Houston, we have a tip

  • By: Derek Bilton
  • Last Updated: April 8 2013, 17:29 BST

Tennis expert Derek Bilton makes Nicolas Almagro and Pablo Andujar his men to back on the ATP World Tour this week.

Nicolas Almagro: Backed for glory this week in Houston

The attention now focuses to the red stuff on the ATP Tour with all roads leading to Roland Garros and the French Open.

The European clay swing begins in earnest next week in Monte Carlo but there are two tournaments this week, including the US Men's Clay Court Championship in Houston.

Juan Monaco is the defending champion but his form this year has been pretty ordinary and given he was involved in a taxing Davis Cup tie for Argentina against France over the weekend he looks Ronnie Corbett (pretty short) at 8/1.

Monaco is a fine player and something of a clay specialist but a 2-5 Tour record so far this season tells its own story. The 29-year-old will click eventually but I am not sure how motivated he will be after his Davis Cup exertions in South America.

The ever-popular Tommy Haas will have his backers and the German enjoyed an incredible week in Miami recently, making a Masters Series semi-final before being bundled out by David Ferrer.

At 34 Haas is very much in the winter of his career but the fire still clearly burns bright within him and he is a former winner here, albeit way back in 2004.

His 15-6 record at the event certainly stands up to scrutiny and if he can make the adjustments from hard to slow clay he could be worth keeping an eye on.

One player I wouldn't back with stolen money right now is Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard has endured a nightmare time of it this season and his ranking has dropped to 30 in the world.

He withdrew from Memphis in February with a neck problem and since his return to action has been woeful. Jarkko Niemenen destroyed him at Indian Wells while Alejandro Falla also beat him in his first match in Miami recently. A talented shot-maker, Verdasco is going through a crisis of confidence and is a dish best served swerved.

Not so Nicolas Almagro. Debuting at the event the Murcia man loves the clay and has one of the best backhands in the game. Fully fit, and hopefully motivated, he can cut a swathe through a poor draw and he gets the full treatment at 2/1.

In Casablanca, Stanislas Wawrinka is a rather unconvincing 9/4 jolly to land the Grand Prix Hassan II. Forever in the shadow of one Roger Federer, the Swiss has all the shots but not the belief to be carrying the rent money this week.

A very average field has assembled again in Morocco and in truth its wide open. That said, at 11/1 I would rather be a backer than a layer when talk turns to Pablo Andujar.

A two-time winner here (and defending champion), the Valencia man has stamina to burn and is a dirt-baller to his very core. Stats suggest he is clearly doing something right so Paddy Power might just be getting ahead of themselves at the price.


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