ATP Marbella & ATP Cagliari: Many unknowns as season turns to clay

Spanish Tennis Player Pablo Carreno-Busta
Pablo Carreno-Busta is among the favourites in Marbella...

Following the Miami Open which concluded on Sunday, the ATP Tour moves to clay courts with two low-profile events in Europe. Dan Weston gives his thoughts on the week ahead...

"Continuing in Marbella, Carreno-Busta is top seed and has a pretty kind draw with a second-round clash against one of two unknown qualifiers and with Soonwoo Kwon - not renowned for his clay ability - the seeded player in his top quarter."

Just two top-20 players in action this week

Our pick for the final, Hubert Hurkacz, lifted the Miami Open trophy on Sunday with a straight-set win over Jannik Sinner to end our tournament on a positive note.

This coming week, however, doesn't feature many top players with just two top-20 players in action - Pablo Carreno-Busta and Fabio Fognini who both are seeded in Marbella.

Joining these two players as seeds with first-round byes are Albert Ramos and Casper Ruud, and it's Ruud who edges favourite status for the tournament at a current 5.04/1 with Carreno-Busta slightly larger-priced at around 6.05/1 based on general market pricing. Every other player is around or bigger than 10.09/1, with Fognini, Ramos and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina next in the markets.

Great difficulty ascertaining current player level on clay

I'm going to be brutally honest here - finding value in these tournaments is not an easy process, with there only being data via a very short clay season from 2020 and the players coming off hard court events.

We also have little in the way of historical clay court data to go on for these events, so we don't even have much insight in advance on likely conditions and court speed.

Due to this, I'm going to discuss the draw from the two events with thoughts on a few contenders this week without dialling into where the value is, because it's extremely difficult to have any concrete thoughts on whether a player represents any value.

Carreno-Busta with kind draw in quarter one

Continuing in Marbella, Carreno-Busta is top seed and has a pretty kind draw with a second-round clash against one of two unknown qualifiers and with Soonwoo Kwon - not renowned for his clay ability - the seeded player in his top quarter. Francisco Cerundolo, the young Argentine, could provide the biggest test in this bracket. Rounding off the top half of the draw, quarter two features the likes of Ramos plus Federico Delbonis and a number of clay-courters who are borderline main tour or Challengers - often the case in these lower-level ATP events.

In the bottom half of the draw, quarter three looks fascinating with a potential quarter-final between two young players with extremely high potential in Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz Garfia - this is one to watch and would be a real highlight of what looks a fairly mediocre tournament on paper. In the bottom quarter, seeded Fognini could be troubled by the likes of Jaume Munar, Pedro Martinez Portero and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Top seed Evans likely to struggle in Cagliari

Across Europe in Cagliari, Dan Evans is top seed but far from a top level clay courter. This is reflected in his odds of around 13.012/1, with a few players shorter-priced to lift the trophy. Lorenzo Sonego, Laslo Djere and Marco Cecchinato are among those who the markets consider to have a greater chance of winning here.

Evans is likely to struggle in round two against Lorenzo Musetti, who looks a young player with real upside on the surface, and Laslo Djere is a further hurdle in quarter one.

I'd be surprised if top seed Evans won the quarter.

The other remaining bracket in the top half, quarter two, is full of unknowns with four qualifiers waiting to be placed, plus the inconsistent Nikoloz Basilashvil, Jan-Lennard Struff and the badly out of form Joao Sousa. Many intangibles in that bracket for sure.

In the bottom half of the draw, many players will fancy their chances in a tournament with mediocre field quality. Marco Cecchinato and Lorenzo Sonego stand out potentially, in their home country, but it would be foolish to rule out many players in this half of the draw given the relatively level quality in this part of the draw.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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