Andy Schooler previews this week’s action on the ATP Tour as players head to Rotterdam, Delray Beach and Buenos Aires.
Recommended bets: ATP Tour tennis
2pts Stefanos Tsitsipas to win the ABN AMRO Open at 11/2 (Unibet)
1pt e.w. Hubert Hurkacz in the ABN AMRO Open at 16/1 (General)
1pt e.w. Ben Shelton in the Delray Beach Open at 16/1 (Betfred)
1pt e.w. Sebastian Baez in the Argentina Open at 14/1 (BoyleSports)
0.5pt e.w. Pedro Cachin in the Argentina Open at 50/1 (General)
0.5pt e.w. Tomas Martin Etcheverry in the Argentina Open at 66/1 (BetVictor, bet365, BoyleSports)
Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook
ABN AMRO Open
- Rotterdam, Netherlands (indoor hard)
Rotterdam invariably delivers on the entry-list front and this year is no different.
The eight seeds all come from the world’s top 16 with five of the top 10 scheduled to play on what have been fairly sluggish Proflex courts in the Ahoy Arena in recent years.
Those seedings are worth a closer look for punters eyeing up bets this week.
Twelve of the last 14 editions of this tournament have been won by a seed, while 11 of the 14 have been won by one of the top four seeds.
Given the quality offered by that top quartet in 2023, it does make sense to take one of them and the player I like is STEFANOS TSITSIPAS at 11/2.
The Greek was bettered only by Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, finishing runner-up in Melbourne, much to the delight of this column’s followers.
The often-criticised backhand stood up well – even Djokovic spent more time going into the forehand in the final – and the serve was firing regularly.
That shot won’t get so much help from the surface here but it is a venue where Tsitsipas has won plenty of matches in the past, albeit he is yet to emerge as champion.
Last season he was the beaten finalist and 12 months prior to that he lost in the semi-finals.
One reason for his odds of 11/2 here is undoubtedly the presence of Jannik Sinner in his part of the draw – with the Italian unseeded we could have a meeting of the players ranked three and 17 in the world in round two. The duo are both in the top three of Coral’s outright market.
However, Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head 5-1, the latest clash coming in Melbourne last month, while Sinner also has a full week of tennis in his legs having reached Sunday’s final in Montpellier, so I’m OK with backing the Greek here.
He didn’t always have the greatest record returning to action after a Grand Slam but that has improved over the past year or so and, in any case, he’s already played since that Melbourne final loss to Djokovic, winning two Davis Cup rubbers, albeit against weak opposition.
That will have kept him ticking over though and he should be keen to continue his strong start-of-season form.
Holger Rune is the other big threat in this half of the draw and will doubtless have his backers at 10/1, especially given he holds a winning H2H against Tsitsipas.
However, he did lose to Maxime Cressy in Montpellier on Saturday and I just like the way Tsitsipas has started the year. He gets the nod.
The leading seeds in the bottom half are Andrey Rublev and Felix Auger-Aliassime, the winners of this event in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
Again, both warrant respect and I was close to siding with FAA, whose record in Rotterdam also includes a final appearance in 2020.
However, he has a potentially-tricky opener against Lorenzo Sonego, not to mention a possible quarter-final meeting with Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev is actually the bookies’ favourite this week (best price 9/2) but he looks worth taking on – while he did win at this 500 level in Vienna towards the end of last season, I’d suggest he’s not won an event of this quality since the 2021 US Open.
The Russian was well beaten by Sebastian Korda last time out at the Australian Open and I think he’ll need a significant improvement to win this week.
Instead, I think HUBERT HURKACZ has a decent chance in this section.
He’s in Rublev’s quarter and played pretty well in Australia, making the fourth round in Melbourne where he beat Denis Shapovalov and lost only a final-set tie-break to Korda.
The Pole can play on any surface and while his record here is a disappointing 2-3, look at the detail and you’ll find two of the defeats came at the hands of Tsitsipas, both in three sets.
Hurkacz opens against Roberto Bautista Agut, who last week was beaten in straight sets by wild card Arthur Fils in his only match in Montpellier. That’s a hurdle which should be cleared before a meeting with Grigor Dimitrov or a qualifier.
His head-to-heads are encouraging too – he’s level at 2-2 against Rublev, the man he could face in the last eight, while he leads 3-2 against Medvedev, winning the last two in straight sets.
Admittedly, FAA leads Hurkacz 2-1, although the Pole won the most recent clash, one in which the Canadian failed to break serve.
In short, Medvedev looks very opposable here and Hurkacz rates a spot of value with which to take him on.
Delray Beach Open
- Delray Beach, USA (outdoor hard)
Big servers feature heavily on the Delray Beach honours’ board and several have gathered in Florida again this year in search of the title.
The field is led by one of them – Taylor Fritz is the sole top-10 star in the draw with Tommy Paul the only other man ranked inside the top 25.
But Fritz was the subject of a semi-final upset in Dallas at the weekend, losing to Yibing Wu, and all those coming out of Texas now face the switch to outdoor conditions – and to make that even more awkward, it’s often a bit windy here.
John Isner, at time of writing contesting the Dallas final, is another who must make that transition and while he also fits the typical winner profile this week, you wonder whether his 37-year-old body is ready to make back-to-back finals – that arm and shoulder may well be a bit sore after slamming down the aces throughout the week in Texas, including taking down our man JJ Wolf, who hit 1.1 in-play during their semi-final.
The pair had been due to meet again here in round one but Wolf was moved into the top half of the draw following the withdrawal of Jenson Brooksby. He could become a tricky opponent for Fritz in the first quarter; it would be just our luck for him to win a week ‘late’.
Denis Shapovalov is another with the serve to do some damage here but he let me down once too often last week and I refuse to throw good money after bad.
The player I feel provides some decent value is BEN SHELTON.
He’s at 16/1 as he returns to action for the first time since his quarter-final run at the Australian Open.
That effort propelled him into the world’s top 50 – and a seeding position here – and it will certainly be interesting to see how he deals with his new-found situation.
Of course, there’s the potential for his new status to hit him but the 22-year-old seems a fairly laid-back kind of guy and significantly he’s playing here in his home state, Shelton having been educated in Gainesville where he shone in college tennis.
This looks an ideal venue for him to deal with that new-found fame, for want of a better word. Certainly the Plexipave courts should aid his serve which proved so difficult to deal with in Melbourne where he delivered 85 aces in five matches. Eight of the 20 sets he played went to a tie-break.
OK, as that statistic hints at, his return still needs work but we’ve seen for years, in the shape of Isner, how far a massive serve can take you.
I think there’s a good chance Shelton will be hard to stop this week and with a decent draw, a bet at 16/1 looks a worthwhile investment.
- Buenos Aires, Argentina (outdoor clay)
For many in tennis, this week’s Argentina Open will be all about the return of Carlos Alcaraz.
The man recently usurped as world number one will play his first match of 2023 in Buenos Aries this week – the last time he played being in Paris three months ago when he sustained a torn oblique muscle which resulted in him missing the Australian Open.
Now, Alcaraz is a very talented player and one very much at home on clay but backing anyone at odds-on after three months away from competitive action looks very unattractive to me.
As well as the obvious lack of match sharpness, it should be remembered that Alcaraz didn’t mop up on this surface in the way many expected last season.
That looked more than possible after he won titles in Barcelona and Madrid but after that he flopped at Roland Garros and also failed to win lesser titles in Hamburg and Umag.
Alcaraz is yet to play in this event, one which produces some of the slowest conditions on the ATP Tour, so that’s another issue to deal with.
Most of the home players will be much happier in these conditions and with the host nation having produced a finalist in three of the last four years, Diego Schwartzman emerging as champion in 2021, I’m keen to oppose Alcaraz with one of the locals.
I think Francisco Cerundolo, the 2021 runner-up, has a chance if he’s fully fit but that looks doubtful given he limped out of last week’s Cordoba Open on Friday with a hamstring problem. That’s not the sort of issue you want to be dealing with in a short period of time.
Preference is therefore for SEBASTIAN BAEZ.
He won in slow, sea-level conditions in Estoril last season and also made the final in Bastad.
Baez also proved his form last week in Cordoba where, at time of writing, he’s due to contest the final.
That will put some off for two reasons.
One, he’s coming down from a decent altitude and, two, there’s the obvious potential for fatigue.
However, Baez is very much a natural in these slow conditions (see those ATP finals of 2022), while I’m not too concerned by the tiredness factor given he had only four matches in Cordoba, with two of the first three lasting no more than 90 minutes.
It will be only his second main-draw appearance in Buenos Aires – Holger Rune was beaten on his first last year – and this is the city of his birth so I’d expect a motivated player trying to squeeze the most out of his form.
Baez could meet Alcaraz in the last eight and I’d expect the winner of this quarter to reach the final – the second quarter, including Cerundolo, has Diego Schwartzman as its leading seed but he’s openly admitted that his father’s ill health has been weighing heavily on his shoulders.
“My personal situation affects me,” he said after defeat to Juan Manuel Cerundolo last week in Cordoba when he also spoke about having “little confidence”. The 2021 champion is certainly worth taking on this week.
The bottom half is led by Cam Norrie, who will be making his main-draw debut at the tournament, but while he’s no mug on clay, I think he may struggle in the ultra-slow conditions, which he’s not used to.
A possible opening match against Cordoba finalist Federico Coria is awkward, while Albert Ramos-Vinolas, a veteran of this South American ‘Golden Swing’, may well await in the last eight.
I think it’s unliklely either of those two will go all the way this week – Coria has plenty of tennis in his legs and not much time to adapt to new conditions, while long-term readers will know I much prefer Ramos-Vinolas when he’s playing at a bit of altitude.
I think this section could actually provide a big-priced finalist and I’m prepared to take a punt on the Argentine pair of PEDRO CACHIN and TOMAS MARTIN ETCHEVERRY.
I mentioned Cachin in last week’s preview, highlighting his huge success on clay at Challenger Tour level in 2022 (four titles won).
I’m expecting that to be translated to the main tour this season in some respect and if he’s doing to make a big impact then on home soil seems most likely.
Cachin was beaten in round one last week by Hugo Dellien, although the Bolivian’s altitude expertise will have played a part in that result, as will the trans-Atlantic flight back from Finland where Cachin had been playing in the Davis Cup.
The latter was the main reason I was happy to leave him alone in Cordoba but this week a small bet at 50/1 appeals.
I’m also going to take a chance on Etcheverry at 66s.
He’s another who shone on the Challenger Tour last season, albeit to a lesser extent.
He finished 2022 with four claycourt events in South America, making the final in two of them, and looks the type who will enjoy playing in front of the partisan crowds at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.
Before potentially facing Norrie, he’ll have to beat Hugo Dellien and, probably, Ramos-Vinolas but neither of those two will like the move down from Cordoba’s altitude and that could favour Etcheverry.
He started the season fairly well, winning three of five matches in Australia, including beating Gregoire Barrere at the Australian Open.
Having returned to his favoured clay, he somehow lost to Joao Sousa last week despite winning 53% of the points. Still, it was certainly a performance to build on.
This Golden Swing often throws up a surprise or two and the Argentine duo may just be able to deliver another this week.
Posted at 1535 GMT on 12/02/23
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