TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) has been in fabulous form since signing up with WLB. Here, he takes a look at this week's BMW Open from Munich.
ATP Munich | 1st-7th May 2017
Last week in Barcelona Dominic Thiem landed our 8/1 each-way selection by making the final.
In that final, Thiem was crushed by a ruthless Rafael Nadal who secured his standing as the King of Clay by winning back-back “Decima’s”. Nadal followed his 10th Monte Carlo title with a 10th in Barcelona.
Thankfully for the other players on the ATP tour this is a Rafa-free week.
ATP 250 events on clay take place in Munich, Estoril and Istanbul. Of these three events it is Munich that is the most established, and what I will focus on in this article. To read my thoughts on Estoril and Istanbul please visit my blog here.
Eyes on Alexander
At the start of the clay court season one player who was thought to have an outside chance of challenging Rafa is Alexander Zverev. Since the start of his career the young German has been touted as a standout young player, and his results since that time have only deepened faith in his long-term potential.
However, a one-sided defeat to Nadal in Monte Carlo and a weak effort against Hyeon Chung in Barcelona have taken some of the shine away from the starlet. This is only a temporary blip, and I have faith in the hugely talented Zverev delivering during the clay court campaign.
There is no place like home, and for Zverev a week in Munich offers the chance to quickly get back on track.
As ever I use a statistical approach to analyse the runners and riders in the draw quarter-by-quarter. Using this method I am well up for the season.
Gael Monfils returns to tour having not featured since a Round 16 defeat in Indian Wells at the start of March.
The Frenchman does not play too many clay court events where only 250 ranking points are up for grabs and it seems likely that he is only in town to get some match practice.
The second highest seed is Mischa Zverev, Alexander’s older brother but not even half the player of his sibling on the clay. This was confirmed by a defeat to Dan Evans in Barcelona, who is about the easiest draw on clay that you can have.
Within the quarter there are a couple of interesting propositions. Hyeon Chung had a best finish in a clay court event with his quarterfinal showing last week. However, that peak result is far beyond his usual results on this surface and until he regularly backs it up he is not an attractive outright proposition.
One player that has been a pleasure to back in the past given his ability to win tournaments out of nowhere is Martin Klizan. The Slovakian is a mercurial talent and lifted this title in 2015. Klizan was wearing a thick layer of bandages on his calf in Bratislava last week and I don’t see this being his week… but then again that his mystique.
Phillipp Kohlschreiber is the 5th seed in Munich and arrives with some exceptional results at this venue. His last five visits have delivered four finals, two of which he has won. However, Kohlschreiber is a player that must be swerved this week.
The German failed to muster much of a challenge against Chung last week, withdrew from Monte Carlo through injury and, most importantly in my eyes, blew a multitude of chances in the final of Marrakech. Even if Kohlschreiber gets to the final I would have no faith in him getting over the line.
The other seed in this quarter is Fabio Fognini who also has form in Munich, and for the most part has played well of late.
Fognini is more than capable of winning this event, as a review of his performance as a seed confirms. More often than not the Italian fails to reach these heights but with a very open top half this looks to be an opportunity for him to capitalise.
Elsewhere, Horacio Zeballos comes into this tournament on the back of a Barcelona semifinal, his best ATP performance for several seasons. Fatigue must surely be an issue for the Argentine who has entered seven tournaments in the past eight weeks with quarter finals or better in three of these four events. That will surely take its toll.
Casper Ruud is receiving the attention that Alex Zverev had a few seasons ago, and with one big run this season already under his belt it is unlikely for a player of his profile to follow it up so quickly with another. However, he remains a dangerous player and should not be written off completely.
This is Alex Zverev’s section of the draw. When Zverev has been seeded in an ATP 250 draw on this surface, he has outperformed that starting position on each occasion. In addition to this he carries a great clay win rate and performance statistics that are not equalled by many in the bottom half of the draw.
Beyond Zverev is Jan Lennard Struff, who I must admit I was carefully considering this week. Struff is in good form and in the past year has won on average three out of four clay matches in Europe. I would expect Zverev to get the better of Struff, but that is a match that has the potential to trip up my outright.
Roberto Bautista Agut loves to play tennis, and he enters tournaments every other week. His main strength is his consistency, but in the clay events he has entered so far in 2017 he has lacked form. That coupled with his poor record as a seed give me enough reason to give him a miss in Munich.
Thomaz Bellucci on the other hand has solid form and a strong record as a seed in 250 level events. As the 8th seed this week it would not be a surprise to see him reach the semis – especially as he holds a winning head-to-head record over Bautista Agut.
But he is not a frequent finalist and with a runner-up finish in Houston only three weeks ago it’s not normal for him to contest the final match of the week so soon after that performance.
The rest of the quarter looks soft.