2pts win Casper Ruud in the BMW Open at 5/1 (General)
0.5pt e.w. Yannick Hanffman in the BMW Open at 33/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
2pts win Cristian Garin in the Millennium Estoril Open at 5/1 (Betfred)
1pt win Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the Millennium Estoril Open at 9/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
0.5pt e.w. Pablo Andujar in the Millennium Estoril Open at 60/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
Before Christmas, I picked out CASPER RUUD at 150/1 for the French Open in my ante-post preview of the French Open.
An injury-hit start to the campaign didn’t bode well but the Norwegian is now very much up and running and, after his run to the semi-finals of the recent Monte Carlo Masters, he’s into 80/1 in that market.
He’s obviously a lot shorter for this ‘250’ event – the lowest rank of tournament on the ATP Tour – but now could well be the time to back him again.
Ruud beat a string of top-20 stars in Monte Carlo – Fabio Fognini, Pablo Carreno Busta and Diego Schwartzman – before losing to Andrey Rublev. It was his second Masters semi-final on clay, having also made the last four in Rome, post-lockdown, last season.
It appears the fruits of his labour have ripened well.
Prior to August’s resumption, Ruud said: “I’ve made useful improvements in many different areas.
“I’ve tried taking my game to a new level by trying new ways of playing.
“I’ve purposely practised inside the court and been much more aggressive.”
He wasn’t just talking a good game; those improvements have been evident.
With Munich getting pretty close to the Alps there’s a bit of altitude here – it’s around 500m above sea level – so it’s worth looking for player who have good experience in such conditions.
Ruud ticks that box having made the final in Santiago last year and the semis in Kitzbuhel in 2019, an event at which he beat Pablo Cuevas, who could be his opening foe this week.
His under-rated serve should set him up well in such conditions, while his game from the baseline has always been strong and, as highlighted, is improving too.
The main danger, at least at time of writing, in his section of the draw is Aslan Karatsev, whose terrific season continued over the weekend in Belgrade where he defeated world number one Novak Djokovic in his own back yard in a match lasting well over three hours.
But I expect that week has taken plenty out of the Russian, physically and mentally, and while I can see good reasons why people would want to back him at 11/2, my preference is for Ruud at a similar price of 5/1.
The opposite half of the draw is led by top seed Alex Zverev, a two-time winner of this event.
His big serve gets that added boost from the thinner air at altitude but it’s also a shot he’s admitted is causing him problems of late.
He recently said an elbow problem affects him most when serving and that’s a concern for anyone thinking of backing the German this week at 5/2.
Given Zverev is a player I’ve always struggled to win with, I’m happy to look past him in search of a spot of value.
Another German, YANNICK HANFFMAN, may be the man to oppose him with.
He’s a player who has produced his best results at altitude, finishing as runner-up in Kitzbuhel in 2020, a year in which he also won a Challenger title at L’Aquila in Italy.
Hanffman will be happy to be back on clay and showed as much in Cagliari a couple of weeks ago with a run to the quarter-finals, beating Tommy Paul and Marco Cecchinato.
He was also just a tie-break away from defeating Lorenzo Sonego in the last eight having led by a set and a break.
The wild card will face Taro Daniel in round one, a player who ended our hopes of a 50/1 success in Belgrade last week by beating Federico Delbonis in the last eight.
However, he’s had little time to adapt to the different conditions, while the seeds in this quarter of the draw, Filip Krajinovic and Jan-Lennard Struff, make this look the weakest section.
At 33/1, Hanffman looks worth an each-way punt.
CRISTIAN GARIN is another player I’ve mentioned in dispatches about regarding ability on clay and he looks to have a decent title opportunity in Estoril this week.
I tipped the Chilean at a whopping 250/1 in Monte Carlo a fortnight ago but his run was ended in the last 16 by Stefanos Tsitsipas.
While there was certainly nothing unfair about that result, Garin did manage to keep it fairly close and the form has been franked given Tsitsipas went on to lift the title and at time of writing is playing in the final of the Barcelona Open.
Garin has already won in Santiago this season, the fifth claycourt title of his career, while he’s also got experience of winning in Europe having done so in Munich in 2019.
Cameron Norrie and Kei Nishikori, who beat Garin last week in Barcelona, are probably the biggest threats on his path through the draw but I believe that if he plays towards his top level, Garin should at least be making the final this week.
He’s seeded to face Denis Shapovalov there but the young Canadian continues to struggle to reward his backers and I’ve no interest in him at 11/2 this week.
Shapovalov has still won just one title at ATP level and has just one other final appearance on his CV. None has been on clay and the most recent was in 2019.
He was well beaten by compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona last week and I would not be surprised were he to lose early again here.
I’ll oppose him in this half with two players, 9/1 shot ALBERT RAMOS-VINOLAS and 60/1 outsider PABLO ANDUJAR.
Ramos-Vinolas has been churned out the wins on his beloved clay so far this year, finishing runner-up in Cordoba and then making the semis in Buenos Aires.
On his return to Europe, ARV narrowly lost in the semis in Marbella – another of the recent agonising near-misses for this column – and his defeats since have come against Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev.
Neither can be described as disappointing and there’s no-one of their calibre in attendance at the Club de Tenis do Estoril, the Cascais venue where this event set up in 2015.
With that form in the book, I’ll happily back him at 9/1.
I also feel Andujar, another Spaniard, is too big at 60/1.
His second quarter doesn’t look very strong - Ugo Humbert prefers a much faster surface, while Alejandro Davidovich Fokina is the other seed in the section.
He is Andujar’s first opponent and 9/1 for the title but that looks too short.
It appears based on his run to the quarter-finals of Monte Carlo but there his opponents weren’t the strongest with his marquee success coming against Matteo Berrettini, who was in the early stages of an injury comeback.
Davidovich Fokina then retired injured against Tsitsipas in the last eight and when he played in Barcelona a few days later he lost in round one.
Andujar is far from without a chance in that one and the draw could then open up.
While he’s not in the sort of form which has seen him win titles at this time of year in the past (Marrakech, Casablanca – he’s also made the final in Barcelona), Andujar has been decent dirt-ballers in Gianluca Mager and Gilles Simon this season.
Those results offer hope and while there’s no doubt he’s a long shot, I’m pretty sure he shouldn’t be on offer at this price.
Published at 1555 BST on 25/04/21
We are committed in our support of responsible gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133, or visit begambleaware.org.