Ride with Raonic in Newport
Derek Bilton is backing Milos Raonic and Pablo Andujar to win this week's ATP Tour events in Newport and Stuttgart.
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2pts Milos Raonic to win Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at 11/4 (Stan James).
2pts Pablo Andujar to win Mercedes Cup at 9/1 (Ladbrokes).
After the hyperbole, majesty and jingoism that was Wimbledon 2012, the ATP goes back to it's bread-and-butter this week with events in Europe and North America.
The final grass court tournament of the year comes in the shape of the Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, where big John Isner is the defending champion.
6'9 powerhouse Isner created a bit of history last year by becoming the first top seed to claim the title since the event began in 1976. He is top seed again this year and should be motivated with plenty of ranking points to defend.
Interestingly he could meet Nicolas Mahut in the second round. Isner and the Frenchman of course will forever be remembered for their marathon match at Wimbledon in 2010, a match that lasted 11 hours and five minutes and was won 70-68 in the fifth by Isner.
That match was so long it was played over three days, and while organisers will no doubt be hoping for another classic they could do without such a protracted war of attrition for scheduling purposes.
Mahut is a real danger on grass, as he proved by beating Andy Murray at Queen's a few weeks back. For this reason I reckon Isner looks pretty short at 5/1, with the likes of former Wimbledon champion and world number one Lleyton Hewitt and rising star Kei Nishikori also in the draw.
However it's Milos Raonic who I like the look of at Newport. The young Canadian knows how to win on the Tour having already claimed titles in San Jose (twice) and Chennai.
The 21-year-old Canadian is a natural on the grass and it seems just a matter of time before he does some damage at a Grand Slam. An ace machine, Raonic is already a top 20 player but potentially he has the game to go a lot further.
Prior to this year's SW19, he had fired down no less than 533 aces in 2012, although he had a disappointing tournament in London, falling short against Sam Querrey in a battle of the behemoths.
He's in the same half of the draw as Querrey so a rematch looks on the cards, but if Raonic can find a way he will represent supreme value at current quotes of 11/4.
In Germany there is more clay action in the shape of the Mercedes Cup, with Janko Tipsarevic the top seed in Stuttgart.
Tipsarevic has a 49-44 record on clay, but the omens are not good given he lost his only previous match here in the first round back in 2009. The Serb has forged a path into the world's top 10 but his game is hardly bomb proof on clay as the stats suggest and he looks a bit skinny at 7/2.
Not so Pablo Andujar. The Valencia native is a serious talent on the red dirt and he was a finalist here last year.
He has won two ATP titles on the red dirt and I would fancy him to upset Tipsarevic should they meet (they are in the same half of a mediocre draw).
As short as 5/1 in places, Ladbrokes could be sticking their necks out by going as big as 9/1 at time of writing.
There are also ATP events in Bastad and Umag this week. In Bastad David Ferrer is an odds-on favourite to win the SkiStar Swedish Open, and should the Spaniard bring his 'A Game' it wouldn't be difficult to justify current 4/5 quotes.
However after going deep at Wimbledon (Murray beat him in the quarter-finals) one is unsure how prepared Ferrer is here so a watching brief is advised.
Marin Cilic is favourite to win on home turf in Umag, but with brilliant but erratic types such as Fernando Verdasco, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Alexandr Dolgopolov also in the draw this one looks another to swerve from a punting perspective.