action on the ATP World Tour.
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Jurgen Melzer caught the eye in Rome last week and looks worth siding with at this week's Dusseldorf Open.
The Austrian left-hander missed the start of the season due to a shoulder injury but a month into his return the signs are that his game is coming back into good shape.
Wins over John Isner and Marin Cilic in the Italian capital were good ones, while Melzer then pushed Andy Murray hard in their third-round clash only going down 7-6 6-4.
- 1pt e.w. Jurgen Melzer in Dusseldorf Open at 16/1 (Betfred) - showed good signs in Rome & should be well motivated this week
- 1pt Ernests Gulbis to win the Open de Nice Cote d'Azur at 7/2 (Betfred) - class of the field & in weaker half of the draw
- 0.5pt e.w. Carlos Berlocq in Open de Nice Cote d'Azur at 20/1 (Betfred, Stan James) - enjoyed career-best week recently; looks a decent price to go well here
The former top-10 star knows his way around a claycourt - he's a former French Open semi-finalist remember - and at 16/1 he looks worth chancing in what isn't the greatest ATP field ever assembled.
At first glance you may consider him to be in a tricky section of the draw with Pablo Carreno Busta his first-round foe and fourth seed Joao Sousa due to meet the winner.
However, clay specialist Carreno Busta has hit a sticky patch of late and has actually won only one of his last five matches. Last week he was beaten by Ivo Karlovic - never the best of results on the red dirt.
Sousa is also stuck in a rut and certainly should be opposed right now.
Both are capable players on their day but the form is certainly against them and Melzer undoubtedly arrives in better shape mentally after his performances in Rome.
Marcel Granollers is the man seeded to make the final from this bottom half of the draw but he's another showing some worrying signs right now.
Since reaching the final in Casablanca at the start of the clay swing, he's lost four of six. While one of those defeats was to Murray, others to Marius Copil and Daniel Gimeno Traver are more concerning. He'll certainly need to improve to win here and at 11/2 is too short for me.
The same can be said of top seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, the 5/2 favourite.
He did take a set off Novak Djokovic in Rome last week but that seems to have impacted way too much on his price.
Yes, he's the top-ranked player in the field and a decent talent but he's only won four titles in his career and hasn't been beyond the last eight at any of this season's clay events.
At the price, he's very much opposable.
The other factor to take into account is that it's the week before the French Open so how much will players want to push themselves if they get into tight situations or if their body is slightly letting them down?
For the likes of Kohlschreiber and Granollers, both of whom are set to be seeded at Roland Garros, that could certainly be an issue.
However, with my man Melzer it's hard to see it being much of a factor.
His delayed start to the campaign means he needs all the ranking points he can get right now and I'm sure he'll want more matches under his belt in Dusseldorf.
The week's other event is in Nice where Ernests Gulbis, a player I backed in Rome last week at a big price, is the favourite in a much weaker field this time around.
I spoke last week about his impressive season so far, one which included a title down the road in Marseille back in February and six other quarter-finals or better. He looks the class of this field.
The Latvian is also in the easier bottom half of the draw and, with a first-round bye, will only need to win four matches to take the title.
Last week Gulbis did as the bookies expected and not as I hoped - he won his early matches but when the going got tough he folded, losing to David Ferrer in the last 16.
There's no-one of that calibre in this field though and I'm prepared to give him another chance given in 2014 so far he's shown a greater consistency than in the past. I will, however, keep stakes small.
The top half in Nice looks competitive to say the least but it is also a section which could well produce a big-priced finalist so I am tempted to get involved.
John Isner, who can definitely play on clay but hasn't really shown his talent in recent weeks, is top seed while Gilles Simon is seeded to meet him in the last four. The bookies expect that too, given the prices, but he's short enough for me at 7/1 - again the price looks to be too heavily based on a strong performance last week when he pushed Rafael Nadal hard in Rome.
I'd be surprised if Isner and Simon made it through to the projected semi-final given the dangerous floaters that lurk in this section.
Kenny de Schepper, Steve Johnson and Julien Benneteau have all enjoyed some strong results on the Challenger Tour in the past fortnight and could cause an upset at some point. Whether they can go all the way or not though is open to question.
With that in mind, the floater I'm going to side with to minimum stakes is Carlos Berlocq.
He's a real clay specialist so fits the tournament winner profile - the last three years have seen the title go to Albert Montanes and Nicolas Almagro (twice).
Crucially Berlocq comes in having recently enjoyed the best week of his career - he won the title in Oeiras, Portugal, at the start of the month where he beat both Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych, his first-ever wins over top-10 opponents.
OK, the Argentine did follow that up by losing in qualifying in Rome but he should be relishing a return to the main tour with confidence still high.
'Charly' also won in Bastad last season meaning he's won two of these 250-level clay titles in the past year.
If he can overcome Benneteau in round one - and the 32-year-old has plenty of tennis in his legs after his Challenger title in Bordeaux - a qualifier or Nicolas Mahut, who is never at home the clay, awaits.
Essentially I can see Berlocq getting to the quarter-finals and if he gets there his winning form will give him a chance against most in this field.
At 20/1, he's worth a try.