Last week on the ATP Tour threatened to be one of the most successful yet for my BETDAQ column as three of the four weekly picks made it to their respective finals. David Ferrer proved once again that he is a force to be reckoned with on the dirt, especially when the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are absent by securing the Bastad title in Sweden. Juan Monaco wasn’t quite able to make it a second winning selection as he was defeated in a topsy-turvy final by Serbian Janko Tipsarevic. The final itself appeared to be heading to a rather one-sided conclusion when Monaco was staring down the barrel at 6-4 4-0. Credit must be given to the Argentine who fought back to take the match into the decider, only to be broken by Tipsarevic who himself earned his first clay court title. Finally, Marcel Granollers did all that was expected of him and some in making the final in Croatia. Sadly, Marin Cilic proved too strong for the Spaniard and it wasn’t to be on this occasion. Nevertheless, both Monaco’s and Granollers’ prices were significantly shorter than their pre-tournament ones and I took the opportunity to lay the pair in order to guarantee a small profit. In conclusion, it is fair to say it was a good week, if not a great one.

Three more tournaments to get our teeth stuck into this week and we’ll start with the ATP 500 event in Hamburg, Germany.

ATP Hamburg

One of eleven ATP 500 events on tour, Hamburg stages its annual event where some of the greatest players can be found on the tournament roll of honour. The likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Gustavo Kuerten feature as past champions so it is clear to see why the circuit’s top players are here as they attempt to add their names to the illustrious ones that precede them. In fairness, 2008 was the last year in which the Hamburg event was considered a ‘Masters Series’ event or the equivalent of an ATP 1000 event these days. Since it’s downgrade in 2009, it would be reasonable to suggest that the field strengths have not been what they once were. Even so, five of the world’s top twenty players have committed to playing and are in search of the 500 ranking points for the eventual winner.

Top seed and world number ten Nicolas Almagro comes into the event off the back of a final defeat to nemesis David Ferrer in Bastad. Indeed Ferrer took their head-to-head record to a dominant score of 11-0 following the win over his compatriot. Almagro will however sleep soundly at the prospect of not having to meet Ferrer in Germany. Under different circumstances, I’d be putting Almagro up as my pick for the event as I’d be inclined to think he’s probably the strongest clay court player in the draw. I’m slightly put off by a niggling shoulder injury he appears to have and whilst he made the final in Sweden, it’d be a fairly monumental effort to make two consecutive tour finals on this surface and that’s WITHOUT injury problems. The Spaniard looked down and out against little-known 216th ranked Czech Ivo Minar in round two and was only able to scrape through in three scrappy sets. I wouldn’t be in a rush to be taking a short price about ‘Nico’ and would instead look elsewhere for a spot of value.

The bottom half of the draw looks to be slightly easier than the top half and seeded players such as Viktor Troicki and Florian Mayer look vulnerable to me. For that reason, I think defending champion Gilles Simon looks capable of repeating his feat of 2011. It won’t be easy for the Frenchman but aside from Almagro, Simon is the highest ranked player in the draw and is a definite threat on this surface. At the very worst I’d be looking for the second seed to reach the last four where he’d likely face Umag champion Marin Cilic but as with Almagro, I’d be tempted to think that fatigue may play a part, given the demanding nature of the surface underfoot. In summary, Simon represents a solid choice this week and should give us a run for our money.

Selection: Gilles Simon

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ATP Atlanta

Next to be previewed is the relatively new event from Atlanta in the United States which unsurprisingly is dominated by American participants. Both the 2010 and 2011 finals were contested by a pair of Americans and I wouldn’t bet against the same thing happening once again in 2012. No fewer than 11 of the 32 players are from the US and with four more vying for a main draw slot through qualifying, almost 50% of the draw could indeed be made up by home favourites. It should therefore come as no surprise that I’ll be tipping an American to lift the trophy come Sunday!

Twice a defeated finalist in 2010 and 2011, John Isner returns this year in an attempt to go one better and what better form to enter the tournament than off the back of an event win in Newport over the returning Lleyton Hewitt. By his own admission, Isner has struggled with consistency over the last year or two and whilst I wasn’t completely surprised he proved to be the best player over the course of the week on the grass of Newport, I’m still a little dubious that he can string a couple of decent consecutive tournaments together. Having said that, he has a peach of a draw and has an ideal opportunity to back up last week’s win. To further echo what I said above, Isner may not even meet anyone in the entire tournament that isn’t American and as he’s the nation’s number one player, he should rightly be considered the tournament favourite. He is unlikely to start a particularly large price but should go well nonetheless.

Selection: John Isner

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ATP Gstaad

The final event on tour this week can be found in south-western Switzerland with the backdrop described as ‘spectacular’ by the ATP website and they aren’t lying. Situated near the border with France, Gstaad is famous for more than its scenery. Back in 2003, beaten finalist and home favourite Roger Federer was presented with a cow for winning his first Wimbledon title. Thankfully, the cattle-giving was an isolated occurrence and wasn’t repeated when Federer lifted the title the very next year in 2004!

In my view, there are question marks over all but one of the top four seeded players who have received byes into the second round in Gstaad this week. Top seed and Stuttgart champion from last week Janko Tipsarevic is by no means the finished article on the red stuff. He was in a spot of bother against Germany’s Bjorn Phau in the Stuttgart quarter finals and despite leading Juan Monaco in Sunday’s final by a comprehensive margin, almost blew a double break in the second set before finally seeing off the Argentine. Second seed and Umag finalist Marcel Granollers looked absolutely shattered towards the end of his match against Marin Cilic and would take some effort to turn in another strong performance. Finally, third seed Stanislas Wawrinka hasn’t made the final here since 2005 and suffered a disappointing first round exit to Jurgen Melzer at Wimbledon just three short weeks ago. That leaves fourth seeded Mikhail Youzhny who showed some pretty decent form at Wimbledon before succumbing to the imperious Roger Federer in the last eight.

Any time I consider Youzhny for a tournament win, I always say that he comes with an advisory because he is infuriatingly patchy. If he can show the sort of form this week that he did in SW19 (aside from a dodgy start against Donald Young in round one), he could prove a fairly solid punt this week. I’m encouraged by his 2011 semi final appearance also and hope he can go one if not two better this time around.

Selection: Mikhail Youzhny

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