TENNIS analyst Gavin Mair (@gavinnightmair) made a winning start to his WLB career. Now Gavin's looking at this week's Quito Open.
ATP Quito Open | 6th-12th February 2017
Quito is the destination for the ATP’s first clay court tournament of the year. The Ecuadorian city stands at 2371m above sea level and has the highest altitude conditions of any 2017 main tour event. To put things into perspective, the Swiss city of Gstaad possesses the second-highest altitude but sits 1320m lower.
This is not your usual clay court event due to thin air conditions in which the ball flies more freely. As a consequence the draw features several players with a serve-reliant game that usually wouldn’t be found dead on the red stuff, in addition to the typical clay loving rally-orientated players.
There have been two editions of the Quito ATP event and both have been won by the 5’8ft Victor Estrella-Burgos. The man born in the Dominican Republic is far from being the biggest server on the tour but his movement is excellent and given his underwhelming results at other clay events of this stature, it is clear that mastering the unique conditions will play a large role in determining the winner come Sunday.
As with all my tennis market outright previews I take a statistical approach to analyse the runners and riders. Then by assessing the draw quarter by quarter it is possible to determine potential title winners.
Last week, in my WeLoveBetting debut, Elina Svitolina guaranteed a winning start with some strong displays in the final rounds to claim the Taipei title.
The top seeded Ivo Karlovic finds himself playing on clay, which is not usually his favoured domain as a 12 win/15 loss three-year record shows. However, he is capable of having a good week on the dirt now and again – and his record in altitude conditions suggests he can do well here.
Having received a first round bye, standing first in the big Croat’s way is the aforementioned Estrella-Burgos, should he get past the capable but far-less experienced Andrej Martin.
The match-up between Karlovic and Estrella-Burgos will go a long way to determining who comes out of this quarter. Despite the strong record of Estrella-Burgos in Quito he has a poor record against elite serving players and he will have to be at his sharpest to overcome Karlovic in what will be a close encounter that might foreseeably go either way, but I favour Dr Ivo.
Elsewhere, it might be worth keeping an eye on Gerald Melzer, who found some good form at this event previously, and has Challenger titles won at altitude on his resume.
Quarter 1 Verdict – Data favours Estrella-Burgos, but it is unlikely a player wins any event for three consecutive years. There are some uncomfortable match-ups for Estrella-Burgos, and even if he does progress through the quarter he is not in my portfolio this week.
Last year’s runner-up Thomaz Bellucci saves his best tennis for the higher climes, possessing a better long-term altitude record than on neutral clay surfaces. Bellucci is the standout player in his quarter and it is hard to make a compelling case for the other players in his draw.
Janko Tipsarevic is on the comeback trail and has a wild card into Quito. He is unbeaten this season but the opposition faced has been of a limited quality and even before the injury he neither impressed particularly on clay nor in altitude conditions.
The biggest danger to Bellucci comes in the form of Renzo Olivo, who made the quarter-finals last year and shows decent statistics. Olivo would not be favoured to defeat the Brazilian.
Quarter 2 Verdict – Bellucci the man to beat.
This weekend a series of Davis Cup matches have taken place across the world, and hopefully it has not taken too much of a toll on the legs of Paolo Lorenzi, who lost a gruelling five set encounter with the warrior-like Carlos Berlocq.
That match coupled with the combined effect of travel from Argentina to Ecuador and the after partying, which is almost certainly happening given the drama of the encounter, plus the fact that Fabio Fognini is on the team, puts a big question mark over Lorenzi’s Quito campaign.
Should Lorenzi recover from all of that then I think he stands a very good chance of success in Quito. Yes, there is a need for adjustment to the special conditions, but Lorenzi has won 81.81% of his matches played at altitude over the past three years.
His record in Quito itself is solid, as are his more general clay statistics across the board. It would not surprise me if Lorenzi has to withdraw from this event, but if he has had a look at his draw he would find as friendly a path to the semis as you are ever likely to encounter.
Alexandr Dolgopolov is a name in this section that demands attention. The Ukrainian is another trying to build some form after a prolonged spell with injury.
He has rarely featured in altitude, and has a so-so record in South American clay events. With his well-known Gilbert’s Syndrome it is a surprise that he has gone to Ecuador, which on the face of it might exacerbate his condition.
Quarter 3 Verdict – Lorenzi will be too strong if he’s ready to play.
Albert Ramos holds the seeding that guarantees a bye in this section. The Spaniard has been poor at the start of the season, but will surely be pleased to see clay beneath his feet rather than the speedy hard courts that are less to his liking.
Ramos has a decent clay court game and reached the semi-finals here last year, exceeding his seeding in the process. He is quite a streaky player and if he finally finds his A-game this week he will be dangerous – bookies installed him as their favourite.
Another name getting a fair bit of attention in the draw is Thiago Monteiro, who had a good week in Gstaad last season but I still have question marks over his long term potential given the limited exposure he has had at main tour level.
He has a strong record in South American clay events, albeit against lesser opposition. It’s possible Monteiro finds a good week somewhere during this so-called ‘Golden Swing’, and it could be here, but speculation is not an ideal starting point.
A couple of players that could be competitive in this quarter are Roberto Carballes Baena, and Alejandro Falla. The first has qualified into the main draw, has shown a good level so far in 2017, and has good form in altitude conditions.
Falla is somebody on his last legs, but who still has some competitive tennis within him, as evidenced by two semi-final fishes from both tournaments he entered.
The Colombian is comfortable with conditions, and may surprise, but I won’t personally be siding with him.
Quarter 4 – Ramos starts as favourite, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he falls before the semis.
ATP Quito Open – Thomaz Bellucci to win outright (9/1 Bet365)
ATP Quito Open – Paolo Lorenzi to win outright (6/1 Bwin)