After a break for the Davis Cup the ATP Tour now switches to clay for the European swing leading up to the second Grand Slam of the season, the French Open. There are two ATP 250 tournaments to focus on this week in Marrakesh, Morocco and one in North America, at Houston Texas. Marrakesh is a new tournament that replaced Casablanca and suits aggressive clay courters from Europe as they’ve won nine of the last ten titles. Houston is a long-standing event that goes back to the 1970’s and it seems to suit big servers who adopt an aggressive game, especially American players who have won four of the last ten titles.
At Houston defending champion and sixth seed Johnson returns to defend his title and he’s seeded six this year. The top two seeds have a poor record at Houston and the top-seed has won none of the last ten titles and they were a losing finalist twice during this period, which does not bode well for Isner’s chances this week. The second seed has not performed any better winning none of the last ten titles and they were a losing finalist once in this period (2012), which does not bode well for Querrey’s chances this week.
Seeded players in general have a fair record at Houston and a player seeded no higher than seven has won five of the last ten titles (last Johnson 2017) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist nine times during this period (last Bellucci 2017). Unseeded players have a good record winning five of the last ten titles (last Monaco 2016) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (last 2009).
This year’s tournament has attracted a strong field headed by American veterans Isner, who won Houston back in 2013, and two-time finalist Querrey, who along with sixth seed Johnson and seventh seed Harrison helped the USA reach the semi-finals of the Davis Cup at the weekend. Fourth seed Kyrgios lines up at Houston for the first time, he must be respected if he’s fit and healthy and 2014 winner and fifth seed veteran Verdasco also lines up alongside Kyrgios in the bottom half of the draw.
From a betting perspective the past statistics suggest opposing the top two seeds Isner and Querrey and that it pays to side with seeded players no higher than seven, ideally from America, and with unseeded players winning five of the last ten titles its worth highlighting one or two who could spring a surprise at big odds this week. From the available seeded players there’s a couple of experienced American pros who could go well this week.
There’s no reason why defending champion Johnson (20/1) can’t reach back-to-back Houston finals, as he’s shown signs of a return to his best form of late and if he can continue to improve he should go close to winning again this year. Another experienced seeded American who is comfortable on clay, in decent form and capable of springing a surprise at big odds is eighth seed Sandgren (40/1), who you may remember reached the Australian Open quarter-finals this year and he beat top-10 player Thiem. If he can repeat that level of form this week he has a decent chance of causing an upset and hopefully reaching the final at least.
At Marrakech defending champion Coric does not line up to defend his title but 2017 finalist and third seed Kohlschreiber does, along with a handful of other seeded experienced veterans who have form on clay like top seed Ramos-Vinolas, fourth seed Gasquet, fifth seed Haase and seventh seed Dolgopolov. The top two seeds have a poor record at Marrakech over the last decade and the top seed has won one of the last ten titles (last 2010) and they were never a losing finalist during this period, which does not bode well for Ramos-Vinolas’ chances this week.
The second seed has won one of the last ten titles (Klizan 2015) and they were a losing finalist once during this period (2013), which does not bode well for Edmunds chances this week. Seeded players in general have performed well at Marrakech over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than eight won five of the last ten titles (last Delbonis 2016) and a player seeded no higher than seven was a losing finalist nine times during this period (last Kohlschreiber 2017). Unseeded players also have a good record at Marrakech over the last decade winning five titles (last Coric 2017) and an unseeded player was a losing finalist once during this period (2015).
From a betting perspective the past statistics suggest opposing the top-two seeds Ramos Vinolas and Edmunds and siding with an experienced and talented clay courter, ideally from Europe. From the seeded players Kohlschreiber would be of interest this week given his recent form, but he played and lost an epic marathon five set Davis Cup quarter-final decider against Ferrer and Spain yesterday and that experience might have thwarted his chances from a mental perspective this week. There are no other seeded players who appeal from the top-half of the draw, so I’ll advise a player who I think will go well this week at big odds.
Sousa (16/1) from Portugal resides in the bottom half of the draw, he’s an experienced pro who has won ATP titles and has been in decent form so far this year. He’s more than capable of challenging for the title this week if he can produce his best form. From the bottom half of the draw sixth seed Paire (16/1) is at home on clay, he’s won an ATP title on the surface and has been in decent form so far this year. If he can continue his good form and raise his game another level this week he has decent chance of winning the title as second seed Edmunds and fourth seed Gasquet, who also reside in the bottom half of the draw, have been out of form of late due to injuries and there are no other players in Paire’s half who can boast any standout form of note this year.
From a first round match betting perspective there’s a few matches I like that will hopefully return a profit. At Marrakech fifth seed Haase is worth opposing as he’s got a tricky opener against the talented Basic from Bosnia, who you may remember won his first ATP title at Sofia this year, and he also leads the head-to-head 1-0. At Houston Tiafoe is worth opposing against compatriot McDonald who leads the head-to-head 3-1.