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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

All eyes on Roger Federer in bid for return to summit

Rublev could shine in bottom half of Rotterdam draw

Roger Federer is chasing the world number one ranking
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ATP Rotterdam
Roger Federer will be the centre of attention in Rotterdam this week as he bids to overhaul Rafael Nadal at the top of the ATP rankings and become the oldest world number one in the history of the men’s game.

Federer has not been at the summit since November 2012 but he needs only to reach the semi-finals to earn the required ranking points.

He is set to face Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals and Federer’s great friend, who is still working his way back to fitness, is unlikely to stop him.

Federer is by far the likeliest winner, but he’s priced as such and could meet Alexander Zverev in a blockbuster semi-final.

Instead, look to the bottom half of the draw which could provide each-way value in the form of Andrey Rublev.

The young Russian is capable of taking advantage of any fatigue in the game of Lucas Pouille, who won the Open Sud de France yesterday, in his first-round tie.

Grigor Dimitrov is also in the bottom half but the stylish Bulgarian has been struggling with a shoulder injury following a lacklustre display in his Australian Open quarter-final defeat against Kyle Edmund.

David Goffin and Thomas Berdych are the other seeds in that half and both were beaten by Rublev last season.

A Rublev
1pt each-way 33-1 general

ATP New York Open
Kei Nishikori took the surprising yet sensible decision to return to tennis in a low-key Challenger Tour event and the Japanese player’s pragmatism can be rewarded in his first ATP Tour event since his injury comeback with a victory in the New York Open.

The new tournament, which replaced the Memphis Open, will be played on a wooden court described as ‘medium to fast’, which should suit Nishikori, who was a four-time champion in Memphis.

He clearly targets this time of year and his Dallas Challenger victory should have tuned him up ahead of a tilt at the Big Apple event.

K Nishikori
2pts 9-2 general

ATP Argentina Open
The ATP Tour’s clay specialists journey to Buenos Aires for the second leg of the Golden Swing and Dominic Thiem could justify short odds to add another title to his growing collection.

The Austrian produced some poor hard-court performances towards the end of last season, due in no small part to his perplexing schedule, but he’s a brilliant clay-courter who will have benefited from a few weeks of post-Melbourne rest.

The 2016 Argentina champion was the only player to beat Rafael Nadal on the red dirt last season, earning his second win against the King of Clay with a victory at the Rome Masters.

D Thiem
2pts 5-2 bet365

WTA Qatar Total Open
The WTA stars are out in force in Doha for this Premier 5 tournament, including Aussie Open queen Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep, who she defeated in an epic Melbourne final.

Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova and Garbine Muguruza are among the Grand Slam winners in the field but there have been some big-priced winners of this tournament in recent years and perhaps Kristina Mladenovic can add to the trend.

Mladenovic went through a rotten run of form, failing to win a match for six months before coming back to form in St Petersburg two weeks ago.

She then produced more great tennis to win two Fed Cup singles rubbers for France against Belgium before winning the tie in the doubles decider.

If she hot-foots it to Qatar, Kiki could take some stopping.

K Mladenovic
1pt each-way 40-1 general

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Federer is by far the likeliest winner, but he’s priced as such and could meet Alexander Zverev in a blockbuster semi-final
E.W. Terms
Sky bet