Benoit’s balls, Polona’s swag, Anisimova & Garin join the newbies club.

Pablo Andujar came into Marrakech as the three times champion (though twice when it was held in Casablanca) and last years defending champion. The Spaniard has also been in fine form the last few weeks with back-to-back Challenger wins in Marbella and Alicante. His run continued with wins over Delbonis, Kohlschreiber, Vesely (walkover) and Gilles Simon (6/1 6/1) to a make the final. The problem was that he ran into an inspired Benoit Paire there. The Frenchman had lost to Andujar in the final in Marbella but he was generally in very good form last week. Paire had to come from behind against Aljaz Bedene and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga on the way. He certainly impressed in his wins over Jaume Munar and Andujar. Munar had taken out Sascha Zverev in the previous round but wasn’t quite as ‘at it’ against Paire, who steamrollered past him. The good news for me was that I had put Paire in my weekly permutations at 28/1 (I was late with my bets this week and got involved on Tuesday).

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Christian Garin won on the faster green clay in Houston. The Chilean rolling back the years of Fernando Gonzalez and Nico Massu. Garin won the French Open Juniors back in 2013 and has now won his first tour title, having already made the final in Sao Paolo in February. Taking out the unseeded Pablo Cuevas and second seed Jeremy Chardy in the first two rounds was the catalyst here, saving five match points against Chardy in total. Laaksonen and Querrey were then brushed aside in straights and then a hard-fought three-set win over Casper Ruud in the final followed. The 20-year-old Norwegian has also impressed so far this season and his run to the final here included a three-set win over Reilly Opelka and a 6/1 6/0 win over former champion Marcel Granollers. Both finalists are going under the radar in comparison to Zverev, Tsitsipas, FAA, Coric and Shapovalov etc but they are useful. Top seed and defending champion, Steve Johnson lost his opener to Daniel Galan. Cameron Norrie lost to Janko Tipsarevic, the Serb has done pretty well since his comeback and made the last eight here. The conditions were slower than usual this year with wind and rain playing their part. The good news was I had both Ruud and Garin in the perms, even though both were only 10/1 when I placed the bet. One more and it can be a decent return…

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Amanda Anisimova also won her first tour title. The 17-year-old was pretty hot and cold in Bogota all week but stuck at it and gritted it out. She went the distance in four of her five matches and had ankle problems against Beatriz Haddad Maia in the semis, a match that lasted over two hours and forty minutes. In the final, she came from a set and a break down against Astra Sharma. The powerful Aussie had already beaten Shelby Rogers and Lara Arruabarrena in the last four. Haddad Maia and Arrubarrena were two of my bets, so close but no cigar there. Two interesting bits that emerged from Colombia were that Jelena Ostapenko seems to be at rock bottom in the confidence department, after her loss to Wildcard Maria Camila Osorio Serrano. Serrano eventually losing to the champion in the quarters. The second bit is that Sara Errani served underarm a fair amount of the week, even throwing in double faults in the process. The one time French Open runner-up was a Lucky Loser here and still made the last eight.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova played in her first event since September in Lugano, she lost in the quarters to Kristyna Pliskova. Great to have her back, good effort. Top player. It was Polona Hercog who won her third career title though, her first since July 2012. She was a member of my blog a year and a half ago 10 Female Players with Swag- Without Serena! There is no doubt that she deserved this by taking out second-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, Sorana Cirstea and Iga Swiatek. 17-year-old Swiatek had made the final here with some top performances, beating Kristyna Pliskova 6/0 6/1 in the last four, that was her standout performance. She was last years Junior Wimbledon Champion, so it will be interesting to see how quick she can rise up the rankings. In terms of my bets, I wasn’t even close here, so no complaints. Though Hercog is my kind of player in these events, I swerved her on this occasion to my cost.

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Andy Del Potro

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