Round two of the Grand Prix Hassan II and the US Men’s Clay Court Championships is scheduled to complete on Thursday, with six matches on the card in Marrakech and 10 in Houston.
In Marrakech, I wonder if this is going to be another of those out of nowhere streaky weeks that Joao Sousa sometimes has?
On the stats he had little chance of beating Federico Delbonis the other day, but he did it reasonably comfortably in the end and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he were to carry on his winning ways against the durable but limited Roberto Carballes Baena.
RCB has won the last three of their career meetings and that fact combined with Sousa’s generally awful form over the last couple of years makes the Spaniard clear favourite for this one, but Sousa showed us all in Pune that once he gets going he still has the ability to be a force at ATP 250 level.
RCB just about did enough against the out of form Marco Cecchinato, who landed the +3.5 game handicap for us in their round one clash, but if Sousa is going to be playing his best tennis this week the price on RCB is much too short and worth a small play on Sousa at 2.962/1.
Another streaky sort is Mirza Basic, who prior to this week hadn’t won on the main tour since Moscow in 2018.
Basic’s best spell on the tour came in a streak towards the end of 2017 through to the start of February 2018 when he made the semis in Moscow, the quarters in Doha and won the title in Sofia as a qualifier.
Since that title-winning day in Sofia, Basic had gone 5-18 at main level and until he beat Kamil Majchrzak from a set and a break down on Wednesday he hadn’t won at main level since February 2019.
Now he faces Federico Coria, who beat him as a 1.454/9 favourite in their only career clash, which came on clay at the Milan Challenger last summer.
On paper, Coria should win that one, but I wouldn’t be backing Coria at around 1.402/5 given Basic’s propensity to pop up and play great tennis from seemingly nowhere.
Felix Auger-Aliassime has been waxing lyrical about how much he loves playing in Africa and has been laying it on a bit thick this week already:
“Of course, I think everybody knows now that I have my girlfriend and some family that’s from here. Of course, to play also on the African continent, it’s the only tournament we have on the Tour that’s played here on this continent, so that’s special for me. It’s awesome to be here, honestly. I’m loving every minute to play in this mythical place.”
I must admit, I did not know that his girlfriend is from (presumably) Morocco, but there we are, he’s apparently going to be putting a good effort in this week by all accounts.
He faces Alex Molcan, who as a lefty and a bit of a grinder, can make FAA work hard for this and if we look at the clay stats of this pair over the last 12 months at main level it’s Molcan whose numbers are better – much better.
On return, Molcan has been very good, breaking 38% of the time and combined with 79% holds that’s an excellent and probably unsustainable hold/break total of 117 and as far as service points/return points won is concerned his total is 107.
FAA can only manage a hold/break total of 102 and a combined service/return points won total of 101, so on those numbers Molcan should be favourite, but Molcan has only played eight matches, so it’s a small sample size.
Plus, the average ranking of the players he’s faced in those eight matches is 168 (he’s played number one Djokovic and the world number 672) so Molcan’s stats right now are as good as he’ll ever get and will go down soon enough.
FAA has faced eight lefties on clay at main level in his career so far and he’s 3-5 win/loss and he’s been beaten by Delbonis and Yoshihito Nishioka within the last 18 months on clay, so I’m as unconvinced about Felix here as the layers are.
Molcan is unproven against the better players, with a 0-5 record so far versus top-20 opponents and zero sets won in those five matches, so I’ll pass on this one, as tempting as it is to take on FAA on clay
He’s rated a 1.384/11 chance and in the price range of 1.3130/100 to 1.491/2 FAA has a 1-2 losing record on clay at main level and an 18-7 win/loss mark on all surfaces (11-6 in his last 17).
Molcan is unproven against the better players, with a 0-5 record so far versus top-20 opponents and zero sets won in those five matches (all played within the last 11 months) so I’ll pass on this one, as tempting as it is to take on FAA on clay.
If Richard Gasquet is fit after a long slog in heavy conditions against Henri Laaksonen on Tuesday he should be too classy for Pavel Kotov, who was getting outplayed by Tallon Griekspoor until the wheels really came off for the Dutchman (not for the first time).
Kotov was simply waiting for Griekspoor to miss in the latter stages of that match – and it usually didn’t take more than three or four shots for Griekspoor to oblige with the error, often going far too close to the lines unnecessarily.
A fit Gasquet (but it’s anyone’s guess on any given day whether or not he’s fit for duty) should be winning that one.
Tabilo can prove a difficult opener for Fritz in Houston
I’m not sure how fit and ready Taylor Fritz is this week after his exertions at Indian Wells and Miami (and an injury scare ahead of the Indian Wells final) and he may be vulnerable first up here in Houston against Alejandro Tabilo.
Fritz made the semis here in 2018, but the last time he played here in 2019 he lost first up to Marcel Granollers and this looks a tough opening match for Fritz against an opponent who’s had a match to get used to this unusual clay surface in Houston.
Tabilo will look to get it up high to the Fritz backhand with his lefty forehand and that might prove to be too much for Fritz to handle combined with the switch of surfaces from hard to clay.
This is an opportunity for Tabilo and if he handles the noisy, pro-American crowd at the River Oaks Country Club he can cause an upset here
Fritz has played only four career matches at main level versus left-handers and he won’t forget the most recent one when he was beaten by Dominik Koepfer at the French Open and left the court in a wheelchair.
This is an opportunity for Tabilo and if he handles the noisy, pro-American crowd at the River Oaks Country Club he can cause an upset here.
His stats over the last 12 months on clay at main level are excellent (hold/break total of 114 and combined serve/return points won total of 108) so I’ll take a point on him at around 2.3811/8.
I’m still not convinced about Cristian Garin after the Chilean should have been beaten by Jack Sock in round one (Sock led by a double break in the decider) and I wouldn’t be shocked if he lost to Jordan Thompson, but I’m not the biggest fan of Thompson (especially on clay), so I’ll pass on that one.
Pablo Cuevas hasn’t done much lately at main level, with a 3-7 record in his last 10 matches on clay, but he’s still not far behind the numbers of Frances Tiafoe in the American’s last 10 main level matches on the dirt.
Tiafoe is just one percent better in his service points won/return points won stats than Cuevas and five percent better in his hold/break total, so you couldn’t rule Cuevas out of this one at all, but he doesn’t win much against the better players these days.
Cuevas is 2-14 in his last 16 main level matches versus top-30 opponents and 2-8 on clay in his last 10 main level matches against top-30 ranked opposition, so he’s not for me today at a price like 2.767/4.
So, lots of matches on today, but I’ll take half a point on Sousa and one point on Tabilo on Thursday.