The ATP World Tour reaches Dubai, Sao Paulo and Acapulco in week eight, with tournaments on outdoor hard and red clay this week.
They play for a substantial $2.25 million prize pot at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where Novak Djokovic is the star turn and conditions are usually quick there on a Deco Turf II surface.
Also on outdoor hard, but much slower, we have the Abierto Mexicano Telcel, which is played on a Solflex surface that is slow and high bouncing – not unlike Indian Wells in a fortnight’s time.
Acapulco is a tough one for European viewers, with the night session beginning at 22:00 local time, which is 04:00 UK time, so it’s one for the early risers or night owls.
The Brasil Open is this week’s Golden Swing tournament and this year we’re back on outdoor clay at the Pinheiros Club in Sao Paulo after a spell indoors and they may regret that decision looking at the forecast this week.
Looking back at the round one matches from last year we see that there were only two underdog winners in Acapulco from 15 completed matches, with a best price of 2.39, while in Sao Paulo there were five from 12.
In Dubai’s opening round in 2015 there were just three underdog winners from 16 matches and the top price there was 2.09, so it wasn’t a round for big-priced wins at all three venues last year.
We ended week seven with a clean sweep of three winners, with Nick Kyrgios and Marin Cilic going well under the 10.5 set one overs mark; Sam Querrey and Rajeev Ram playing a tie break; and Pablo Cuevas defeating Guido Pella by two sets to one for the long shot.
Feliciano Lopez vs Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
This 12:00 approx. UK time clash in Dubai should result in a win for Feli Lopez in conditions more suited to his game than that of namesake Garcia-Lopez.
The pair of Spaniards have not met on the tour since 2010, but GGL has a poor record here, where he is yet to win so much as a single set in his three prior matches at this tournament.
Add to that his record of having lost five of his last seven matches against left-handers and seven of his last nine against the big servers on my list and we have a low probability of GGL winning this one.
I said last week that Feli was vulnerable against Sergiy Stakhovsky on quick indoor hard in Marseille and so it proved, but he’s had long enough now to be back in a hard court mindset and I like the -1.5 games on him here at 1.78.
Lopez used to have a very good record in Dubai, with final and semi final finishes, but he’s underachieved here for a while now and this year he should be making the last eight with GGL and Lukas Rosol/Yuki Bhambri the early opposition.
After that he’d almost certainly play Novak Djokovic, but $60,000 and 90 ranking points on offer for a quarter final finish it could still be a good week’s work for Lopez, who shouldn’t really be fatigued after two early losses since Melbourne.
GGL has been beaten by Hyeon Chung and Gilles Muller since Melbourne and hasn’t enjoyed his previous visits to Dubai, so the odds looked to be in Feli’s favour here.
Donald Young vs Gilles Muller
This 22:00 UK time clash in Acapulco looks one in which to side with Muller against an opponent who has retired in each of his last two visits to this tournament and generally struggles against big servers.
Young was walloped 6-2, 6-1 at home in Atlanta by Muller last summer and although conditions there are faster than the slow ones here in Mexico I’d still be pretty confident in the Luxembourger here.
The Don has lost 17 of his 24 matches on outdoor hard courts against the big servers on my database and when presented with a great opportunity to make a final in Delray Beach last week he lost from 6-1, 3-1 up against Tim Smyczek.
Young retired against Ryan Harrison in 2015 and against Smyczek in 2014 in Acapulco which suggests he doesn’t really fancy the steaming conditions here and he got back in as a lucky loser in ’14 only to lose to Gilles Simon.
He’s lost nine of his last 11 against big servers and six of his last seven against left handers ¬– and that latter list includes the likes of Kenny De Schepper, Jiri Vesely and Martin Klizan – and all bar one were in straight sets.
Indeed, his last 29 losses to left handers have all been by three games or more going all the way back to 2007, so it’s a fair conclusion that -2.5 games on Muller is decent at 1.79.
Tigre Hank vs Adrian Mannarino
The Mexican wild cards have their day in Acapulco on Monday, with Hank, Lucas Gomez and Luis Patino all on the schedule today and those after a long shot could do worse than chance Hank taking a set from Mannarino.
Hank isn’t up to much, but he plays with great enthusiasm here and took a set from Sam Querrey in 2014 before being thrashed by Aljaz Bedene in 2015.
I wouldn’t trust Mannarino to beat many players in straight sets, such is his up and down level and wavering concentration and in his last four matches in a row against opponents ranked outside the top-100 he’s dropped sets.
In the last 12 months the Frenchman dropped at least one set 12 times from 26 matches against opponents ranked outside the top-100 and he’s yet to win a match in Acapulco.
This one will be played at 16:00 local time when it’ll be nice and warm and I’m not convinced about Mannarino in the heat either, with one retirement in Melbourne against Lopez coming when he was on the verge of winning due to heat.
Mannarino might thrash Hank as he should against the world number 446, but I wouldn’t bet on him to do it in two, and the same goes for Robin Haase, who has lost to the likes of 250+ ranked Jules Marie and Enzo Couacoud in recent times.
‘Sure thing’ punters today will look to the likes of Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic for their profit on Monday, with the 2-0 double on that pair paying around the 1.45 mark.
Value bet: Back Lopez to beat Garcia-Lopez -1.5 games at 1.78
Value bet: Back Muller -2.5 games to beat Young at 1.79
Long shot: Back Hank +1.5 sets to beat Mannarino at 4.70