TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) has been in fabulous form since signing up with WLB. Here, he takes a look at this week's Barcelona Open.
ATP Barcelona | 24th-30th April 2017
Last week Rafael Nadal started his clay court campaign by completing “La Decima” as he lifted his 10th Monte Carlo title in dominant fashion.
Barcelona is the next stop on the road to Roland Garros. The Centre Court in the Catalonian capital has been renamed this year in honour of the King of Clay, who has ominously lifted this week’s trophy nine times.
Understandably, the bookies fancy Rafa’s chances of making it back-to-back Decimas as he can be found at a slim best price of 4/5 outright with Betfred.
Opposing Nadal this season has not made for profitable betting as the Spaniard is in electric form, making finals in four of the six tournaments he’s entered this season.
The Mallorcan is breathing down the neck of Roger Federer in the ATP rankings race – trailing by 810 points – and will surely overtake the great Swiss in the coming weeks given Federer’s aversion to the clay.
This will not be pleasant news to Andy Murray, who is making an unscheduled appearance this week in an ATP 500 clay event – his first in several seasons. Whilst the current World Number 1 is chasing ranking points to try and maintain his standing I don’t fancy him picking up momentum in Barcelona.
As ever I use my statistical model to interpret where the value lies in the draw quarter by quarter. Using this method I am well up for the season to date. You can track my progress here.
A couple of rounds have been played already but there are still value bets to be found.
Following an early defeat at the hands of Albert Ramos-Vinolas last week, Andy Murray has taken a wild card into Barcelona – his first entry to this event since a Quarter Final defeat five years ago.
Murray’s season has yet to take off due to injury and illness and he finds himself trying to build form before he mounts a challenge at the French Open – an event that he has a serious chance of winning if he returns to full strength.
The 1st quarter is competitive, but the early rounds will not cause Murray many worries. In the quarter-final the Scot is scheduled to play a potential rematch with Ramos-Vinolas, the impressive youngster Christian Ruud or the steady Roberto Bautista Agut.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see any of those three lining up against Murray in the quarter final. Whilst I think Murray probably takes this quarter he looks very short to do so at a best price of 1/2 with Betfair.
As I write this on the train home on Tuesday evening, the majority of matches have been played in this section of the draw. It looks to be a shoot-out between Dominic Thiem and Pablo Carreno-Busta.
The pair are drawn to play two opponents that have no clay court pedigree, but have done very well to make it this far in Dan Evans and Yuichi Sugita.
Carreno-Busta is a pest to play but Thiem has the better top level, and he looked to be in the mood when he impressively handled the dangerous Kyle Edmund on Tuesday.
Thiem has already won an ATP 500 event on clay this season and given the vulnerable state of Murray in the top quarter the Austrian will fancy his chances of reaching the final this week.
This is Nadal’s quarter, and he is probably going to win it. The second highest seed is Alexander Zverev but he mustered the weakest of efforts against the Spaniard last week, and struggled over the line against Nicolas Almagro yesterday.
Zverev has given Rafa troubles in the past, but the thrashing he received in Monaco may weigh heavy on the mind of the young German should they meet this week.
Beyond the top seeded duo, Philipp Kohlschreiber arrives with some great course form having made the quarter-finals or better in each of his past four visits.
The elder German has his own mental demons to overcome having thrown away the title in Marrakech two weeks ago and it would be impossible to put faith in him bettering Nadal.
Monte Carlo semi-finalist David Goffin heads this section. The Belgian fought well to overcome Novak Djokovic last week and was leading early against Nadal in their match before a poor umpiring decision turned the match in the direction of the Spaniard, who clearly isn’t in need of any helpful intervention right now.
Goffin has accumulated the fourth highest ranking points total of any player so far this season. However, I am putting my faith in a different player to triumph in this section.
Pablo Cuevas is a top end clay courter, has a track record in this style of event, and has produced impressive results over the past eight weeks including a title in Sao Paulo. The Uruguayan looks the most reliable option in what is a stacked quarter.
Benoit Paire was a semi-finalist last season but is volatile. Karen Khachanov exceeded his seeding in 2016 but has struggled of late and lacks the same element of surprise that he had 12 months previous. This season Nikoloz Basilashvili has added some consistency to what is a big game, but I’m looking elsewhere.
ATP Barcelona – Dominic Thiem outright each way (9/1 Paddy Power)
ATP Barcelona – Pablo Cuevas to win Quarter 4 (7/2 Paddy Power)