The clay court swing of the 2022 ATP Tour begins in week 14 with ATP 250 tournaments in Houston and Marrakech.
Historically, both the US Men’s Clay Court Championship and the Grand Prix Hassan II have provided a healthy amount of underdog winners, with Houston averaging 41% underdog wins in its last seven editions.
This year will be first time it’s been played since 2019, as the last two years saw it cancelled due to the pandemic.
Narrowly behind in terms of underdog winners (37% in the seven editions that have been held in Marrakech), the Grand Prix Hassan II also returns to the tour after a two-year break and the high frequency of underdog winners at both Houston and Marrakech is due in some degree to the players changing surfaces from hard to clay.
Indeed, if you’d backed every underdog in Marrakech in its last four editions for just £10 per bet you’d be in profit by almost £300, while in Houston if you’d done the same you’d be in profit, but only just at £40.
A lot of Marrakech’s recent profitability is down to some big-priced winners in round one in 2017 and 2018 when a trio of Moroccan wild cards won at huge odds.
This year’s Grand Prix Hassan II begins with four main draw matches on the card on Monday and all four underdogs have decent chances.
Henri Laaksonen last took on Richard Gasquet in slow conditions in Bastad on the clay back in 2018 and on that occasion Gasquet was priced up as a 1.292/7 chance, duly obliging with a 2-0 win that day in the semi finals.
Now the pair are more closely matched, with the Gasman now into the veteran stage of his career and rated a 1.608/13 shot to beat Laaksonen and you can see why from their comparative stats on clay at main level lately.
Laaksonen has won four of his last 10 and has a combined service points won/return points won total of 99, while Gasquet has won six of his last 10 and has the same total points won total as Laaksonen.
Indeed, you could certainly argue that Laaksonen is a hint of value here, with the Swiss player having a hold/break total of 99 compared to Gasquet’s 94 and you’d have thought that Gasquet’s numbers will only be getting worse from hereon in.
If Laaksonen can get that big forehand working he’s got every chance as a 2.486/4 shot today.
Similarly, Federico Coria has superior main level clay stats than Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in their last 10 matches each, despite ADF having won seven of his 10 and Coria winning only half of his matches.
Coria is narrowly ahead on combined service points won/return points won (101 to 99) and also leads the way on service hold/break totals on 102 compared to ADF’s 96 and recent form also must be a worry for odds-on backers of Davidovich Fokina here.
He’s only won back-to-back matches once in his last 10 tournaments and was heavily beaten by Seb Korda in Miami last time out in a match that saw ADF suffering from a back problem, so he may not be fully fit at the moment.
Coria played well in his most recent match against Jenson Brooksby in Miami in an encounter that will be remembered more for Brooksby almost getting defaulted than anything else, but I’m happy to take Coria today at 2.89/5.
One player who’s in worse form than Davidovich Fokina right now is Laslo Djere, who’s won back-to-back matches at main level just twice since last July in Gstaad in a run of 16 losses in his last 22 matches.
He’s still favourite to beat Jiri Lehecka though at around 1.654/6 and given his struggles it’s impossible to back him with any confidence at that sort of price and while Lehecka prefers hard courts it’s very possible that he could upset the out of form Djere in this one.
Yannick Hanfmann‘s two career finals at main level came at altitude and he may well find the 460m of altitude in Marrakech very suitable for his game when he takes on Carlos Taberner.
Hanfmann has beaten Taberner in both of their career meetings, but one was on hard and the other was five years ago and the German was favourite for both, so they’re not relevant, however Hanfmann is marginally ahead on the numbers.
His big serve (which will be particularly effective you feel at this slight altitude) has seen him hold 77% of the time on clay at main level this past year and he’s broken serve 24% of the time for a decent 101 total (Taberner exactly the same on 101) and post a service points won/return points won total of 101, while Taberner is on 100.
Clearly, there’s very little in it, but the altitude may give Hanfmann the edge here and Tabener has recently won a Challenger on clay so he’s perhaps a bit shorter than he should be, so Hanfmann’s worth half a point at 2.1211/10, as are Laaksonen and Coria.