After big profits last week, our Andy Schooler brings you his 22/1 pick for this week's ATP Masters event in Montreal.
Last week was a good week.
It could have been better but it’s hard to complain having seen 40/1 pick Thanasi Kokkinakis reach the final in Los Cabos and another each-way selection, Kevin Anderson, finish runner-up in Washington at a tasty 25/1.
This week sees the return of Masters 1000 tennis which usually proves more difficult in terms of finding good value than those tournaments at the lower end of the tour.
However, after a good run of profits over the last two months, let’s try to find some ahead of the action in Montreal.
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Coupe Rogers, Montreal, outdoor hard
Regular readers will know I’ve never been averse to a stat or two, particularly when it comes to the Big Four.
My regular one when it comes to Masters 1000 tournaments is that the quartet of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have scooped 60 of the last 66 titles between them.
However, there’s also another which helps ram home just how dominant they have been for so long.
The last time non-Big Four members won back-to-back Masters titles was in 2010 when Ivan Ljubicic and Andy Roddick were champions in Indian Wells and Miami respectively.
With Alex Zverev having won the last such tournament in Rome, there’s a chance that seven-year-old stat could be wiped out in Montreal and that chance has been increased by the absence of both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray from the Coupe Rogers field due to injury.
Still, the two Big Four members who remain, Federer and Nadal, fill the top two spots in the betting and after the seasons they have had it’s easy to see why.
Both will have their backers but respective prices of 7/4 and 7/2 aren’t for me.
Those backing Federer need to realise he’s never won in Montreal.
This tournament alternates each year between the Quebec City and Toronto and in four visits to the former, Federer has only ever made the final once, losing to Djokovic in 2007. He’s not played here at all since 2011.
This is also his first foray onto the hardcourts since early April and while it’s only three weeks he’s had off this time as opposed to two months, it’s worth noting that the last time he switched surfaces he lost in the first round in Stuttgart to Tommy Haas.
While the DecoTurf court (the same surface used at the US Open) is expected to play on the fast side of average, it’s usually the case that Cincinnati is faster. That tournament comes next week and Federer is a seven-time champion there. He seems more likely to win there.
All things considered, this looks a time to be taking the Swiss great, who will turn 36 during the tournament.
Twice a winner in Montreal, Nadal looks more tempting at 7/2 but of the leading players the Spaniard has been more vulnerable than the others against big servers on fast courts.
With John Isner and Milos Raonic potentially to be faced before the semi-finals, that’s a concern for me and I’m instead looking further down the list for a bet this week.
Many will turn to Alex Zverev following his Washington title win at the weekend.
The young German is really pushing on this season and is looking more and more likely to fulfil the predictions of so many by becoming a world number one.
That goal is still some way off right now but he’s firmly on course to qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals.
My worry with the 20-year-old still regards his fitness. I’ve mentioned his poor best-of-five-sets record in the past and that would be a concern for those backing him for the US Open right now.
Of course, it’s just best-of-three this week but after playing in some pretty brutal conditions in Washington, asking him to become the first Washington-Canada winner since the calendar placed them next to each other in 2003 looks a tough ask.
My preference is to take a chance on Kei Nishikori.
This may seem ironic given the fitness issue I’ve just raised – the Japanese’s injury record has long been a frustration for punters.
However, he’s a considerably longer price than Zverev and also looked better physically in Washington last week where he beat Juan Martin Del Potro and made the semis before running into the eventual champion.
What’s particularly attractive about the 27-year-old is that he has a strong track record for performing during this summer hardcourt season.
This time last year he finished runner-up in Toronto, won bronze at the Olympics and then beat Murray en route to the last four at the US Open.
In 2015, when the tournament was last staged at this venue, he was a semi-finalist and also won in Washington, while in 2014 he made his famous run to the US Open final.
The hardcourts suit Nishikori’s game and his record shows that.
In Federer’s quarter of the draw, Nishikori does have a tricky opener against either Steve Johnson or Gael Monfils but he’s 4-0 up on the former and 3-0 against the latter.
He has beaten Federer on American hardcourts in the past and pushed him all the way to 6-3 in the fifth during the Swiss’ Australian Open title run in January.
With Nishikori’s body capable of letting him down at any given moment, I’ll be keeping stakes small but there look good reasons to be backing him at this time of year and so that’s the call this week.
Where to watch on TV: Sky Sports
Posted at 1040 BST on 07/08/17.