THE ATP World Tour heads to Dubai, Sao Paulo and Acapulco in week nine and I've picked out my outright wagers for the week.
ubai is a bit of an anomaly in that conditions are ostensibly quick, but the swirling wind and the fact that it gets much colder and slower at night make it a tournament that features few tie breaks.
Played on a Decoturf II outdoor hard court with Wilson US Open Regular Duty balls the balls tend to fly in the thin desert air and more so during the day.
Every winner of this title since 2002 has been a Grand Slam champion at one time or other, but the field is of a weaker quality than usual this year, with no major winners in the draw.
At the Brasil Open they've decided to move it back indoors again to the Ibirapuera Gymnasium, where it was held from 2012-2015, before they moved it outdoors to the Esporte Clube Pinheiros. Why they put it outdoors when it usually rains and/or has thunderstorms at this time of year I'll never know, but we're back indoors again, where Pablo Cuevas and Federico Delbonis are previous winners.
In Acapulco they play on a slow, high bouncing Soflex outdoor hard court and they tend to start late in the day here to avoid the worst of the heat, usually from around 16:00 local time (22:00 UK).
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
The draw looks wide open in Dubai this year, without any of the elite involved, and top seed Grigor Dimitrov having not played here since 2011 and yet to win a main draw match at this event.
And it’s that top half where there may be a bit of value in Robin Haase, who should face Dimitrov in round two, and it was the Dutchman that came out on top in their last clash, which was on outdoor hard at the Canada Masters last year.
Haase played very well in these tricky conditions last year when he made the semi finals, beating Tomas Berdych and Damir Dzumhur before losing in a decider to Fernando Verdasco.
So, he’s proven to be effective in the conditions and looks the one to take Dimitrov on with, although I also considered Borna Coric, who also has shown himself to be useful in Dubai, beating Andy Murray here a few years back.
A tough round one against Richard Gasquet and a price of only 20-1 puts me off Coric a bit, but Philipp Kohlschreiber isn’t without a chance if he’s fit and well at the same price as Coric.
Gasquet is another contender if he’s fit, which is always questionable, but Roberto Bautista Agut hasn’t shown his best form in Dubai as of yet and I prefer taking a chance on Haase at a decent price.
The bottom half looks to be there for the taking for Lucas Pouille, who is very familiar with these Dubai conditions as a resident of the country and a regular trainer in the Emirate.
He made the semis here last year (lost to Andy Murray) after losing in the final in Marseille, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t go close again, but he has a draw that could be awkward against Ernests Gulbis then either Karen Khachanov or Denis Istomin.
I’m not sure I’d fancy Khachanov in these conditions, but Istomin could be dangerous on the off chance that he’s actually fit, and I’ll probably pass on the 6.5 price on Pouille although he looks the most likely in that half.
Instead the two that appeal at 50-1 are Marcos Baghdatis and Evgeny Donskoy, both of whom have form here – Baggy with a run to the final in 2016 and Donskoy beating Roger Federer fair and square here a year ago and only losing out to Pouille in the last eight in a final set tie break.
The Russian played well last week in Delray Beach in similarly windy conditions until he was beaten by a good performance from Steve Johnson and he may get lucky with the draw, taking on Blaz Kavcic and a Damir Dzumhur that was sick in Marseille a few days ago.
No doubt last week’s Marseille bet Krajinovic will probably win it, but he’s got a lot to prove on outdoor hard and I prefer the much bigger prices on the guys with form at this tournament.
I’m far from convinced about how much Baggy has left in the tank and his fitness is usually hit and miss, but this half of the draw looks open and he had no form coming into this in 2016 either.
No doubt Guido Pella will win this one after we backed him last week, but the Argentine was good value in Rio, but 12-1 doesn’t inspire me and in truth I can’t see a standout wager in Sao Paolo.
Three-time champ Pablo Cuevas looks short of matches at the moment and the Uruguayan was poor last week, so he’s overlooked, and the two that I considered are Argentine pair Leo Mayer and Federico Delbonis.
The latter is a former winner here, but he does have an ongoing problem with his hip and a tough opener against Quito winner Roberto Carballes Baena, so I’ll pass on the 16-1 about him.
Mayer looks to have a nice draw against the out of form Cuevas and Fabio Fognini, who he beat in Buenos Aires a few weeks ago, but he hasn’t shown enough at altitude for me to risk him at 12-1.
Albert Ramos has and he’d be my pick in the top half, but 5.5 is a bit short, and it’s a no-bet for me in Sao Paulo.
Abierto Mexicano Telcel
Rafael Nadal makes his return to the tour in Acapulco after retiring injured in Melbourne and he looks to have a tricky draw, with Feli Lopez first up and the man who beat him here last year, Sam Querrey a likely last eight opponent.
Querrey came through a very tough half of the draw last year to win the tournament as a 90-1 outright chance and he was the underdog in every match he played and a big underdog in all bar one, too.
It looks likely that Nadal and Querrey will clash again, but the Spaniard’s fitness has to be called into question, and there’s plenty more quality in that top half of the draw, with Kevin Anderson, Jack Sock, Hyeon Chung and Adrian Mannarino all in there.
The bottom half of the draw looks the place to take a punt though and 40-1 shot Ryan Harrison deserves a go here at a tournament that he has a 10-4 record in and beaten the likes of Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Ivo Karlovic at.
That latter victory could hold him in good stead for his round one clash against John Isner, who’s been struggling for form this year so far and who has a 0-3 record in (0-2 on hard) this tournament.
Harrison has proved a tough opponent for Isner in the past and if he can get past that challenge one of the Rio finalists awaits in round two, with more likely fatigued opposition down the line, as Delray Beach semi finalists Steve Johnson and Peter Gojowczyk are possible quarter final opponents.
Alexander Zverev is the most likely one to come through that section, but the German has lost four of his last seven matches on the tour and has never played Acapulco before.
Quarter three looks rough, with Del Potro, Andrey Rublev, Dominic Thiem, and Kei Nishikori all possible champions and again it’ll just be a small wager for me in Acapulco.
It looks open in Dubai, with no standout contender for me, so small stakes on three players with form at this difficult venue looks the way to go.
Nothing looks wager-worthy in Sao Paulo, but could it be two years in a row where a very strong field in Acapulco is put to the sword by an unfancied American?