A first for the BETDAQ column as last week’s selections drew a blank across the ATP Tour. Mikhail Youzhny and Gilles Simon were eliminated early in Gstaad and Hamburg respectively, followed by John Isner’s last four defeat to compatriot Andy Roddick in Atlanta. With little financial interest in the three events over the weekend, I thought Sunday was as good a time as any to pick up a racket myself for the first time in four years. Sadly this went about as well as my selections and saw me play more like Bill Murray than Andy Murray, ultimately resulting in a 6-0 6-3 drubbing. Tennis-wise, a pretty poor seven days!

Nevertheless, I’ve dusted myself off and given the two upcoming tournaments a thorough going over and it could well pay to side with a couple of outsiders. Much like the trio of events this past week, the two ATP 250 events appear to be very open indeed. With the Olympic tennis just six short days away, it is no surprise to see many of the tour’s top players swerving this week in preparation for the London showpiece. In fact, only Philipp Kohlschreiber (22) and Florian Mayer (23) represent any of the world’s top FOURTY players which highlights just what a minefield the next seven days could be.

ATP Kitzbuhel

As mentioned above, Kohlschreiber and Mayer are by far the highest ranked players in the Kitzbuhel draw but should mean little in the grand scheme of things. The event itself has been dominated by South Americans in recent years with Argentines Juan Martin Del Potro, Juan Monaco, Agustin Calleri, Gaston Gaudio and Guillermo Coria, and Chilean Nicolas Massu triumphing between 2003 and 2008. Looking through the draw however, the continent isn’t strongly represented this week and it would be a surprise to see this trend continue. In my opinion, any one of about a dozen players could realistically win the event so rather than picking a single-priced favourite and watch them toil against seasoned clay court players, I’d sooner pick someone at a slightly bigger price and hope they can negotiate their way through a dodgy looking draw. Neither Kohlschreiber nor Mayer have made it past the last eight in Austria and whilst that may change because of the lack of strength in depth, I’ll look elsewhere for a likely winner.

2009 champion Guillermo Garcia-Lopez could go well this week at an attractive price. The Spaniard is at home on the clay and reached the semi finals in Stuttgart a week ago when last seen, losing narrowly to Juan Monaco who himself went on to win the event in Stuttgart over the weekend. Garcia-Lopez has clay court wins in his career over some pretty adept players in Pablo Andujar, Stanislas Wawrinka and Mikhail Youzhny. Whilst he may not be able to compete with some of the world’s best, he can certainly hold his own against many of the tour’s other players. A drawback of Garcia Lopez’s game is how often he fails to convert from winning positions, in addition to lengthy, gruelling matches he gets stuck in towards the beginning of some events. That said, if he can avoid the all too often topsy-turvy matches occurring and stays fresh, the sixth seed has every chance of winning the tournament in Austria for a second time.

Selection: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez

ATP Los Angeles

The second event of the week is a similarly weak-looking affair. Frenchman Benoit Paire is the tournament top seed and is ranked three places outside the top fifty. Needless to say, the event this week on the Plexipave of California is there for the taking. To follow the rationale of my Kitzbuhel selection, I don’t really have any great desire to pick a player who will likely go off a short price, given the unpredictable nature of what is likely to unfold on the west coast of the United States. I tipped Sam Querrey a couple of weeks back on the grass of Newport and was disappointed to see him eliminated early to Dudi Sela, especially following an encouraging performance at Wimbledon in his previous event. For that reason I can’t have him this week and a potential quarter final banana skin against Belgian Xavier Malisse doesn’t look an attractive proposition for the American. I will however opt for another American in Brian Baker this week. Baker’s story is an incredible one. In 2007, he was sidelined for the best part of six years following various operations on his body (three on his hip, one on his elbow and a further hernia operation) before finally making a comeback to the ATP tour in stunning fashion. Having qualified for the ATP 250 event in Nice, Baker made it through to the final before losing to Nicolas Almagro. Baker’s appearance in the tournament was described as one of the most remarkable comebacks of modern times. Subsequent to this, Baker made the fourth round at Wimbledon, losing to the top seed in Kitzbuhel Philipp Kohlschreiber. Encouragingly, Baker defeated the Los Angeles top seed Benoit Paire at Wimbledon and could face the Frenchman again this week. A disappointing three set defeat to Igor Kunitsyn in Atlanta wasn’t ideal preparation for this coming week but if showing anything like the level of form that saw him reach the fourth round in SW19, Baker could add yet another chapter to his extraordinary comeback story.

Selection: Brian Baker

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdquinn86

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