All eyes will be on Roger Federer in Rotterdam this week as the Swiss attempts to become the oldest player to hold the men’s No 1 ranking since Andre Agassi.
Federer has accepted a wildcard entry into the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament and knows a run to the semi-finals or better would see him usurp Rafael Nadal as world number one.
Federer of course is no stranger to top spot, having reigned for a record 302 weeks during a career that has seen him take the game to new levels of greatness.
He’s a proper legend and at 36 he continues to defy Father Time. He looked as good as ever in winning Grand Slam number 20 at the Australian Open last month.
He has not played Rotterdam since 2012 but should go fresh after a fairly routine waltz to glory in Melbourne. With Nadal not scheduled to return until Acapulco in three weeks, the stage is set for Federer to land another body blow on his eternal rival.
Federer has won Rotterdam twice – in 2005 and when he last played here in 2012. Not for the first time he’s the man the bookies fear, and has been chalked up as an 11/10 jolly. It was Hunter S. Thompson who once mused “Victory is a fleeting thing in the gambling business. Today’s winners are tomorrow’s blinking toads, dumb beasts with no hope.” Not Federer though. He has been an absolute colossus at the sharp end of the ATP Tour since the early noughties and it would take a brave person to back against him here.
So, who could potentially halt Federer’s ascension back to world number one? His compatriot Stan Wawrinka is also involved this week, and has previous in Rotterdam. In 2015 he cut a swathe through the draw before beating Tomas Berdych in another epic final. Wawrinka has looked off the pace so far this season though, bombing out of the Aussie Open early doors and losing to Bosnian qualifier Mirza Basic in Sofia last week.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is the defending champion but he sadly won’t be able to defend his crown after being forced to retire from his semi-final (while leading) in Montpellier on Saturday with a hamstring issue.
Elsewhere Alexander Zverev should be pumped after helping Germany record that huge Davis Cup win against Australia recently and has the type of game that could cause carnage on this type of terrain. He has a huge power game and deserves respect at 10/1. Grigor Dimitrov is also playing, but missed last week’s ‘home’ event in Sofia due to injury so may not be one hundred per cent.
However, a healthy and motivated Federer is almost impossible to pick against. He won two ATP World Tour 500 titles last year (Halle and Basel) and looks head and shoulders above his rivals so gets our vote at 11/10.
Elsewhere the South American clay swing stops off at the Argentina Open this week, an event won last year by betting rag Alexandr Dolgopolov. The Ukrainian came into the event in 2017 having won just one of his last 11 matches, but turned the form book on its head by winning the title in Buenos Aires without losing a set.
Dominic Thiem is the betting favourite but looks a bit short at 5/2. One player who does appeal in Argentina is Fabio Fognini. The Italian put in the daddy of all Davis Cup displays the other week, playing 14 sets in three days and winning all three matches. He is a player who notoriously blows hot and cold but he loves the clay and looks big at 16/1.
Bilko’s Banker: Roger Federer to win the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament at 11/10 (bet365/Sky Bet)
Best of the Rest: Fabio Fognini to win the Argentina Open at 16/1 (Sky Bet)
By Deggsy Bilton
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