Events

ATP Tour Tips: Jarry the pick as three events signal start of clay-court season

Tennis player Nicolas Jarry
Nicolas Jarry is Dan's pick to win ATP Marrakech this week

The clay season gets fully underway from this week, with events in Estoril, Marrakech and Houston on what looks to be a busy week on the ATP Tour. Dan Weston runs through the fields...

  • Houston likely to play much quicker than the other two events this week

  • Ruud headlines stronger field in Estoril

  • Jarry can fight through the draw in Marrakech


No real track record for clay-courters in Houston

All of this week's events are 250 level, in what is a rather low-profile follow-up to the glamour of the Indian Wells and Miami Masters events which dominated March.

The fields look very mixed indeed, with Estoril looking a little higher-calibre than Marrakech, and there being fewer clay-court specialists in the quicker conditions in Houston.

It's worth mentioning that in Houston, there's not been much of a bias towards traditional clay-courters.

Only Juan Monaco and Cristian Garin would fit that bracket out of the winners list from 2016 onwards, while the likes Steve Johnson, Jack Sock and the big-serving duo of Reilly Opelka and John Isner have had good records at the venue.

Americans unlikely to have a problem

The recent winners list is hardly the 'who's who' of ATP clay-courters, and the reason is the very quick conditions for clay in Houston.

There have been around 4% more service points won at this venue compared to the ATP clay-court mean figures, so it makes sense not to be hugely fearful of big-servers here. It's kind of like the reverse dynamic we discussed ahead of Indian Wells.

In what is a pretty weak field, Tommy Paul 4.57/2 has marginal favourite status over Frances Tiafoe 4.77/2, with both American's joining John Isner and Brandon Nakashima as a USA quartet of seeds with first-round byes.

Tiafoe looks to have a nice top quarter, with the likes of Steve Johnson and Fernando Verdasco picking up wild card spots in the draw as well.

I'd imagine that in quarter two, John Isner can be delighted about his draw. JJ Wolf perhaps is the one player who can dispose of the big-server, although Isner defeated his countryman indoors in Dallas via a final-set tiebreak.

That day, Wolf lost having won one point more in the match, and while he has virtually no clay-court pedigree on the main tour, his rare forays onto the surface in Challengers yielded some pretty solid data.

The 14.013/1 on the Exchange looks to be market-leading on Wolf, which doesn't look too bad at all in my view given his draw.

Ruud a strong favourite in Estoril

Over in Portugal, Estoril plays host to what looks like the highest-quality event of the upcoming week.

There are several top 10 players in the field (Ruud and Hurkacz) and none in the other main events, and conditions should be slightly on the slow side, with a lower service points won percentage at the venue compared to the ATP clay-court mean.

Casper Ruud - around 3.39/4 - has a pretty nice draw in Q1, with only Sebastian Baez looking anywhere decent enough in the blood to give him a good match.

In Q2, there's an interesting dynamic with Roberto Bautista-Agut the main seed, but Dominic Thiem in that quarter, receiving little in the way of market support after a dreadful 2023 so far.

A few unseeded players have had previous high ceilings on the surface - I'm thinking the likes of Marco Cecchinato, Diego Schwartzman, Fabio Fognini and Albert Ramos - so there's scope for a non top-four seed to have a go at running through the field as well.

Jarry capable of fighting through in Marrakech

Finally we move to Marrakech, which was one of my favourite events in the past with home wild card Lamine Ouahab often wreaking havoc against more illustrious opposition.

These days the Moroccan wild cards go elsewhere, with Elliot Benchetrit now representing them following a switch from France at the start of 2021. They also have Younes Laarouss in the main draw, who I know very little about - let's see if he can even get close to being the next version of Ouahab.

Lorenzo Musetti, Botic van der Zandschulp, Tallon Griekspoor and Dan Evans are the top four seeds with round one byes, which shows you how weak the field is here.

Conditions should be pretty slow here as well, with the bottom half of the draw looking much weaker.

This should be of benefit to Nicolas Jarry, with the Chilean very capable of coming through this half. He's coming off the back of a title in the Santiago Challenger at the start of March, and also reached the semi-final (taking a set off of Carlos Alcaraz) in Rio the week previously on the main tour.

The Exchange market on the outright winner is not yet liquid, but Jarry is trading at 7.06/1 when looking at the best price in the industry, and I think that's a pretty nice spot given his recent clay level plus relative ease of his draw.

Back Nicolas Jarry to Win ATP Marrakech @

7.0

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