Make the clay pay

  • By: Andy Schooler (Twitter: @NetTalkTennis)
  • Last Updated: July 13 2014, 18:24 BST

Fresh from a 7/1 winner, our tennis tipster Andy Schooler has two big-priced fancies on the ATP World Tour this week.

Santiago Giraldo: Can go well at a big price in Hamburg
Santiago Giraldo: Can go well at a big price in Hamburg

Just three weeks remain for the claycourters to do their thing on the ATP World Tour so it's no surprise to see them out in force in Hamburg this week.

It's the biggest of the remaining clay events in 2014 offering 500 ranking points to the winner.

The bookies say that is most likely to be David Ferrer, who is chalked up at 7/4.

I say that's an awful price for a player struggling for form. I rightly opposed him last week and will do so again for this is not the dominant claycourter of 2012 and 2013, the man who was clearly the fifth-best player in the world.

Whoever wins this week will have to play to a high level consistently, such is the depth of the draw; the champion should certainly be battle-hardened having had to face some strong opponents.

With Ferrer taking up a large percentage of the book, there are plenty of candidates to consider at a big price.

In the top half, they include Roberto Bautista Agut - my successful pick last week in Stuttgart. However, reaching back-to-back finals would be something new to the Spaniard and despite his impressive form in 2014 I'm prepared to leave him alone this week.

Alexandr Dolgopolov will have potential for some but he's being priced on reputation rather than form right now - he has a 4-5 record on the European clay this season. I can't trust him at around 12/1 this week.

Mikhail Youzhny is another too short for me. Despite his run to the last four in Stuttgart he still has a losing record for the season and has seen better days.

Federico Delbonis is tempting. He's had a good season on the clay, winning in Sao Paulo, finishing runner-up in Nice and reaching the semis in Casablanca.

However, it's notable that the week after all those tournaments brought a first-round loss.

Delbonis made the last eight in Stuttgart last week - not as deep a run as the others but enough to put me off a player who lacks consistency from week to week

Instead my each-way pick in the tip half is going to be Colombia's Santiago Giraldo.

He was a runner-up in Barcelona and also made the quarter-finals in Madrid where Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray were both among his victims.

Semi-final appearances in Houston and Vina Del Mar also prove he's more than capable of winning matches on this surface.

Giraldo lost in the last eight in Stuttgart to top seed Fabio Fognini (no disgrace) and the positive way of looking at that is that he'll have arrived a little earlier in Hamburg ready to get a feel for the courts.

It's also significant that Giraldo has opted to stay in Europe rather than head back to Colombia where his home tournament is taking place. He wants the clay points.

In the Dolgopolov-Youzhny-Delbonis quarter, Giraldo is worth a nibble. Sky Bet have him at 33/1.

Second seed Fognini is the man the layers have to reach the final in the bottom section but again I'm happy to oppose.

I mentioned the reasons in last week's column and he duly lost to my pick Bautista Agut in the semis in Stuttgart.

The hot-headed Italian is strong on clay but has just three career titles on the surface. Admittedly one was here last year but he's not in the same form now as he was then when he was in the middle of a 13-match winning streak.

I'd rather back Guillermo Garcia-Lopez at six times Fognini's price.

The Spaniard has had a decent season and showed good sings last week - certainly enough to win my vote here at 45/1.

This is a player who beat Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros (he went to reach the last 16) and both Tomas Berdych and the aforementioned Dolgopolov en route to the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo.

At the smaller events, he won in Casablanca and last week made the last eight in Stuttgart where he only lost to eventual champion Bautista Agut in a final-set tie-break.

Essentially form is strong and he's capable of beating good claycourt players, something he will likely need to do to reward my faith.

Although he trails Fognini on their head to head - the pair could meet in the quarter-finals - GGL has beaten him on clay in the past and with the Italian not at his best right now, I'm happy with my choice.

Tommy Robredo is in this half too but the third seed isn't in great form. I'd be more concerned about Philipp Kohlschreiber, the German who often performs well on home soil.

However, that wasn't the case last week when he lost in the second round in Stuttgart so at 12/1 he's short enough for me.

As touched upon already, this week's other tournament takes place in Bogota, Colombia.

The hardcourt event was introduced to the tour 12 months ago and now acts as part of the build-up to the US Open.

With the city at 2,600m above sea level, it was no surprise to see some big servers perform well at last year's tournament - Ivo Karlovic won the title, while Kevin Anderson and Vasek Pospisil made the semis.

Karlovic and Pospisil are both back for more this time, as is beaten finalist and local hero Alejandro Falla.

It's Karlovic I like the look of.

While I was prepared to oppose him last week on the grass of Newport, I put my hands up and say I read that wrong - at time of writing he's due to face Lleyton Hewitt in the final.

His massive serve has been in good working order for a couple of months now - as well as that Newport run he also made the final in Dusseldorf and was going well at Roland Garros until suffering an injury.

So far in Newport he's served 53 aces in four matches and lost his delivery just once.

A look back at his stats in Bogota a year ago make even better reading and help emphasise the help he will receive from the conditions.

Karlovic served 104 aces in his five matches en route to the title and he did not drop serve all week.

The Croatian will only need to win four matches to retain his crown - the 28-draw also means he'll get a decent rest after his Newport exploits with his first match likely to be played on Thursday.

That gives him plenty of time to adjust to the conditions which will suit him down to the ground in any case.

Radek Stepanek is the danger in Karlovic's half of the draw - he has a good record against Karlovic although I'm not sure even he will be particularly confident of returning the sledgehammer serve at this altitude.

Richard Gasquet is the top seed and indeed the only player from the top 30 in this field.

However, he's very short at 5/4 even if he should be fine with the fast conditions.

Pospsil, who has been struggling for form this season, and Falla are also in the top half but it's Karlovic I want on my betting slip right now, albeit I'll keep stakes fairly small.

  • Posted at 1700 BST on 13/07/2014.