Andy Murray won his second ATP Masters 1000 Series title of the 2016 season at Shanghai yesterday beating Roberto Bautista Agut in the final 7-6 6-1 and the win was significant as it closed the gap on Djokovic in the ATP Rankings race to 915 points. Shanghai was Murray’s 13th Masters Series title in total and with three ATP tournaments remaining for him this season, including the Paris Masters, we could witness an epic showdown for the number one spot at the Year End Tour Finals in London.
On to this week’s action and there are three ATP 250 Tour tournaments to focus on at Stockholm, Moscow and a new event introduced to the ATP Tour, the European Open in Antwerp. Defending champion and three time Stockholm winner, Tomas Berdych, does not return to defend his title this year but the event has still attracted a competitive field with the likes of in-form players like top seed Monfils, Juan Martin Del Potro, Grigor Dimitrov (seeded 2), Alexander Zverev (4), Jack Sock (6) and Ivo Karlovic (3).
The top seed has a strong record at Stockholm winning five of the last ten titles (last Berdych 2015) and they were also a losing finalist twice in this period (last 2013 Ferrer), which bodes well for 2011 winner Gael Monfils’s (5/1) chances this week. Monfils, who is in pole position to qualify for his first Year End Tour Finals, has won four indoor ATP titles, has been a losing finalist eight times and has won 105 of 155 ATP indoor matches. He has a winning record against some of the main dangers like Zverev, Johnson, Sock and Muller and if he can replicate his best indoor form he has every chance of winning a second Stockholm title this week.
The bottom half of the draw is headed by second seed 2013 winner Grigor Dimitrov who has been in decent form in recent months. The second seed has won two of the last ten titles at Stockholm (last Berdych 2012) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (Dimitrov 2014). Dimitrov has a winning record against all the seeds and main dangers in his half of the draw, but has a losing 3-0 head-to-head record against tournament favourite and Wild Card Juan Martin Del Potro (4/1).
Del Potro has won five ATP indoor titles, was a losing finalist in three others and has won 83 of his 132 ATP matches indoors and, if he can reproduce that winning form this week, he has every chance of winning a sixth indoor and first Stockholm title this week.
Last year’s champion and two time Moscow winner Marin Cilic does not return to defend his title this season and the tournament has attracted a weak field compared to previous years. There are no top 10 players lining up this week and only one former winner in the form of fourth seed Victor Troicki who lifted the title back in 2010. Top seed Bautista Agut has been a losing finalist in the last two years.
The top seed has a strong record at Moscow winning five of the last ten titles (last Cilic in 2015) and they were never a losing finalist in this period. Also, a player seeded no higher than three won eight of the last ten titles, which could bode well for the chances of Bautista Agut and third seed and 2015 semi-finalist Philip Kohlschreiber this week as they both have good records indoor and at this level. However, Bautista Agut does not appeal as he reached the final at Shanghai last week and could be fatigued after his tough exploits and long-hauls fligh and neither does Kohlschreiber as his form has been poor since he picked up injuries during the summer.
From the top half of the draw fourth seed Victor Troicki (7/1) appeals the most as he’s won one ATP indoor title, has been a losing finalist three times indoors and has won 64 of his 111 ATP indoor matches. Next Generation star Karen Khachanov (14/1) also appeals as he came of age and proved his evident top class talent winning his first ATP title at Chengdu recently. He has already beaten top-seed Bautista Agut at Barcelona and fourth seed Troicki at Chengdu this season, and back on home soil on his favoured hard courts and cheered on by home fans he looks more than capable of springing another surprise win this week.
From the bottom half of the draw another home grown player eighth seed and 2015 quarter-finalist Andrey Kuznetsov (7/1) could be verging on making his first ATP final at the age of 25. Kuznetsov definitely has the talent to reach the final in what looks like a weak half of the draw. He has winning form against second seed Ramos-Vinolas and seventh seed Lorenzi and with third seed Kohlschreiber’s form being disappointing of late it’s worth siding with the young Russian in hope that he can at least reach his first ATP final this week.
As mentioned above the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium is a new ATP tournament and with no historical data to help analyse the event and no prices available at the time of writing I will leave this tournament for now and give an update and maybe outright selection midweek.