It is the second day of action tomorrow at the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, Morocco and we have the first rounds continuing with my match of the day coming second on Court Central with top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas taking on the home favourite wildcard Amine Ahouda. The favourite to make the second round is Ramos-Vinolas with oddsmakers giving almost no chance to Ahouda to win this match.
After some early success on the South American clay, Albert Ramos-Vinolas has had quite an underwhelming season so far not getting close the heights of his 2017. Straight after the Australian swing, he got some good wins in Davis Cup as he helped Spain to a win over Great Britain by taking down Liam Broady and Cameron Norrie. He then carried that confidence through to Quito, where he got wins over Gerald Melzer and Thiago Monteiro to reach the final which he was upset in by Robert Carballes Baena. He then took a string of disappointing and unexpected losses on his beloved clay as he went down in the Buenos Aires second round to Aljaz Bedene, the Rio Open second round to Nicolas Jarry and then the San Paulo quarterfinals to Nicolas Jarry again for the second time in as many weeks. His most recent event was the BNP Paribas Open and he was crushed in the second round by Borna Coric before Ramos-Vinolas withdrew from the Miami Open. Amina Ahouda has had a very quiet start to the year with the only events he has played being Davis Cup and two future events. In Davis Cup, he helped Morocco to a win over Georgia after he got past Nikoloz Basilashvili but then a couple of months later took a loss to Marius Copil as his nation fell to Romania. The strong edge has to go to Ramos-Vinolas as he has at least been playing tour events while Ahouda has not even been on the challenger circuit.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas has played in Marrakech twice and he has only ever got the one win from his two appearances. He made his tournament debut in 2016 and he failed to win a set on the way down to Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round. He came back again last year and after receiving a bye into the second round and he made it to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Borna Coric. It is a similar situation for Amine Ahouda as he has only played this event twice, getting just the one win from those appearances. His debut also came in 2016 and he went down in the first round to Thiemo de Bakker in straight sets. He managed to fare better last year as he won his first round before falling to Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round. These two men have very similar records at this event but I have to give the slight edge to Ramos-Vinolas because, overall, his opposition here have been tougher.
I do not know much about Amine Ahouda because of how little he has played on the tour but looking at how Albert Ramos-Vinolas has been going in recent weeks, I would give the home favourite more of a chance than the oddsmakers are. I think going out, Ramos-Vinolas will take the early lead because Ahouda is not in ATP main draw matches often so he will be nervous but after a couple of games I think will find some rhythm. I can see Ramos-Vinolas taking the break lead for 3-0 but after that Abouda will get some holds of serve but eventually, the top seed will rake the opener 6-3. I think the second set will start following a similar pattern with Ramos-Vinolas taking the early break before Ahouda calms down and starts holding serve but what will be different is, Ramos-Vinolas might get a bit nervous if he serves for the match and he will get broken back. I think that eventually a tiebreaker will be forced with Ahouda starting to pump himself up and it will be a tight one with the home favourite maybe even having set points but in the end, the class of Ramos-Vinolas will win out and he will take the 6-3, 7-6(8-6) win.