Time for a 150/1 French fancy
Our Andy Schooler has a 150/1 shot among his selections for this week's action on the ATP World Tour.
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1pt e.w. Albano Olivetti in Moselle Open at 150/1 (bet365).
1pt e.w. Xavier Malisse in Moselle Open at 40/1 (bet365, BetVictor, Stan James).
0.5pt e.w. Jarkko Nieminen in Moselle Open at 66/1 (Stan James).
1pt e.w. Martin Klizan in St Petersburg Open at 12/1 (BetVictor).
Very rarely do I kick-off a preview by mentioning a 150/1 shot, but that's the case this week as the ATP World Tour heads indoors.
Metz and St Petersburg are the stop-off points and in the former the big-serving Albano Olivetti deserves more respect than he's being given by the layers.
Handed a wild card by organisers, the 6ft 8in Frenchman is exactly the sort of player who can make hay in what are usually some of the fastest conditions to be found on the tour.
The Greenset courts favour the big servers and while Olivetti has little experience at this level, the limited amount he does have suggests he won't be out of his depth.
Olivetti qualified for the Marseille tournament earlier in this season, one played in similar slick, indoor conditions, and beat top-10 star Mardy Fish en route to the quarter-finals.
With a ranking still outside the top 200, it's perhaps no surprise to find he's not played on the main tour since, but only last week the 20-year-old made the final of a Challenger tournament in Segovia where a look at the statistics show what he's all about.
Olivetti slammed down 57 aces in five matches that week. That was outdoors. Moving inside, expect more to rain down from up high.
If the serve clicks, expect most of Olivetti's matches to be settled by the odd break point here and there, or a tie-break or two.
As I've often pointed out in the past, French players have an excellent record when performing on home soil so Olivetti wouldn't be the first player to exceed expectations here.
In fact five of the nine tournaments since Metz returned to the schedule have been won by a French player.
The defending champion is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, this year's top seed.
Another player likely to make good use of the fast court, he's a worthy favourite but is on the other side of the draw to Olivetti and also our second pick, Xavier Malisse.
He may not be French, but the Belgian is only a few miles from home here and should be well rested as, unlike many iin the field, he has not been playing Davis Cup tennis over the past few days.
That should have got him 'bedded in' on indoor courts and history suggests he should be happy to be back on a fast surface.
Malisse enjoyed some impressive results on grass earlier this season, while at this tournament he's performed well and been a tad unfortunate in recent years.
In each of the past two seasons he's made the last eight but last year injury forced him out at the quarter-final stage while in 2010 he ran into eventual champion Gilles Simon in fine form.
A 40/1 shot this time around, Malisse could face second seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in round two which would be an awkward match.
However, Malisse leads their head-to-head 2-1 and a closer look at the stats shows Kohlschrieber has struggled on the return of serve against the Belgian - not a good sign for a match in Metz.
Essnetially the price looks too big and we'll have a small bet on the former Wimbledon semi-finalist.
Finally in Metz I can't resist a small play on Jarkko Nieminen in these conditions.
The left-hander is a man to respect at this time of year - he's reached finals in Stockholm, Bangkok and Basel in the final portion of the season in the past.
Two years ago the Finn made the quarter-finals here, while earlier in this campaign he made the last eight indoors in both Montpellier and Rotterdam. Losing to Gael Monfils and Roger Federer at those events is hardly a disgrace.
The likelihood here is that Tsonga will see off Nieminen in the last eight but we're prepared to take a chance that an upset happens.
First of all, Tsonga will need to improve on his US Open form which saw him lose in the second round.
Secondly, Nieminen, who posted two Davis Cup wins on indoor hard over the weekend, has troubled him in the past, winning two of five matches and taking the Frenchman to a final set of two of the others.
At 66/1, a minimum stakes each-way play is worthwhile.
Over in St Petersburg, the field is not a strong one with just three of the world's top 50 on display.
Again the top seed - in this case Mikhail Youzhny - is favourite for a reason.
The Russian has a strong record at the event with 27 wins and nine losses.
Yet for all that, he has actually only won the title once - back in 2004 - with two final defeats, and two semi-final losses.
At 11/4, he is worth taking on with the in-form Martin Klizan.
The Slovak was highly impressive at the US Open where few expected him to take out Tsonga and reach the last 16.
Coupled with four Challenger Tour wins earlier in the campaign, Klizan is now sitting proudly at a career-high ranking of 46 and will arrive in St Petersburg brimming with confidence.
While he moves indoors here, the conditions in St Petersburg are not as fast as they once were - the Play-It surface having been introduced in recent years - so should not worry him unduly.
Klizan is also another who has spent much of the last week playing or practising on an indoor hardcourt with Slovakia's Davis Cup team.
With a decent draw - he's not due to meet Youzhny until the semis - Klizan looks worth a try at odds of 12/1.