World number four Dominic Thiem leads the field for the 2020 Rio Open, the latest ATP 500 event of the 2020 tennis season, with the Austrian a strong favourite in the betting odds.

Top seed Thiem has won this event before – he triumphed in 2017 with a straight sets win over Pablo Carreno Busta – and he often produces his best tennis on clay.

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The outdoor courts of the Jockey Club Brasileiro in Rio de Janeiro are the venue for this tournament, which was won by Laslo Dere a year ago. Dere beat Thiem in the first round on that occasion but the Serbian will not be back to defend his crown after withdrawing from the event. Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, who won here two years ago, is also an injury absentee.

Thiem will be looking to make amends for that shock early exit but the Australian Open finalist faces strong competition for the trophy, with 2016 winner Pablo Cuevas among the contenders.

Also present in the draw are names such as the experienced Spanish pair Albert Ramos Vinolas and Fernando Verdasco, both of whom are seeded, plus Cordoba Open champion Cristian Garin. He is one of a number of South American challengers, including the fourth seed Guido Pella, who will be hoping to go far again having reached the final here back in 2016.

It looks like a tournament with opportunities for betting, so where is the best value on offer? As per custom, we will consider the odds offered by the world’s major tennis bookmakers and consider which players offer the best value for our wagers.

Thiem the Man to Beat

Making his return to the court for the first time after his disappointing defeat to Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park, Thiem is expected to collect what would be his second Rio Open crown.

Offered at short odds for the 2020 Rio Open, the bookmakers clearly have faith in Thiem being able to shake off any rust and avoid a repeat of last year’s first-round loss.

Thiem’s clay-court performances over recent years tend to be very strong and he opens up with a clash against qualifier Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves. Thiem’s section, the top quarter of the draw, looks relatively clear for him to reach the quarter-finals without too many issues.

When he won the Rio Open a few years ago, Thiem won 10 sets without dropping any and he did not even have to go to a tie-break. Repeating that feat would be some achievement but it is clear he is the most talented player in the field by quite a large distance this week.

One player to keep an eye on in this part of the draw is Casper Ruud, who showed strong form in Buenos Aires last week but faces the challenge of going back-to-back. Ruud, a 21-year-old Norwegian who is at a career-high in the world rankings, looks set for a breakthrough 2020.

Guido Pella and Pablo Cuevas Lead Second Quarter

Cuevas, the Rio Open champion in 2016, is perhaps the most intriguing betting option from the second quarter of the draw.

He has won more matches at the Rio Open than any player in the history of the tournament, so he is clearly comfortable at this event and that can count for an awful lot on the ATP tour. Facing a qualifier first up gives Cuevas the chance to build some confidence after his quarter-final exit to Cristian Garin at the Cordoba Open earlier in the month.

Fourth seed Pella is theoretically the headliner of the second section but since reaching the 2016 final, he has struggled in this tournament and he looks susceptible to being dumped out early. Nevertheless, his clay-court experience makes the Argentine an option worth considering this week.

Verdasco, who has moved into a seeding position due to injury withdrawals, will be hoping to roll back the years having got to the final of the Rio Open in 2018, losing to Schwartzman. Compatriot Pablo Andujar is up first for Verdasco.

Can Cristian Garin Build on Cordoba Success?

The third seed at the Rio Open this week is Chilean star Cristian Garin, who is closing in on a place in the top 20 of the world rankings for the first time in his career. At 23, Garin is something of a late bloomer but wins over Cuevas and Schwartzman to win the Cordoba Open showed his ability.

Garin had an inauspicious start to the year with three defeats out of three at the ATP Cup back in January but he should not be discounted from the reckoning having claimed all three of his career titles on the ATP tour to date on outdoor clay courts.

Borna Coric, the fifth seed, is a potential quarter-final opponent for Garin. Coric has fallen away from his career-high of 12 in the world rankings but at 23 he has plenty of time to turn things around. Beating Thiem at the ATP Cup at the start of the year showed he is capable of producing big results on his day, though his last title was in 2018.

Unseeded Marco Cecchinato Out to Upset Dusan Lajovic

Arguably the most exciting first-round match is between second seed Dusan Lajovic and the unseeded Marco Cecchinato, another player to have tumbled down the world rankings.

Cecchinato was a surprise semi-finalist at the French Open in 2018 but has been unable to use that tournament as a springboard for the rest of his career.

Lajovic, meanwhile, is close to breaking into the world’s top 20 for the first time despite approaching the age of 30.

Lajovic collected a couple of wins at the Australian Open before falling to Schwartzman and the sole ATP tour title of his career so far came on the clay courts of Umag last year. The winner of the match between Lajovic and Cecchinato looks a strong bet to make it through the bottom quarter of the draw.

Rio Open Best Bets

Dominic Thiem will take some stopping this week but he does not always step up to the plate when he is a front-runner, though the chance to close in on third place in the world rankings should focus his mind. That said, his short price makes it tempting to look for more value elsewhere in the draw.

Cordoba Open winner Cristian Garin looks the pick of the bunch in the bottom half and he has a great chance of battling it out for his second clay-court title of the year, while Coric could be a threat if he is able to recapture his top form.

Alternatively, anyone willing to take on more of an outsider on an each-way basis could do worse than backing Marco Cecchinato. His first-round match with Lajovic is one to watch and the Italian is certainly capable of winning it, after which the draw would open up in his favour.

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