In the wake of Monte Carlo the ATP tour is pushed to the coasts of Portugal and the foothills of the Alps. Usually, the case in weeks with multiple low-level 250 events see one tournament get vastly different kinds of attendance than the other. But, with a picturesque venue on the Atlantic Ocean, Estoril draws seven top 30 players this week despite being a tournament that is only four years old. Meanwhile Munich, always has a strong field, being in one of Germany’s most populous cities, the heart of a tennis playing nation, and one of the oldest and longest running tournaments in tennis history. So, pretty equal handicaps this week, deep fields both headlined by a top ten player and surrounded by ample top tier talent.
Let’s dig in.
The event is headlined by last year’s semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas. He dominates the first quarter and with a qualifier spot and a bunch of Aussies who are more comfortable on grass, Tsitsipas’ toughest match maybe his first one, where he’ll play a traditional clay courter in either Hugo Dellien or Guido Andreozzi. Either way, the first quarter does not look interesting from a betting perspective. 250 level events are notorious for having the top four seeds granted byes in round one and then crashing out early, taking their paycheque and heading to the next venue. Tsitsipas is a very young top ten player, with points to defend here and ground to make up after failing to repeat his finals performance in Barcelona. He should be super motivated but, with an outright price of only +275 it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
Hugo Dellien would be the long shot option out of this quarter. He had multiple quarter-final runs earlier this year on the Golden Swing and 80/1 is a big number. The issue is two-fold; one as just argued above, he, unfortunately, landed in a quarter with a potentially motivated seed and secondly, he hasn’t accomplished anything outside of South America. Again, best to look elsewhere.
The second quarter may have the softest seeded player. Goffin draws the bye but, he is having a horrendous 2019. Goffin hasn’t won more than two matches in a row yet this calendar year, he’s lost as a favorite five times and he’s never been to Estoril before. This move smells of desperation and/or the chance to grab a paycheque to make up for some unexpectantly early exits. That may make him the most attackable seed. The problem with that logic is that the second quarter is uncharacteristically loaded. Joao Sousa is on home soil and is the defending champion, Nic Jarry is one of the biggest servers on tour and a South American raised on clay, Leo Mayer is a tour vet with five finals in the last five years, all on clay, and Dusan Lajovic is coming off the finals of a Master 1000 clay event in Barcelona. Anyone of those four could come out of this quarter and it would not be a surprise.
Mayer hasn’t made a semi-final outside of Hamburg since 2016, so he can probably be discarded. Sousa is the defending champ but it’s hard to see him defending given his current form which has seen him only win two matches in a row at the Aussie and in Miami — in Miami, he was gifted a win against a player ranked outside the top 400 and in Melbourne he went five sets twice before being destroyed by Nishikori. Nic Jarry surprisingly isn’t in Munich, where the altitude may help his monster serve. That’s a puzzling decision but speaks of scheduling and a routine (he’s come here the last two years). Still, it probably hurts him a little and Barcelona was really the first sign of life from him this year. For someone who hasn’t come close to making a final this year, let alone winning a title, 18/1 seems a tad low. That leaves Lajovic. If you want an outright in the top half he is probably your best bet. He is obviously in the best form of his life, having just made the finals in Monte Carlo and he smartly took last week off. At 28, he is still title-less on tour and yet seems to be following the new norm of entering his prime in his late 20’s. Last year was his best year on tour since going ATP full time in 2014. He is one of only three people in the draw (Cuevas would make it four if he gets through qualifying) who has kept his combined hold/break number above 105% the last two years. If he gets through his quarter, he has beaten Tsitsipas before and played him tight on clay last year. This is the best option in the top half.
The third quarter is also loaded with a bunch of big names but, each one comes with a question mark. Monfils is amazing on clay and the best talent in the quarter but he has been off since Indian Wells. And his departure, while declared because of an injury, possibly was affected by a weird personal situation in a hotel room and some police. Monfils is a stay away until he proves healthy and mentally sound. Opelka looked lost on clay, in the wind, in Houston and now is playing on clay in a beachside town. No thanks. PCB is, like Monfils, coming off a lengthy injury absence. This is a stay away quarter.
The fourth quarter has the mercurial Fognini looming. It is always hard to judge which Fog is going to show up so, outrights on him are hard to place. Going into Monte Carlo, Fog had lost in the first round five times and was 3–8 overall. He then went on to win the biggest tournament of his life and put himself in elite territory as only the 15th active player on tour to have a Masters 1000 title. Who capped that? So, does he show up this week to a small tournament in Portugal? At 4/1 that’s a big no thanks.
Krajinovic is another option in the 4th quarter but he is coming off a final in Budapest and making back to back finals with his health record seems unlikely. Tiafoe, last years finalist is also in this draw. Like Fognini you need to try and diagnose his motivation level. He was defending a title in Delray Beach earlier this year and went out in the first round. So, is he pumped up to defend points here in Estoril? Well, he’s only got one clay match under his bet this year so, he doesn’t seem in prime form to back up last years performance.
“This is my f*cking court”. There’s a great gif you can go look up with Alex Zverev emphatically yelling that as he won this title. Munich is in real danger of becoming Zverev’s version of Rafa’s Barcelona (Rafa has won Barcelona, his “home” tournament 11 times). Since turning 19, Zverev has gone semi-final, title, title here in Munich and the semi-final loss was to Thiem. And to top it off Zverev has been gifted a wonderful draw. It is really hard to advise betting on someone at 2/1 or 2.5/1 but it’s a daunting task for anyone to challenge him. Lots of tennis commentators will point to Zverev’s lack of success so far in 2019 as a reason he won’t win here but, last year he had the same slow start and walked through Munich and went on to have a great season, culminating in the year-end trophy. Munich isn’t Quito, at 9,000 feet but, it is at a bit of elevation, so the ball moves quickly and should help the home German. Zverev rolls here.
If you are looking for a non-Zverev option, the bottom half of the draw is loaded. All of the high ranked players landed in the bottom — Bautista Agut, Khachanov, Kohl, Berrettini, Edmund, and Guido Pella. The one with the best path is possibly Guido Pella. Pella gets Mischa Zverev first, who is having a horrible 2019. Also in his quarter are a young French wildcard and a young German wildcard in Ugo Humbert and Rudolph Molleker. RBA is a solid opponent but is possibly better on hard courts now than clay and he only has two matches on clay under his belt so far his year and one of those was a 1-6, 1-6 loss to Rafa. The semi-final might be tough with any number of possible opponents but, the only one of Kohl, Edmund or Khachanov that would be a massive favorite over Pella would be Khachanov and he hasn’t done anything on clay in 2019. Pella has won one title (Sao Paulo) and been to another final (Cordoba) and another semi-final (Buenes Aires). He went to the quarte-finals in both Barcelona and Monte Carlo the last two weeks and gave Rafa everything he could handle in Monte Carlo. He’s the best option in the bottom half.
Lajovic +1400, x0.5
Zverev +240, x1
Pella +1200, x0.5