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This is an Olympic year so the schedule is jammed up in places and this is one of those places. We have four tournaments this week, three on clay and one on grass. We’ll have three more clay court and one hard court event next week. After that, the U.S. hard court season kicks into high gear with two straight Masters Series events. Notice that the tournaments this week have 28 players, not 32, because there are not enough players to go around. That means the top four seeds gets a bye in the first round.

Stuttgart (clay, first prize: $181, 538)
Gstaad (clay, first prize: $100, 000)
Bastad (clay, first prize: $83, 461)
Newport (grass, first prize: $64, 000)

As you can see, Stuttgart is paying three times as much as Newport and twice as much as Bastad. We need eight singles players for our fantasy team so let’s take three players from Stuttgart, two each from Gstaad and Bastad, and one player from Newport to maximize our prize money.

Stuttgart

Stuttgart is usually played next week so I’m surprised that Rafael Nadal is in this draw. If he does turn up, it should be a cakewalk to the semifinals because he has three wildcards in his quarter. Last year I used Nadal for this tournament because the prize money is so high and there were no clay court events in the fantasy tennis schedule. This year I’m saving him for the remaining Masters events and the U.S. Open. Remember, you can only use each player five times during the season.

Philipp Kohlschreiber and Simone Bolelli have similar results on clay this year. Kohlschreiber has a victory over David Ferrer on clay and Bolelli has a victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu. Kohlschreiber is the slightly stronger player so I’ll go with him.

Nicolas Almagro was in the final at Bastad last year but he’s never done much here. And Agustin Calleri beat him in Bastad two years ago, but Almagro reached the quarterfinals in two of the three clay Masters events and the French Open so he’s the obvious choice.

The last quarter is tough to pick because Richard Gasquet has played terribly on clay this year. Jose Acasuso plays Albert Montanes in the first round and Montanes beat him in Hamburg, but it was the first time he’d beaten him in five tries so that’s a tossup. Gasquet is the better pick because he has two qualifiers in his section, but should I use him this week or save him for the remaining Masters and slam events? He’s had a final at the Canadian Masters and a semifinal in Paris, but he’s never been past the fourth round at the U.S. Open. I can use him three more times so I’ll use him here and save him for two remaining events.

I’m picking Kohlschreiber, Almagro, and Gasquet.

Gstaad

Martin Vassallo-Arguello reached the quarterfinals last year and beat Stanislaw Wawrinka in the first round. But Vassallo-Arguello hasn’t gone past the second round of an ATP event this year and Wawrinka had a final in Rome and semifinal in Barcelona and he reached the final at Stuttgart last year where he beat Guillermo Canas. Wawrinka looks like a good bet to win this event.

Andreas Seppi reached the final last year and Ivo Karlovic has never done much in this part of the ATP calendar, so Seppi should get to the semifinals. And he’s 3-0 over Wawrinka with two of those wins on clay. It’s tough to pick between Wawrinka and Seppi because I like to favor head to head records and Seppi also has a semifinal at Hamburg this year, but those wins over Wawrinka were 2006 and earlier and Wawrinka has worked his way into the top ten, so I’ll give him the edge over Seppi.

In the next quarter, there’s another problem for Wawrinka. Nicolas Kiefer beat him in straight sets in Hamburg. But neither Kiefer nor Mikhail Youzhny has played much on clay this year so I’m picking my second player from the bottom quarter.

This is the fourth straight week that Mathieu and Marin Cilic will play each other. Mathieu lost two of the last three matches on grass and he beat Cilic on clay in Munich, though it took three sets. I’m concerned enough about this matchup to pick Igor Andreev even though Mathieu won this event last year. Mathieu isn’t doing well on clay and Andreev isn’t doing a whole lot better, but he has some quality wins and Mathieu doesn’t. And Andreev reached the semifinals here last year.

I’m picking Wawrinka and Andreev.

Bastad

Ferrer is the defending champion but Robin Soderling has a 4-1 record over him. They’re 1-1 on clay and Ferrer is the better clay court payer. It looks to me like Ferrer can win this tournament again but it’s not worth wasting him here because he can make much more prize money at the U.S. Open and one of the fall Masters events.

Jarkko Nieminen is having a terrible year on clay so let’s look at Ernests Gulbis and Tommy Robredo. Gulbis beat Robredo on hard court at the U.S. Open last year and he reached the quarterfinals of the French Open (though he didn’t beat any big names to get there). Robredo is 19-7 on clay while Gulbis is 6-5 so Robredo should get to the semifinals where he’ll lose to Ferrer who has beaten him twice this year.

Carlos Moya lost in the first round of the French Open and that’s the fifth time this year he’s done that in a clay event. Tomas Berdych hasn’t played well since coming back from injury and Marat Safin has beaten him twice this year on clay. Except for a quarterfinal at Valencia, Potito Starace hasn’t gone past the second round in a clay event, so Safin has a good chance to reach the semifinals.

The bottom quarter has two wildcards ranked below 300 so Gael Monfils, who beat Fernando Verdasco in Monte Carlo this year and is 2-0 over both Filippo Volandri and Marat Safin, is a good bet to reach the final and he just beat Ferrer at the French Open.

I’m taking Robredo and Monfils.

Newport

Mardy Fish reached the third round at Queen’s Club on grass before retiring. He lost in the first round at the French Open to Richard Gasquet but there’s not much shame in that. Prakash Amritraj reached the quarterfinals here last year but it’s doubtful that he’ll get past Joseph Sirianni.

Frank Dancevic should be able to take out Taylor Dent who is making his first ATP appearance since 2006. Dancevic won the grass challenger at Surbiton and beat David Nalbandian at Wimbledon but I don’t think he can beat Fish.

Nicolas Mahut and Vince Spadea look the most promising in the third quarter. Spadea has reached two quarterfinals and a final here and Mahut reached the final last year. I think Mahut can take out Spadea this year but both of them would probably lose to Fabrice Santoro who is in the bottom quarter and beat Mahut to win this event last year.

I don’t think Santoro can repeat and I only need one player from this draw so I’m picking Fish.

Picks

My picks this week are: Kohlschreiber, Almagro, Gasquet, Wawrinka, Andreev, Robredo, Monfils, and Fish.

Happy fantasies!

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