It was another very satisfying week for my tennis selections last week with a 10.5/1 match-bet winner and the highlight of the week was Philip Kohlschreiber (advised to win at Munich at 10/1) beating Thiem in a thrilling final 7-6, 4-6, 7-6.
Our other two selections Simon and Dzumhur failed to perform as expected, but it was good to see veteran Nicolas Almagro bounce back to winning ways at Estoril where he defeated compatriot Carreno-Busta from a set down 6-7, 7-6, 6-3. This was Almagro’s first ATP title in four years (thirteenth in total), after losing four consecutive finals in a row between 2013 and 2016, and it’s been a fantastic week all-round for Spanish tennis with Verdasco lifting the trophy at Bucharest on Monday.
At Istanbul tournament favourite and second seed Grigor Dimitrov will be extremely disappointed at losing the final from a set and 5-3 up against the diminutive and unseeded Diego Schwartzman from Argentina who went on to win his maiden ATP title 6-7 7-6 6-0.
The fourth ATP Masters 1000 Series of the season, and second on clay, got underway yesterday in Madrid at the futuristic Caja Magica and the tournament is renowned for its quick conditions due to the altitude. The tournament has been dominated by the Big Four of Djokovic (1), Murray (2), Federer (3) and Nadal (4) over the last decade and the only player outside this group to lift the trophy was Nalbandian way back in 2007.
Top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic returns to the ATP Tour for the first time since his shock early exit at the Monte Carlo Masters last month. Djokovic does not have the greatest of records at Madrid winning the event only once back in 2011.
Defending champion Andy Murray has a good record at Madrid winning the event once in 2008 (when it was played indoors on hard courts) and last year when he beat home favourite Nadal 6-3 6-2 in the final. However, apart from his two title wins he’s been inconsistent at the event; his best results have been reaching the quarter finals and on current form it’s hard to see him defending his title with multiple winners Nadal and Federer in his half of the draw.
In terms of winning the title the top seed has not performed well at Madrid over the last decade. They’ve won the title only once in this period back in 2006 and they’ve been a losing finalist four times, the last time being 2012. The second seed does have a better record winning the title four times over the last decade, including last year, but they’ve never been a losing finalist in this period.
Seeded players in general have dominated the tournament and finals over the last decade. A seeded player no higher than five has won nine of the last ten titles and a seeded player no higher than 15 has been a losing finalist nine times over the last decade. Two seeded players have also contested seven of the last ten finals (including the last six in a row) and the top two seeds contested three finals in this period but none since 2012.
On current form four times Madrid winner Rafael Nadal (10/3) has to be the call from the bottom half of the draw. He has been far more convincing since returning to Europe and his beloved clay, and the way he won an unprecedented ninth Monte Carlo Masters and ATP 500 Barcelona titles suggests he can be backed with far more confidence again. None of the players in his quarter of the draw look capable of challenging him on current form, including third seed Roger Federer (who’s only played one tournament since returning from knee surgery) and 14th seed and Munich finalist Dominic Thiem, while second seed Andy Murray has failed to show the type of form that won him this title last season and cannot be backed with any confidence at present.
With top seed Djokovic having such a poor overall record at Madrid it’s worth looking for some value in the top half of the draw. Sixth seed Kei Nishikori (20/1), who was a finalist in 2014 and semi-finalist in 2015, has a solid record at the Caja Magica and is in great form at present. He’s aiming to reach a third straight ATP final in a row after making the final at the Miami Masters (lost to Djokovic) and more recently at Barcelona (lost to Nadal) and, if he can continue in that vein of form, he will be very difficult to beat this week.
From a first round match betting perspective there are a few matches that catch the eye that should return a nice profit. Veterans Simon and Baghdatis face off for the sixth time on the ATP Tour and Bahgdatis leads the head-to-head 3-2. His three wins have come on quicker surfaces and with conditions to suit this week he looks over-priced to record his fourth win against Simon at 14/5.
Borna Coric and Pablo Cuevas face two of last week’s ATP finalists Almagro and Kohlschreiber in the first round and should be able to take advantage of the veteran’s tired legs, while Gael Monfils should be able to take of Kevin Anderson, who returns to the ATP Tour after two months off injured. All three can be backed in a Treble or Patent at odds of just over 5/1.