Our tennis betting expert Derek Bilton looks ahead to the ATP Tour events in Cordoba, Montpellier and Sofia.
The Cordoba Open kicks off the South American ‘Golden Swing’ and this stretch of clay-court action (four tournaments in all) in Latin America gives players an early chance to get acquainted with the red dirt.
Cordoba makes its debut on the ATP Tour this week, and after the withdrawal of Dominic Thiem it is Fabio Fognini who is top seed. The Italian is 3-2 on the Tour so far this season and lost in the third round at the Australian Open. He was beaten by Pablo Carreno Busta in Melbourne, and the Spaniard is also involved in Argentina.
Fognini is a mercurial operator who can turn defence into attack with a flamboyant roll of the wrist. He comes across as pretty aloof on the court but is massively capable on clay, as demonstrated by a couple of big wins over Rafael Nadal on the surface a few years ago.
However, he also blows notoriously hot and cold. In short he’s a nightmare for punters to trust, especially when much is expected of him, and he has not shown enough this year to justify the carrying of our cash.
Carreno Busta has three career titles to his name and all at this level (250 Series). His last win though was in May 2017 when he won Estoril and he looks a bit short at around the 4/1 mark.
Instead we fancy local hero Diego Schwartzman to win again in South America. The Buenos Aires native will be well supported and has won both of his previous ATP titles on clay.
Indeed last season he rewarded followers of this column by winning Rio de Janeiro after being tipped up as a 16/1 shout. The Argentine also had a solid run in Buenos Aires, having reached the quarter-final there last season.
He is 4-2 so far this term and looked good in Melbourne before running into a dialled in Tomas Berdych. That defeat means he will have had plenty of time to practice on the red stuff in his homeland and roared on by a fanatical home support the third seed – who is in Fognini’s half of the draw – should have every chance of going deep.
One of the smallest players on the Tour (his nickname is El Peque – the Small One) Schwartzman is also one of the mist tenacious. He can go all day on clay and ticks plenty of boxes this week.
Over in Montpellier we have action indoors at the Sud de France Arena this week, and this is an event that has been dominated by French players in recent times. Since 2010 there have been six Gallic champions in eight editions of the event and Lucas Pouille is the defending champion.
Pouille loves hard courts and put together a fantastic run Down Under recently as he made it all the way to the semi-finals at the Australian Open. He was dismantled in ruthless fashion by Novak Djokovic thereafter but it proves his game is in good order and should be motivated here with ranking points to defend.
David Goffin is among the favourites and he made the last four in southern France last season before losing a classic to Richard Gasquet. The Belgian has been as high as seven in the world but a current ranking of 21 suggests he might be a player on the slide. He has only ever won once indoors (Metz in 2014) and with no ATP title since 2017 he doesn’t really float our boat at single figure odds.
Gilles Simon and Jeremy Chardy will have their backers but Pouille looks the most logical choice to defend his title. At just 24 he has five ATP titles to his name and he should hit his peak in the next few seasons.
His run to the business of the Australian Open will have given him confidence and after a decent rest he will go fresh this week. He has every shot in his armoury and can be the main man in Montpellier once more.
There’s also action in Sofia where Stefanos Tsitsipas is top seed and the 4/1 (888 Sport) betting jolly but that event looks wide open with around half a dozen or so potential winners, so a watching brief is advised for punters in the Bulgarian capital.
Bilko’s Banker: Diego Schwartzman to win the Córdoba Open at 4/1 (888 Sport)
Best of the Rest: Lucas Pouille to win the Open Sud De France at 5/1 (bet365)
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