Casper Ruud
Casper Ruud

Tennis betting tips: Preview and best bets for the Millennium Estoril Open, Fayez Sarofim & Co US Clay Court Championship and Grand Prix Hassan II

The claycourt season begins on the ATP Tour this week – Andy Schooler brings you his best bets in Estoril, Marrakech and Houston.

Recommended bets: ATP Tour

3pts win Casper Ruud in the Millennium Estoril Open at 7/2 (Unibet, BetUK, BetMGM)

0.5pt e.w. Joao Fonseca in the Millennium Estoril Open at 40/1 (Betfred)

0.5pt e.w. Brandon Nakashima in the Fayez Sarofim & Co US Clay Court Championship at 22/1 (Unibet, BetUK, BetMGM)

0.5pt e.w. Juan Pablo Varillas in the Fayez Sarofim & Co US Clay Court Championship at 40/1 (General)

1pt e.w. Laslo Djere in the Grand Prix Hassan II at 11/1 (Unibet, BetUK, BetMGM)

0.5pt e.w. Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the Grand Prix Hassan II at 40/1 (Unibet, BetUK, BetMGM)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Millennium Estoril Open

  • Estoril, Portugal (outdoor clay)

At 7/2, CASPER RUUD simply looks too big to retain his title in Estoril.

By the standards he set in 2022, when he reached two Grand Slam finals, last season was somewhat disappointing for the Norwegian.

Still, on his favoured clay, he managed to put some poor form aside to win here and used that success as a platform to reach another French Open final.

This year, he arrives on the European clay in better form – the 25-year-old has been racking up plenty of wins on the hardcourts of late, reaching the finals in both Los Cabos and Acapulco.

OK, top-level victories have still been thin on the ground but at this 250 level event there is only one other top-20 player in the field, namely Hubert Hurkacz.

And history suggests Ruud has a great chance – nine of his 10 career titles have come at 250 level on clay.

With those two Roland Garros finals also on his CV, Ruud is comfortably the best claycourt player in the draw. Throw in a first-round bye and 7/2 looks a very good price.

Admittedly, this will be Ruud’s first foray onto clay since July but it’s his natural surface and I envisage few transition problems.

The draw sees him face either Federico Coria or Botic van de Zandschulp first up. Given the latter’s form, it will probably be the former.

Sky Bet offer

Coria also looks big at a best price of 50/1 and those not convinced by Ruud may well be interested in backing a player who has already made two claycourt semi-finals this year (in Cordoba and Buenos Aires).

However, he’s lost both previous meetings with Ruud – both on clay, both in straight sets – which is rather off-putting.

As for others in the top half, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has a good record in Estoril – two semi-finals and two quarter-finals – but the Spaniard is really struggling for wins at the moment. I’d want more than 10/1.

It will be interesting to see how recent Challenger Tour winners Pedro Martinez (40/1) and Henrique Rocha (200/1) go. The former certainly looks a little on the large side after his success in Girona on Sunday, although backing it up may take some doing with fatigue a potential issue.

The bottom half of the draw looks much weaker.

Hurkacz heads it up but he looks an unconvincing 5/1 shot.

This will be the Pole’s first claycourt event since last year’s French Open and his impressive serve won’t win him so many cheap points this week.

That shot has got him through a number of tight matches in the last couple of months – he’s rarely won in straight sets – and I’d be surprised if he justifies his seeding by making the final this week.

Perhaps a return to Europe will suit Arthur Fils, a man I expected to shine in 2024. However, the fact is he’s really struggled and a lack of victories mean I can’t back him with any confidence, even at 20/1.

Instead, I prefer to take a punt on a player who has shown some fine form of late and that’s teenager JOAO FONSECA.

The Brazilian announced his name to the world as a wild card at his home event, the Rio Open, where he made the last eight.

He’s since backed that up with a final appearance on the Challenger Tour in Asuncion.

The Brazilian faces a qualifier in round one with the winner then meeting Hurkacz.

Fonseca’s fearless nature and propensity for clay could well surprise the seeded man and at 40/1, a small bet looks worthwhile given this half is really lacking star quality.

Grand Prix Hassan II

  • Marrakech, Morocco (outdoor clay)

Interesting would be the polite way to describe the tissue for this week’s tournament in Marrakech.

The Kambi sportsbook, whose odds are used by a number of bookmakers, including Unibet, have three players at 6/1 or shorter and none makes any appeal whatsoever.

The 4/1 favourite is Lorenzo Sonego, a player who has gone 4-9 so far in 2024 and is yet to win back-to-back matches.

Next comes Sonego’s fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini at 6/1. He may be a former top-10 star but the fact is he’s played just one tour-level match since August. And lost it. I just can’t make out why he’s this short.

The same can be said of Stan Wawrinka, also a 6/1 chance. He’s played a bit more – but not much. The Swiss has managed only five matches in 2024, winning just the one.

To me, there has to be some value in the rest of the market and I’ll start with LASLO DJERE.

The world number 35 is the highest-ranked player in this field and should return to Morocco with some good memories.

He made the semi-finals here on his last visit two years ago and his overall record, including qualifying, is a healthy 6-3.

OK, Djere hasn’t been in great form but he’s had some injury niggles so far in 2024 and I believe a return to the clay could be just what the doctor ordered.

Both of his ATP titles have come on this surface, along with four of his five finals, the last of which came last season in Hamburg.

The following week he backed that up with a run to the last four in Kitzbuhel which is just as significant in relation to this week as that effort came at altitude.

Laslo Djere is the play at the Sardegna Open
Laslo Djere

They are around 500m above sea level in Marrakech so the balls will ‘fly’ that bit more here in the thinner air and so ball control will be important.

Long-term readers will know I’m usually keen to find ‘altitude experts’ in such events and while Djere doesn’t fit that template perfectly (none of his titles have come up high), he has won plenty of matches in these conditions with two semis in Kitzbuhel on his record, plus two in Gstaad and one in both Sao Paulo and Cordoba.

At 11/1, Djere looks worth some interest.

The other pick is no stranger to column regulars and while the form of ALBERT RAMOS-VINOLAS isn’t great, 40/1 about a player who has performed very well at altitude over the years looks too big, particularly given the lack of quality in the field.

The Spaniard has that ball control required in these conditions and that’s reflected in his record.

Two of his four ATP titles have come at a significant altitude, as have eight of his 12 finals.

That’s a player happy to be competing well above sea level and his schedule nearly always takes in all these tournaments.

Admittedly, ARV is yet to win back-to-back matches at tour level in 2024 but he did show some good signs recently on the Challenger Tour in Murcia where he made the semis.

All things considered, a small each-way bet at 40/1 looks worthwhile.

Fayez Sarofim & Co US Clay Court Championship

  • Houston, USA (outdoor clay)

I’ve always found this tournament a tough one to call.

Yes, it’s being played on clay but it’s simply not the same as the European stuff – Houston has always played much quicker and you only need to look at the roll of honour to know that.

Champions here include Reilly Opelka, John Isner and Ivo Karlovic, none of whom have won on this surface anywhere else.

That said, ‘proper’ claycourters have managed to succeed here too – think Cristian Garin and Juan Monaco.

With this in mind, my approach will be to take one from each category to small stakes.

I’m certainly not interested in backing anyone towards the top of the market.

Ben Shelton is the favourite at 4/1 and he fits that big-server profile but clay experience is limited.

Frances Tiafoe, the defending champion, is probably a better bet at a point bigger but I’m looking for some value here and think a couple of players could surprise.

In the top half, now could be the time to back BRANDON NAKASHIMA.

He’s been forced back to the Challenger Tour for much of this season but he’s done so with some success.

Brandon Nakashima
Brandon Nakashima

Nakashima arrives in Houston with a 22-8 win-loss record at all levels for the season so far.

The American is a player will a strong serve which, when firing, is tough to break.

The return side of his game isn’t so strong but he does have a good tie-break record historically and that could well come into play this week.

He opens against Croatian Duje Ajdukovic with the winner facing Rinky Hijikata or Christopher Eubanks, two players with poor claycourt records.

It’s worth noting at this point that Nakashima was a semi-finalist on the clay of Lyon last season.

In short, this is a section Nakashima should be happy to have landed in and if he can bag those two wins to set up a likely meeting with Shelton, that would likely be a serve-dominated battle into which Nakashima could take some confidence.

He’s coped well with the big servers in the past and holds a winning record over Milos Raonic, plus the now-retired Isner and Sam Querrey.

At 22/1, he’s worth a try.

The other player I like the look of at the price is one of the clay lovers, JUAN PABLO VARILLAS.

The Peruvian won a Challenger title in Santiago in early March and has since reached two more semi-finals at that level, meaning he arrives in Texas having won 11 of his last 13 matches.

OK, this is clearly a step up but he’ll also be facing plenty of players who aren’t really at home on this surface.

Varillas made the last 16 of last season’s French Open, while he’s shown he can play in faster clay conditions by making the quarter-finals at altitude in Gstaad, while more recently he pushed the in-form Sebastian Baez to three sets in Santiago.

Sadly, he’s on the same side of the draw as Nakashima but, with little taking my fancy in the bottom half, I’ll have a small play at 40/1.

Posted at 1525 BST on 31/03/24

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