Andy Schooler had a 33/1 winner and a 40/1 shot placed during the Australian swing. As the ATP Tour moves on, here are his picks for this week’s events.
1pt e.w. Radu Albot to win the Singapore Open at 20/1 (general)
1pt Lloyd Harris to win the Singapore Open at 7/1 (BetVictor)
1pt Ugo Humbert to win the Open Sud de France at 7/1 (BoyleSports, Betfred)
0.5pt e.w. Jiri Vesely to win the Open Sud de France at 50/1 (BetVictor, BoyleSports)
0.5pt e.w. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win the Open Sud de France at 33/1 (bet365)
1pt e.w. Thiago Monteiro to win the Cordoba Open at 20/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
0.5pt e.w. Andrej Martin to win the Cordoba Open at 66/1 (Sky Bet)
0.5pt e.w. Francisco Cerundolo to win the Cordoba Open at 50/1 (BoyleSports)
Having had a taste of what once was normality in Australia – meals out, fans cheering them on – the ATP players return to the reality of the COVID-19 world this week.
The rejigged tour has seen Singapore added to it as a one-off stop but it has been beset by withdrawals, largely due to the fact that a positive COVID test (or even if deemed a close contact with another person who has one) will result in a three-week quarantine period – something of a setback for a player’s ability to earn.
Ten of the original 19 direct entrants have opted out, including Felix Auger-Aliassime and Briton Dan Evans.
Only four of the world’s top 50 remain, with the last direct acceptance now the world number 190, Ramkumar Ramanathan.
The weak field should increase the chance of a big-priced winner and the man I like the most is RADU ALBOT at 20/1.
The Moldovan played well at the Australian Open, defeating top-20 star Roberto Bautista Agut en route to the third round where he lost to Casper Ruud.
We’re not entirely sure how fast the DecoTurf courts will play but Albot is largely suited to indoor conditions.
Back in the autumn he picked up some decent results during the European swing.
He made the quarter-finals in Cologne before taking down Hubert Hurkacz in Paris.
Albot backed that up by finishing the season with another last-eight run in Sofia where he defeated Denis Shapovalov before losing to Adrian Mannarino.
The latter in the top seed here and the pair could meet in the quarter-finals again. Mannarino would start favourite – he’s a strong indoor player too – but that Sofia clash went to three sets and Albot could well turn the tables.
I like his price and am happy to back him each way.
The bottom half of the draw is headed up by Australian John Millman but he disappointed on home soil, his sole win coming against a player ranked outside the world’s top 400.
As for third seed Marin Cilic, he didn’t win a match in Australia and he also looks too short.
I’ll take them both on with a player who did catch the eye Down Under, namely LLOYD HARRIS.
The South African is another who should enjoy the indoor conditions with his big serve a real weapon.
He showed that at the end of 2020 with his run to the quarter-finals in Cologne including wins over Kyle Edmund and Steve Johnson.
Harris’ efforts in Antwerp were even better with seed Taylor Fritz and Corentin Moutet beaten before a narrow last-eight loss to the eventual champion, Ugo Humbert.
He opens against wild card Adrian Andreev before a potentially-tricky second-round meeting with Alexei Popyrin. However, Harris beat the Aussie in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago.
The bookies aren’t going crazy with Harris’ price but at 7/1 I can see him launching a title challenge.
French players have long performed well at their home events and the added complications of tennis quarantine lift simply add to the home hopes’ chances in Montpellier this week.
Seven of the last eight titles at this tournament have been won by Frenchmen with a remarkable 13 of the last 16 finalists having come from the home nation.
Clearly that’s a trend punters should at least be considering, even with the likes of Jannik Sinner and Roberto Bautista Agut in the field.
The highest-ranked Frenchman in this year’s draw is world number 34 UGO HUMBERT, who is seeded fifth and holds strong title claims.
This rising star thrives indoors and should go well in what are usually pretty fast conditions.
He was victorious in Antwerp - when tipped by this column at 20/1 - towards the end of last season during a strong autumn run across the European indoor swing.
That period saw Humbert push eventual champion Andrey Rublev to 7-5 in the decider in St Petersburg, while he also made the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters with wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Marin Cilic and Casper Ruud.
He then held match points in the last eight against Milos Raonic only to lose in a final-set tie-break.
That’s perhaps one thing you could level at Humbert – he has lost some tight matches, most recently at the Australian Open where he was beaten by Nick Kyrgios in five sets, again from match points up.
Still, there’s no doubt Humbert played well that day in what was a high-quality match.
With the court speed here again likely to be fairly slick, I think he’s got a strong chance and will back him, even if the bookies are now clued up and offer just 7/1.
Some thought it wouldn’t happen but South America’s ‘Golden Swing’ of claycourt tournaments will get under way this week.
In terms of rankings, the Cordoba Open isn’t the strongest – just one player from the top 25 and six from the top 70 – yet there are still plenty of decent dirt-ballers here ready to grind it out on the clay.
Local hero Diego Schwartzman is the class of the field and it wouldn’t have been a hard job for the layers making him the favourite.
Yet he’s been here in the previous two editions too and is yet to lift the trophy. At 5/2 this time around, he can be taken on.
As is my usual approach, I’ll do so with players I consider good value at a tasty price.
First up is ANDREJ MARTIN, who resides in Schwartzman’s quarter of the draw.
Martin made the semis here 12 months ago when he pushed eventual champion Cristian Garin to a final set – a feat he repeated a couple of weeks later in Rio.
In the week before last year’s event he made the semi-finals of a Challenger Tour event in Uruguay so it’s significant that he reached the last four of a Challenger in Concepcion, Chile, over the weekend.
The Slovak has played plenty of tennis in this part of the world in the past, including ending his 2020 campaign here by making the final of another Challenger in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Unlike many of his peers, who have been playing in slick conditions in Australia, he should already be well attuned to the clay and he looks worth a punt each way at 66/1.
FRANCISCO CERUNDOLO was the man who beat Martin in Ecuador at the end of last year and he’s also looking chunky at 50/1 this week.
The 22-year-old Argentine has been tearing it up on clay on the Challenger Tour since the tour’s resumption in August with that Guayaquil success one of three titles bagged.
At time of writing he’s won 25 of his last 28 matches and is due to contest the Concepcion final so could have another trophy in his collection before facing Gianluca Mager in round one here.
Some decent clay sorts, such as Roberto Carballes Baena and Jaume Munar, have been among his victims in that run of success and while this is a step up, it’s not a huge one given the lack big names in the draw.
With the ultra-inconsistent Benoit Paire the seed in his quarter of the draw, the confident Cerundolo looks tasty at 50/1 and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he emulates compatriot Juan Ignacio Londero, who won this title at a massive price in 2019.
Finally, I also like the chances of THIAGO MONTEIRO in this half.
The Brazilian surpassed expectations during the Australian swing, storming to the semi-finals of his warm-up tournament in Melbourne and then giving Rublev a decent run for his money in the Australian Open.
Monteiro lost serve just twice that day and his serving was a feature of his success over those couple of weeks.
No doubt he was helped by conditions but there’s also a bit of altitude in Cordoba – they are around 400m above sea level – and that will give his serve some extra juice.
These are more natural conditions for Monteiro, who has just hit a career-high in the rankings.
During last season’s Golden Swing, he beat both Borna Coric and Guido Pella and over the years he’s had a string of decent runs at this time of year, including making the semis in Rio in 2017.
Admittedly, he’s yet to reach a final at this level but with the confidence raised, I expect him to go well at 20/1.
Posted 1055 GMT on 21/02/21
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