After two semi-final losers last week, Andy Schooler is hoping to go at least one better on the ATP Tour this week with events in Gstaad, Umag and Los Cabos.
1pt e.w. Laslo Djere in the Swiss Open at 14/1 (Coral, Ladbrokes)
0.5pt e.w. Feliciano Lopez in the Swiss Open at 66/1 (bet365, BetVictor)
1pt e.w. Dusan Lajovic in the Plava Laguna Croatia Open at 14/1 (General)
2pts win Cameron Norrie in the Mifel Open at 9/2 (BetVictor, William Hill)
1pt e.w. Sam Querrey in the Mifel Open at 16/1 (General)
With the Olympic tennis event starting on Saturday – full preview to come on Friday – this week’s ATP Tour fields are somewhat weak with only 11 top-50 players in action across three events.
That said, in the tournament director in Gstaad probably didn’t think he’d manage to attract four top-20 players in an Olympic year – the Swiss Open is easily the best-looking of this week’s tournaments.
Those four are all 15/2 or shorter with Denis Shapovalov the top seed.
The Canadian is returning to action just over a week after leaving Wimbledon in tears following a semi-final loss to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
Having opted out of Tokyo 2020, it seems a bit of an odd decision for the Canadian to head onto the clay here given his next big target is the US Open on the hardcourts.
He’s not here on a wild card so it’s clearly been a long-term plan, although whether he truly expected such a deep run at Wimbledon is open to question.
Maybe his efforts in SW19 will prove a springboard to big success but right now whenever I see Shapovalov up towards the head of betting market, alarm bells ring in my head.
The primary reason for that is that for all his talent (and he’s now a top-10 player) he’s only ever won one ATP title. That was on an indoor hardcourt in Stockholm in 2019.
I can’t be backing him to win at 4/1 on clay.
Another reason for swerving Shapovalov is the presence of Casper Ruud in his half of the draw.
Ruud is actually the title favourite at 3/1 and he’s one of the best claycourt players on tour these days.
That said, I’m not salivating at his price this week.
He comes in off a run to the final in Bastad in Sweden, an event which takes place down at sea level.
The Norwegian now has a quick turnaround to compete in vastly different conditions – the chocolate-box Alpine scenery of Gstaad is at an altitude above 1,000m.
Yes, Ruud has had some success at altitude, winning in Geneva and finishing runner-up in Santiago in the past, but both of those venues are lower than this one where the balls will fly through the thin air and controlling them can be an issue for many.
Ruud may win but he’s short enough for me.
The other two leading names, Roberto Bautista Agut and Cristian Garin appear in the bottom half of the draw but the man I’m going to back is seventh seed LASLO DJERE.
The Serb ticks many boxes.
He looked in good nick when reaching the semi-finals of the 500-level event in Hamburg last week.
Djere has also performed here in the past, reaching the last four on his only previous main-draw appearance in 2018.
He’s also proved his altitude credentials elsewhere, including last year at nearby Kitzbuhel when he defeated Diego Schwartzman, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Jannik Sinner en route to the semis. There’s also a win over Juan Martin del Potro in Madrid on his CV.
Djere is in Bautista Agut’s quarter of the draw and the Spaniard does hold a 1-0 lead in their head-to-head battle. Interestingly that clash came here in 2018 with RBA emerging victorious 6-4 in the third.
Unlike Djere though, Bautista Agut is returning to action for the first time since Wimbledon and he’s also back on the clay – a surface on which he struggled prior to the grasscourt season.
RBA hasn’t progressed beyond the last 16 of any clay event so far in 2021 so he’s another I’m happy to leave alone.
Djere looks backable each-way at 14/1.
I’m also going to add in a small-stakes play on FELICIANO LOPEZ in the top half of the draw.
That’s largely a bet on course form – Lopez has a strong record at this event, one where conditions aid his booming lefty serve which last week delivered the 10,000th ace of the Spaniard’s career.
The veteran won here in 2016 and also made the final 10 years before that. In between he’s also reached the quarter-finals or better on five occasions.
This year, Lopez opens against home hope Marc-Andrea Huesler, who will be playing just his second main-draw match of the season. The first didn’t go well – he won just four games on clay against Briton Liam Broady.
The winner will face Mikael Ymer or Alex Molcan, another winnable match. Then could come Shapovalov.
At small play at 66/1 is the call.
There’s no player from the top 40 playing in Umag this week, although arguably this event has more depth than its counterpart in Gstaad.
While it is lacking in big names, it does have plenty of decent claycourt players.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas is the top seed but he’s behind both Filip Krajinovic and Carlos Alcaraz in the betting.
That’s partly due to his dip in form. This column profited from his victory in Estoril in early May but he’s struggled to win a match since and last week was beaten first time up in Hamburg.
A second reason is Alcaraz looks too short.
The teenager is clearly going places but it’s still early days in his development – he’s made just one semi-final at this level.
Here, he’s also got Krajinovic in his quarter, the Serb having just finished runner-up in Hamburg so he’s clearly in good nick.
I much prefer the weaker-looking bottom half of the draw where I’m a bit surprised to see second seed DUSAN LAJOVIC at 14/1.
He in won in Umag the last time the event was staged, in 2019, and was also a quarter-finalist the year before.
His price can be attributed to some disappointing form in 2021 but there have been some good signs of late, in particularly last week when he reached the quarter-finals in Hamburg.
Lajovic was then beaten by Pablo Carreno Busta but he should have taken plenty away from a 7-6 6-3 defeat given the Spaniard went on to claim the title without losing a set.
That effort followed a similar run to the last eight in Belgrade prior to the French Open.
The other seeds in the bottom half are Richard Gasquet, Aljaz Bedene and Gianluca Mager which helps highlight that this isn’t a section holding much fear so I’m happy to back Lajovic each way at 14s.
The North American hardcourt season gets under way this week in Mexico (let’s not have an argument about whether it’s in North or Central America) as players hit the long road to the US Open.
There are no fewer than seven Americans in the main draw as of right but it’s a Briton, CAMERON NORRIE, who finds himself as top seed at an ATP event for the first time.
With 31 tour-level wins to his name, Norrie has probably not been given the credit he’s deserved in 2021 but perhaps a title here would change that.
So far this year he’s made three finals but lost them all which is perhaps the only real stick to beat with right now.
The 25-year-old has defeated no fewer than five top-20 opponents with those wins coming across all three surfaces.
There are no top-20 players in Los Cabos this week but his strong form should stand him in good stead on what is a surface which really suits his game.
This isn’t a particularly fast hardcourt and the Solflex is a surface on which Norrie has performed well before.
He was a semi-finalist here in 2018, a stage he also reached in Acapulco the following year. The relevance of that is that event also uses Solflex courts.
Norrie’s form – both recent and course - makes him a worthy favourite this week and I’m happy to back him at 9/2.
I did toy with the idea of backing Taylor Fritz instead – the American is another with solid Solflex form having been to the final here in 2019 and also the Acapulco title match in 2020.
However, he simply hasn’t had the same level of performance as Norrie throughout this year; both of his top 20 wins came in Doha back in March.
Their head-to-head stands at 3-3 with five of six matches having gone the distance, so if they do meet in the semis, it will likely be close.
While I wouldn’t put anyone off backing Fritz, it’s Norrie for me at the shorter price on this occasion.
The bottom half is headed up by John Isner, who is tucked in behind Norrie in the betting market – the pair are locked at 1-1 in the head-to-head.
However, Isner is yet to make a truly big impact at these Mexican Solflex events (two semi-finals his best efforts) and instead I’m going to get with his compatriot SAM QUERREY at three times the price.
Querrey did the Mexican double in 2017, winning both here and in Acapulco (where he beat Rafael Nadal in the final).
The grasscourt season revived the 33-year-old’s fortunes, with his run to the final in Mallorca earning followers of this column a tasty profit. He was also a semi-finalist in Stuttgart.
He disappointed at Wimbledon – and last week in the final grass event of the season in Newport – but those two results don’t seem to warrant a 16/1 quote for an event he’s won in the past.
The big Querrey serve worked well on the grass and he should be happy moving onto the Solflex given who he’s delivered on it in the past.
This time of year has often been a productive one for Big Sam, who has the bonus of getting a first-round bye. Subsequently he’ll only need to win three matches to earn a profit for his each-way backers.
He’ll open against Brandon Nakashima or JJ Wolf with the former looking very short in the outright betting.
Again, he’s a talented teenager with a bright future but the fact is he’s won only three matches at tour-level in his career so far and none of those have been in 2021. He’ll have to win five in a week to lift the trophy here.
Quotes of around 15/2 look skinny indeed, particularly with Querrey in his section. For the record, the pair have split two exhibition matches in the past.
Querrey does hold a 5-4 winning record against his potential semi-final foe Isner though.
I just think this price is too big about the fourth seed, who is a former champion at the event and one who has played well in the last six weeks.
I will back him accordingly.
Published at 1700 BST on 18/07/21
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