Qatar Open Betting: Murray should be the man this week (By Betfair.com)

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Qatar Open Betting: Murray should be the man this week

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This week the Big 3 of Federer, Nadal and Murray are all in action at the Qatar Open but it speaks volumes of Andy Murray's progess that Sean Calvert makes him the man to beat this week.
The self proclaimed World Tennis Championships heralded a losing start to 2009 with Andy Roddick's poor effort in Abu Dhabi, but the ATP Tour begins in earnest this week with the million dollar Qatar Open.

Andy Murray began the new season pretty much where he left off in 2008 by defeating Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal to take the title in Abu Dhabi and he makes the short trip to nearby Qatar as very much the man to beat.

The Scot is defending his title here after last year's victory over Stanislas Wawrinka gave him his first title of 2008 and Murray is clearly a much improved player to 12 months ago.

Murray (3.5) finds himself in the bottom half of the draw where he is once again paired with Federer (3.5) and in truth very little else in a lopsided draw that sees four of the world's top 20 in the opposite section.

The Scot begins with what should be a straightforward task against diminutive Spaniard, Albert Montanes and then may have a couple of first time ATP Tour winners from 2008 to contend with in Philipp Petzschner ([150]) and Sergiy Stakhovsky ([300]).

Murray will fear little from either though and a more likely opponent is Dmitry Tursunov (50.0) and Murray's 5-0 head-to-head record clearly illustrates the dominance that the Scot has over the Russian number seven seed.

Federer has an impressive record of his own in this event, having chalked up 12 victories in 13 matches in Doha, with his solitary loss coming at the hands of Jan-Michael Gambill (remember him?) in 2002.

The pair should meet in the semi finals here and Murray will fancy it, having won four out of their last five meetings.

In the top half, Nadal (3.0) is joined by Roddick (15.0), Gael Monfils (26.0), Igor Andreev (34.0) and Mikhail Youzhny (41.0) and the world number one starts with his first and quite possibly last meeting with Fabrice 'The Magician' Santoro [200].

This could be one of the slowest and perhaps most intriguing matches of 2009 and Nadal should beware the statistical omens on this one.

Santoro has so far beaten 17 world number ones during his long and illustrious career (including Federer twice) and the French veteran also took the title here in 2000. Santoro would surely love to add Nadal's name to that star studded list before he finally retires.

The Spaniard, it appears, has finally seen the light and dispensed with those awful long legged trousers that he's sported since practically the dawn of time, which has to be good news for fashion in 2009.

He is seeded to face Monfils, who Nadal has never dropped a set to in three career meetings, before a semi final with the winner of the tournament's most competitive quarter, which houses Roddick (15.0), Andreev (34.0), Youzhny (41.0), Victor Hanescu (150.0) and Viktor Troicki (126.0).

This section would appear to be something of a lottery, with perhaps Troicki being the best of the outsiders if you fancy a speculative punt.

The young Serb halved his ranking last year and if he continues his steady progress he is set to break into the top 50 sooner rather than later this season, so he's worth keeping an eye on in ATP World Tour 250 events such as this, but winning here seems too much of a task just now.

As is the norm, any event with Federer, Nadal and Murray in the field will almost certainly be won by one of them and on current form, Murray is the one to be on.

The Dunblane kid has shown an encouraging tendency to favour certain events, such as San Jose, St Petersburg and here in Doha and he has seemingly removed the frustrating aspects of his game with relative ease, so therefore he simply must be backed while he's hot.

His winter conditioning programme seems to be paying off handsomely and right now he has the measure of the world's top two players.

Nadal never seems to play well in the early stages of the season and last year his first tournament success came in Monaco in April, while Federer usually tends to show good form early, but his first victory also came in April in 2008, although he would no doubt claim illness as the reason for that.

So in conclusion, all the evidence points to Murray retaining his title and Nadal might just be worth an early lay in his first clash with the unusual style of the top-dog-slaying Santoro.

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