Finding ATP Betting Value on Wednesday’s Clay Card
After a week off for Davis Cup play, the ATP Tour returned to action this week with two clay court tournaments: one in Marrakech and one on the American clay (or dirt) of Houston.
We have now fully shifted gears into the clay season, which will remain the focus through the end of the French Open in June. While Marrakech plays a lot closer to the types of red dirt you see on most European clay courts, the dirt in Houston is, more or less, your standard American clay. That means players slide less and get a little more help on their serve.
Today, I will take a look at the following four matches that I think hold betting value:
- Roberto Carballes Baena vs. Gilles Simon -125 | 7 a.m. ET
- Denis Kudla vs. Ivo Karlovic -105 | 2:30 p.m. ET
- Tennys Sandgren vs. Nicolas Kicker (-135) | 1 p.m. ET
- Guido Pella vs. Sam Querrey (-140) | 4 p.m. ET
Let’s dig into the dirt.
Denis Kudla vs. Ivo Karlovic (-105)
When: Not before 2:30 p.m. EST
While Americans generally aren’t known for their clay prowess, they tend to fare well in Houston. Jack Sock, John Isner and Stevie Johnson (who all get their best results on quicker hard courts) have all captured a title here over the past five years.
American Denis Kudla comes into this match against Ivo Karlovic (pictured above) in good form, having won 13 of his past 15 matches (most at the Challenger level). It’s hard to dispute that he’s the more in-form player, as Karlovic has struggled of late, losing four of his past five matches. On this particular surface, I think there’s a lot of value at this price with Kudla, who has the game to neutralize big servers.
In the qualifying rounds at Houston, Kudla faced another big server — albeit not as big as Dr. Ivo — in Reilly Opelka. He handled his serve well, breaking Opelka three times in the match. That’s a promising sign for today. Clay should give Kudla a boost against Ivo’s serve, and unless Ivo is bombing aces, Kudla will have the edge in any extended rallies.
The two have played once on clay in the past, which Kudla won in three sets. Since that match, Karlovic is just 7-7 on the dirt; I think he’ll have his hands full here. After coming through Fernando Verdasco in the first round, Kudla can springboard off his early success and make a run at this tournament with the crowd behind him.
THE PICK: Denis Kudla -115
Roberto Carballes Baena vs. Gilles Simon (-125)
Where: Marrakech, Morocco
When: Not before 7:30 a.m. EST
I like Carballes Baena in a matchup of two players with similar defensive styles. RCB definitely comes into this one in better form, as he has posted much more consistent results all season, including a clay tournament win at Quito.
Simon has been reeling this year, having now lost four of his past six matches (including a trip down to the Challenger level). At this point in his career, he has really lost his touch from the offensive side — and his once error-free ways have quickly turned error-prone. RCB, like many of his Spanish compatriots, plays his best tennis on clay. I simply don’t think Simon, if forced to play offense, can win this match on the front foot.
Frankly, I’m a bit surprised to see RCB listed as an underdog. Considering I make him a slight favorite (-130ish), I’ll gladly roll the dice on RCB to outpush the consummate pusher. Give me the Spaniard at plus-money.
THE PICK: Roberto Carballes Baena +105
Guido Pella vs. Sam Querrey (-140)
When: Not before 4 p.m. EST
I was hoping to see Pella open around +150, but the oddsmakers put out a pretty sharp line. Having said that, I still see some value at +127 against the home “favorite,” Querrey. I really like the game of Pella, who is just so solid from either wing. I also love how he mixes his styles between punch first and counterpunch. I think he’ll apply too much pressure for Querrey, who doesn’t fancy the clay. Unless Querrey brings his A-game, I expect the unforced errors to pile up. Pella will also have the advantage of already playing seven clay matches in 2018, including an easy win here at Houston in the first round. Meanwhile, this will mark Querrey’s first clay match since he lost in the first round of the French Open in May 2017.
THE PICK: Guido Pella +127
Tennys Sandgren vs. Nicolas Kicker (-135)
When: 1 p.m. ET
I like Sandgren at this price on the American dirt, a surface he’s played on frequently over the years (almost exclusively) at the Challenger level. Both players post impressive results on clay (again, mainly at the Challenger level), but Sandgren as a home dog is too enticing for me to pass on in a match I have as a true coin flip. I think the American will grind Kicker down and continue his early season success. Sandgren also won the only match the two have played, which came last season on the clay at the Challenger level.
THE PICK: Tennys Sandgren +115
Photo via Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports