After a few weeks away from writing, we at Serving up Clutch are back with more daily tennis tips.
This week gives us a ‘warm-up’ event for the forthcoming French Open, but with 500 points on the line, and many top players not choosing to participate, there will be plenty of players seeing this as a great opportunity to improve their ranks.
Hamburg is another clay court event, and subsequently will play a lot slower than the previous events played on the American hard courts. This will have a lot of bearing on who will win this week; below are my selections for round 1.
Cristian Garin (Chi) to beat Kei Nishikori (Jap) at 1/1
This match brings together two players who are both very comfortable on a clay court. Garin is typically the more aggressive of these two players, looking to dominate the match from the back of the court with some flatter hitting at good depth; meanwhile Nishikori looks to construct points more traditionally using spin and angles to open up space to hit into, especially off of his backhand wing.
The forehand of Garin is a real weapon which has proven over the previous years on tour to be able to penetrate through even slow clay courts which is something his opponent lacks. It is also important to note that due to Nishikori’s serving issues of late (especially behind his 2nd serve), Garin should have plenty of opportunities to open up his forehand early in a rally and get on top of the points. Providing Garin can stay in control of the baseline exchanges, he should be able to dominate this match and exploit the ‘semi-negative’ style of the Japanese competitor.
The main stumbling block in this match may come however from Garin’s backhand. Nishikori possesses one of the most potent backhands on the ATP tour, and when it is firing it is truly a weapon. Garin’s biggest weakness by contrast is his backhand, and if the match finds itself being played on the backhand cross-court then it may swing in the way of Nishikori. Due to the above point about Nishikori’s serve however, it seems unlikely that this will be a frequently occurring pattern of play for the match, and as an underdog Garin should be considered as value.
Gael Monfils (Fra) to beat Yannick Hanfmann (Ger) at 5/6
Gael Monfils is quite simply the more talented player when it comes to analysing this match-up. He has the possibility to adapt his game to however he is required to play, and is also the fastest player on tour enabling him to make a high number of balls per rally if required. This asset will match him well against the more aggressive Hanfmann, who may struggle to hit as many winners as he usually would and definitely will not receive as many free points behind his first serve.
Hanfmann usually spends most of the year competing (somewhat successfully) on the challenger tour, but following from a final in the 250 event in Kitzbuhel is making another main draw appearance in Hamburg. Its hard not to consider his recent success in this match (and also Monfils’ lack of match time and poor performance last week against Dominic Koepfer), but ultimately this match should be viewed in isolation. The odds placing this match as a ‘dead-heat’, will likely be based on the results of the previous week and therefore this match should present value for the otherwise obvious favourite in Gael Monfils.
Ultimately this match will be won by the player who can keep their error count low; and given Monfils is the far more steady of the two it should favour the Frenchman. The match will be on the racket of the German however as he is the aggressor, but for the above reasoning it is tough to look past Monfils in tomorrows encounter.
Felix Auger Aliassime (Can) to beat Lorenzo Sonego (Ita) 2-0 at 11/10
This match puts two younger players up against each other in the opening round of Hamburg this week. Since joining on the main tour, both players have had success and both predominantly used the clay court events on tour to begin their ‘breakthroughs’. It cannot be disputed however that in the last 1-2 years, Felix has had much more success than the Italian, and especially on the back of the US Open success that the Canadian has had, it is tough to overlook him in this match.
Lorenzo Sonego frequently looks to dominate matches from the back of the court, but in tomorrows encounter he will not be able to do this and will be forced on the back foot due to the hyper aggressive nature from the young Canadian. Sonego does have the ability to play defensive tennis, but by nature when he finds himself playing matches on the back foot it usually will result in a loss. Auger-Aliassime possesses a lethal serve and a very powerful forehand which he can produce from all depths on the court. Sonego by contrast does not possess this ‘easy power’ and usually requires court control (being inside the baseline) in order to utilise his big strengths.
This match on paper therefore seems very one sided, and ultimately could end up being a ‘romp’. It could be much tighter in scoreline if the Italian produces a good serving display, but ultimately it should be a straight set win for Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Felix Auger Aliassime 2-0, Garin and Monfils at 15.2/1.
It is unusual that the accumulator selected would just be a carbon copy of the singles, but due to the impressive value of these three matches and (in our eyes at serving up clutch) likelihood of success in these battles for the above names, the huge 15.2/1 treble seems like unmissable value.