Our Andy Schooler hit the post again last week when each-way pick Joao Sousa lost in the semi-finals. Now attention had turned to the next three ATP tournament – here are his tennis tips for Washington, Los Cabos and Kitzbuhel.
Washington, USA (outdoor hard)
Maybe it’s because of all the near-misses this column has had in recent times that it looks extremely difficult to confidently predict the winner of this week’s Citi Open.
However, logically that is the case too. With seven of the world’s top 20 in attendance, plus numerous others with plenty of talent, the big tournament of the week on the ATP Tour looks sure to be highly competitive.
What I am happy to do is take on the top two in the market, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Kevin Anderson.
Tsitsipas failed to shine during the grasscourt season so he’s short of wins of late. A look back to spring hardcourt campaign in North America fails to deliver a reason to back him this week either – he was poor in both Indian Wells and Miami.
Take on duo
We all the know the Greek is a major talent but I don’t think this is the week to be backing him at what is a fairly short price (11/2).
Neither can you support Anderson (8/1) with any confidence right now.
This will be just his third tournament since Miami following injury issues and the previous two suggested he remains rusty following his lengthy break.
The South African, who announced last week that he is due to become a father in October, was a runner-up here two years ago and his big serve should serve him well at a venue which has tended to help such serve-oriented players.
However, I’m far from convinced about the match sharpness he will almost certainly need in a field of this quality.
Washington singles draw pic.twitter.com/Ymp2EaPv61
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) July 26, 2019
Instead I’m going to turn again to Milos Raonic, the champion here in 2014.
Regular readers will know I backed the Canadian at Wimbledon only to see him blow a two-set lead to Guido Pella in the last 16.
Until that point, the huge server had looked in good nick, not dropping a set in his first three matches.
Raonic admitted after his loss that he had “run out of gas” but even in hot conditions that shouldn’t really be an issue this week with the format back to best-of-three.
Make it Milos
The 28-year-old was not too downhearted by his defeat to Pella and talked positively about knowing what he needed to do to improve.
The key thing was he looked to be moving better after another injury-hit campaign and he should be relishing another summer hardcourt campaign.
This will be only Raonic’s fourth visit to Washington – he made the quarter-finals on his last visit in 2017 – and he’s racked up an impressive 8-1 tie-break record in that period, winning the last eight. That could be a key factor for him this week.
He looks to have a fairly decent draw with the biggest worry, for me at least, being a potential clash with last season’s runner-up Alex de Minaur in the last 16.
The young Australian is due to contest the final in Atlanta at time of writing so he’s clearly rediscovered some form over the past week.
However, he has struggled to back up the following week after his three previous final appearances and so I’m prepared to back Raonic here at 11/1.
Tip: Milos Raonic each way11/1
Los Cabos, Mexico (outdoor hard)
A much weaker field has gathered in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos where they also continue preparations for the US Open by playing on hardcourts.
It’s the same Solflex surface here as is used in the other Mexican tournament in Acapulco and is regarded as playing slightly on the slow side.
That helps explain why Damir Dzumhur has gone well here in the past – he’s reached the semi-finals of the last two renewals – and at 16/1 he is worth chancing again, albeit to small stakes.
Dzumhur has put some injury issues behind him and recently earned a decent win over Casper Ruud in Bastad on clay.
#ATC2019 draw is out!
— Abierto de Tenis Mifel (@AbiertoLosCabos) July 27, 2019
He’ll be happy to be back on a slowish hardcourt though – this is where his best results have come. Often those results have been indoors – he’s won events in St Petersburg and Moscow on stodgy surfaces – but he’s shown here in the past that his game does transfer outdoors, while he’s also been to the final of Winston-Salem in the US Open Series in the past.
He’s in the bottom half of the draw, one which lacks hardcourt nous.
Second seed Guido Pella has played on the surface very little this year and the same can be said of Cristian Garin. Neither have eyecatching results on hard to bolster their case.
Diego Schwartzman is another who’s struggled for hardcourt results this season, while Dzumhur’s opening opponent is Mikhail Kukushkin – a player the Bosnian leads 3-0 on their head-to-head record. He did play well at Wimbledon but his year has otherwise been littered with poor results.
Dzumhur gets a tentative nod at 16/1.
Roll with Radu
I’m slightly more confident about Radu Albot in the top half of the draw.
The Moldovan won a similar low-key event in Delray Beach earlier this season, while he’s also beaten Fabio Fognini (the top seed here) in Indian Wells. On indoor hard, he made the semis in Montpellier.
His draw looks a good one. He opens up against Janko Tipsarevic, who seems to have permanent injury struggles these days, with the winner facing either Tennys Sandgren or Taro Daniel.
Lucas Pouille is seeded to follow in the last eight but the Frenchman has done very little on hardcourts since his semi-final run at the Australian Open and I have no interest in him as the 7/1 joint-favourite.
With that route to the last four, I’ll take a chance on the 20/1 shot.
Tip: Damir Dzumhur each way16/1
Radu Albot each way20/1
Kitzbuhel, Austria (outdoor clay)
The final claycourt tournament of the season takes place in Kitzbuhel this week with altitude again very much in play at the Alpine venue.
It’s lower here than in Gstaad, the host town of last week’s Swiss Open, but at 762m above sea level, its position is still going to be a significant factor with the balls flying through the thin air and difficult to control.
The big power players can gain an advantage but they need that control and going for broke in these conditions isn’t usually a tactic which will pay off in the long run.
Kitzbuehel singles and doubles draws pic.twitter.com/65fLWSi0yd
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) July 27, 2019
The altitude here is almost exactly the same as that of Sao Paulo which meant Pablo Carreno Busta made it onto my fairly long shortlist – there are many who could go well here in what looks a competitive field. PCB is a former finalist at the Brazilian venue and also made another semi-final there.
He played well last week down in Hamburg, reaching the last four, but he’s only 14/1 and I’m a little concerned about the change he now faces from sea level in just a handful of days.
It’s that adjustment reason which is pushing me towards players who have been active in Gstaad over the past week as they should be better prepared for the conditions they will encounter in the Austrian Alps.
The two I’ve ended up plumping for are Pablo Andujar and Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Andujar beat Dusan Lajovic in Gstaad where he eventually lost to Ramos-Vinolas in the semis.
The Spaniard has won a title at altitude in the past (in Gstaad) and has the tools to make things awkward for top seed Dominic Thiem should they meet in the quarter-finals.
Thiem is one of those power players who may struggle at this height. Indeed, his record here suggests that – he’s just 8-7 in Kitzbuhel despite reaching the final here in 2014.
Thiem (pictured below) also has a poor record in Vienna (8-8, never past the quarter-finals) so he’s certainly a player who has struggled to perform in front of his home supporters. An awkward clash with compatriot and 2017 semi-finalist Sebastian Ofner could be his opener this year.
Andujar could be the man to take advantage of Thiem’s poor record in his homeland, although he’ll need to negotiate a tricky first-round match himself – he plays Leonardo Mayer who beat him two weeks ago in Umag.
Still, at 22/1 I’m prepared to give a player who has won a lot of claycourt matches over the last few months a go.
Ram Man ready to go again
As for Ramos-Vinolas, he arrives as the champion in Gstaad where he won the title without losing a set.
The 31-year-old plays his best when he’s serving well and that was the case in Gstaad where he was able to use the conditions well with his own delivery. He’ll look to stay in the same groove here.
His Swiss run came on the back of semi-final showings in Bastad and the Perugia Challenger and it is beginning to look like the Spaniard is returning to the sort of form which took him into the world’s top 20 two years ago.
Some will feel 13 matches in three weeks will have left their mark but given last week was something of a stroll, I’m happy to put that to one side.
Particularly with this being the final clay event of the 2019 ATP Tour, I’m fairly sure Ramos-Vinolas will be rocking up determined to squeeze one last big week out of his impressive form and at 16/1 he looks a decent shout.
His draw isn’t the smoothest but then again opponents who in some ways look awkward could easily prove to be otherwise.
Take opening foe Marton Fucsovics. He’s seeded but has really struggled for wins on the clay of late. Thomas Fabbiano and Jaume Munar are, likewise, capable on clay but neither should concern Ramos-Vinolas too much given the form he’s in.
Dusan Lajovic could await in the quarters and while he’s again a danger I really don’t think he should be almost half the price of our man.
Carreno Busta and Pablo Cuevas are the seeds potentially lying in wait in the semi-finals but I still see nothing to talk me out of backing a player full of confidence who is being sent off at a tasty price.