Our tennis man Andy Schooler had a near miss with eventual runner-up Daniil Medvedev in Barcelona last week. Now he’s revealed his selections for this week’s events in Estoril and Munich, including a 40/1 shot.

 

Millennium Estoril Open
Estoril, Portugal (outdoor clay)

Since this tournament changed ownership and headed to its current venue, the Clube de Tenis do Estoril, in 2015, Pablo Carreno Busta has always featured.

The Spaniard, who forged his reputation on clay, won here in 2017, finished runner-up in 2016 and in his other two appearances lost in the semi-finals.

You won’t get too many players with that sort of event record at 25/1 to win the latest renewal but that’s the case here and it’s a price worth snapping up.

The main reason behind it is a recent injury problem.

Carreno Busta suffered a shoulder injury in Cordoba, one which ruined his South American claycourt swing.

He missed several events and only recently returned to action in Barcelona, losing in three sets to Benoit Paire in his opening match.

The 27-year-old did, however, get plenty of match practice under his belt by reaching the semi-finals in doubles there and having accepted a wild card for this event, one of his favourites, you can rest assured he’ll be keen to notch up some singles wins before the tougher tasks of Masters tournaments in Madrid and Rome arrive in the coming fortnight.

Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta reacts after his defeat against Japan's Kei Nishikori during their men's singles match on day eight of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 21, 2019. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Given his record here, that seems more than possible and the draw has also been fairly kind with Gael Monfils the other seed in his quarter.

Monfils is another who’s had injury issues (not surprise there). His Achilles problem, picked up in Indian Wells, forced him to miss Miami and Monte Carlo and this will be his first tennis in six weeks.

With it also being his first clay tournament since July, it’s hard to see why anyone would want to back La Monf at 5/1.

In terms of the bottom half of the draw, Fabio Fognini is the favourite to reach the final.

That’s understandable given his unexpected Monte Carlo success, the biggest win of his career.

But we’ve long known the enigmatic Italian had the talent on clay to produce a week like that. What having achieved it doesn’t mean is that he’s now going to contend every week.

Yes, there’s a chance it will result in a new outlook from Fognini but he’s long been someone with a mental game prone to going badly wrong and I don’t think one big title changes that.

He’s certainly going to be going off pretty short for events like this for the foreseeable future and to me looks best avoided.

Italy's Fabio Fognini reacts during the final tennis match against Serbia's Dusan Lajovic at the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series tournament in Monaco on April 21, 2019. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

In the top half, it’s not hard to pick holes in the leading seeds, Stefanos Tsitsipas and David Goffin, neither of whom have done much so far this clay season.

Perhaps this is therefore another chance for Monte Carlo runner-up Dusan Lajovic at 14/1.

He could, however, face a tricky second-round encounter with Nicolas Jarry, who had a couple of eyecatching wins in Barcelona last week, defeating both Alex Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov en route to the quarter-finals.

The Chilean has a chance of what looks a fairly weak half all told, but 18/1 still looks a little on the skinny side for me.

At a bigger price, Bolivan Hugo Dellien might just be worth a few beans at 66/1.

He won a Challenger on clay in Chile earlier this year and also made a few inroads on the main tour on the South American dirt, reaching the last eight in both Rio and Sao Paulo.

A natural on the surface, he could be an awkward first opponent for top seed Tsitsipas and has potential for those willing to take a chance.

However, I’m going to stick with just the one selection in Estoril and back Carreno Busta to use his happy memories of the venue to return to form post-injury.

Tip: Pablo Carreno Busta Each Way

 

BMW Open
Munich, Germany (outdoor clay)

“I’m in a hole and I don’t know how to get out of it.”

So said Alex Zverev after his latest early exit, this one in Barcelona, last week.

Yet, here we have the German up as the 5/2 favourite.

The fact that he’s the two-time defending champion in Munich clearly is factored into that price but it’s also one which defies what we’ve been seeing for weeks – that Zverev is miles off the standards he set when he was beating the best players in the world to win the ATP Finals just five months ago.

I’m more than happy to pass on the top seed and also the man heading up the bottom half of the draw, Karen Khachanov, who has similarly poor form in 2019.

There looks to be every chance of a big-priced winner or finalist here so I’m going to take a chance on three long shots.

First up, in Zverev’s section of the draw, is his Davis Cup team-mate Jan-Lennard Struff.

Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff celebrates after winning his tennis match against Canada's Denis Shapovalov on the day 3 of the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series tournament on April 15, 2019 in Monaco. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Struff is enjoying a fine 2019 with no fewer than six wins against top-25 players thus far.

One of those was against an admittedly-ill Zverev in Indian Wells and three have come in the past fortnight on the European clay.

It was perhaps no great surprise to see him beat Denis Shapovalov in Monte Carlo, but last week in Barcelona not many would have expected him to take out both Tsitsipas and Goffin before testing Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals (he lost 7-5 7-5).

Those results have propelled him back into the world’s top 50 and close to his career-high ranking.

Conditions here will likely help his game too with the higher altitude of around 520m aiding his big serve.

It’s also a venue he has performed well at in the past – his best-ever ATP Tour result (semi-finals) came here in 2014 and he’s since returned to the last eight twice.

There’s plenty to like about Struff and he makes the coupon at 25/1.

The altitude factor should also play into the hands of Matteo Berrettini, who surely shouldn’t be 40/1 to back up a highly-impressive week in Budapest where he emerged as the champion having beaten some strong claycourt players, including Laslo Djere, Pablo Cuevas and my pick, Aljaz Bedene (after saving set point in the first set).

The Hungarian venue is at almost exactly the same height above sea level as the one in Munich and is hardly a million miles away either, so travelling isn’t going to be a factor.

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 07: Matteo Berrettini of Italy celebrates a point against Sam Querrey of the United States during their men's singles first round match against on Day 4 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 07, 2019 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

You could argue it would be good for the altitude to be even higher for Berrettini’s maiden tour title came in the Alpine resort of Gstaad last summer.

That thinner air certainly seemed to help Berrettini last week as he posted some impressive serving stats, particularly on his first delivery on which he won 87 per cent of points.

Clearly backing up his Budapest effort is going to be a challenge, but he did give things a good go last year in Kitzbuhel the week after Gstaad where he made the quarter-finals, so don’t expect a lame early exit.

At 40s, I prefer the Italian clay specialist to another proven performer in these conditions, Philipp Kohlschreiber, who also made my shortlist.

The German is a three-time winner of this event and has a fine record in his homeland – five of his eight titles have come in Germany, as well as six of his 10 runner-up efforts.

However, a hip injury forced him out of Barcelona last week and I’d want to be sure he’s fully recovered before getting involved at 20/1. Given he’s now 35, the powers of recovery are probably not what they once were.

My final pick comes from the third quarter where I’m prepared to take another chance on Guido Pella.

Argentina's Guido Pella hits a return to Spain's Rafael Nadal during their quarter final tennis match at the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series tournament on April 19, 2019 in Monaco. (Photo by YANN COATSALIOU / AFP) (Photo credit should read YANN COATSALIOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Tipped up in Barcelona last week, the Argentine played well enough and made the last eight but there he was unable to unseat eventual champion Dominic Thiem, a player who defeated Rafael Nadal the following day.

Pella’s effort was still a good one and the field here is nowhere near as strong with both Nadal and Thiem resting up.

That’s reflected in his price – 14/1 this week compared with 45/1 last – but he still looks worth backing.

Pella has been churning out the wins on clay this season having won in Sao Paulo (another fairly high-altitude venue), finished runner-up in Cordoba and reached the semis in Buenos Aries.

He really knows how to grind out the points on this surface and should have the beating of most in this field.

Tips:

Guido Pella each-way 

Jan-Lennard Struff each-way 

Matteo Berrettini each-way 

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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