ATP Tour Week 31 Preview: Kohlschreiber to thrive again in Kitzbuhel
With the ATP Tour continuing with three events this week, there's plenty of action for tennis bettors to get involved with. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the tournaments...
"Kohlschreiber looks a logical choice for me - he always takes this event seriously, and those with a long memory will remember the furore that occurred in 2012 when he had the audacity to actually try here (he lost to Robin Haase in the final) as opposed to tank so he could prepare for the Olympics."
Today sees the start of the last week of the ATP clay season as Kitzbuhel gets underway at 10:00 UK time, while we have two hard court events in Washington, and Los Cabos (Mexico) as players begin their preparations for the US Open and the August Masters events.
Weak field in average clay conditions in Austria
The Alpine resort town of Kitzbuhel is just under 800m above sea level, but in truth, the effects of altitude appear to be pretty limited, when looking at the data. Service hold percentages and service points won numbers are around the ATP clay mean, with aces per game figures very slightly in excess of the average men's clay court venue. Certainly, this is no Quito, or Bogota.
The field here in Austria tends to be weak, which is not a surprise when you consider that the event is crammed into six days, with the final on Saturday, so players can then make the trip across the Atlantic to North America, where the next six weeks or so of the tennis tour takes place.
Certainly, the winners list of the last few years is hardly a 'who's who' of men's tennis, and in the last three years in particular, longshots have been runner-up, as well as Paolo Lorenzi triumphing in 2016.
Thiem vulnerable as an odds-on favourite
Looking at the Sportsbook odds, Dominic Thiem has been chalked up as the 5/6 favourite, although he's flattered to deceive in his home tournament, only reaching the final once, in 2014, and losing as a 1.09 favourite to fellow Austrian Jurgen Melzer in 2016.
With this in mind, it's difficult to consider him any value whatsoever at prices - particularly as he often has a downswing post-Wimbledon, due to playing too many matches in the first half of the year - and looking at value propositions in the bottom half of the draw makes sense.
Kohlschreiber with excellent venue record
Of the players here worth mentioning, defending champion (and 2015 winner) Philipp Kohlschreiber has a good venue record and receives a first-round bye, along with Fernando Verdasco, who wasn't fit last week. Gstaad champion Matteo Berrettini also takes his place in this half, although I wouldn't expect big things from the promising Italian this week after his first ever main tour title.
Kohlschreiber looks a logical choice for me - he always takes this event seriously, and those with a long memory will remember the furore that occurred in 2012 when he had the audacity to actually try here (he lost to Robin Haase in the final) as opposed to tank so he could prepare for the Olympics. He can be chanced, either for the win, or each-way, at 17/2.
Del Potro unlikely to be threatened by lower-ranked rivals
Another 5/6 shot to win the tournament is Juan Martin Del Potro, in Los Cabos, in what is another field of very questionable quality. The Argentine is unlikely to be troubled by most players in the field, and it may interest readers to know that he is 36-2 against players ranked 21-100 in the last 12 months.
In short, top seed Del Potro almost always gets the job done against worse opposition, and again, the best way to oppose him is likely to come from the opposite bottom half of the draw. Conditions at the Mexican resort are likely to be around average for hard courts, if historical data is anything to go by, and certainly are unlikely to benefit any particular player genre.
Fritz the best bet to oppose Fognini
The bottom half of the draw, and in particular, the final quarter, is very weak indeed. Fabio Fognini is the second seed, and gets a bye in this bottom quarter, and the Italian is nothing special on hard court, and in addition, has played a lot of tennis this week.
However, the soon-to-be retired Gilles Muller will need to play well in not particularly quick conditions to threaten Fognini, and perhaps his bigger test will be against Taylor Fritz in a potential quarter-final.
The young American, Fritz, has good hard court data and didn't disgrace himself at all in defeat last week to Hyeon Chung in Atlanta - 20/1 looks a decent each-way shout. Long-shot backers also might be interested in seeing whether the Brit, Cameron Norrie (who looks so much better on hard court than other surfaces), can go one better than he managed in Atlanta last week as well, at 25/1.
Tough task for unseeded Murray in Washington
In what is a busy week on the ATP Tour, there's a 48-man field in Washington, with a whopping (and probably unneccessary) 16 players benefiting from first-round byes. These don't include Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka, who must play first-round matches against Mackenzie McDonald, and the grossly out of form Donald Young, respectively.
Despite this extra round, and fitness concerns, Murray is 7/1 joint second favourite for the tournament, and while his level was decent in comeback matches, it will be a big ask for him to win six matches in seven days. Alexander Zverev is the 4/1 event favourite.
Open field given fitness doubts surrounding many contenders
Hyeon Chung, Kyle Edmund and Nick Kyrgios all are younger players with decent chances here, but all have fitness concerns in some way, shape, or form, so perhaps Zverev's biggest tests here in the coming week will come from opponents that he faces in earlier rounds - both Kei Nishikori and David Goffin loom.
However, with fitness concerns around a number of players in the draw, this event looks a leave-alone from an outright perspective, so I'm happy just with our recommendations in Kitzbuhel and Los Cabos.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings