Last week’s ATP tennis action at Metz and St Petersburg produced plenty of high quality action and surprises and, as predicted, the top two seeds at both tournaments, Bautista Agut, Tsonga, Carreno-Busta and Goffin all struggled and failed to reach the final or win their respective events.
At Metz qualifier Peter Gojowcyzk from Germany defeated home hope and seventh seed Paire in Sunday’s final. He became the first qualifier to win an ATP tournament since Mahut won 's-Hertogenbosch back in 2015, the first German winner in the event’s history and the first qualifier to win over the last decade. It’s slightly frustrating that Gojowcyzk won and I’m kicking myself for missing him as I tipped him at Newport recently at big odds where he made the semi-finals and he was still on my radar.
Fortunately, I made up for missing Gojowczyk by tipping Damir Dzumhur (25/1) to win St Petersburg and he duly delivered to land his maiden ATP title coming from a set down to beat veteran Fognini. He also created history by becoming the first ever player from Bosnia and Herzegovina to win an ATP title.
On to this week’s ATP action and there are two 250 outdoor hardcourt tournaments to focus on in China at Chengdu and Shenzen that kick off the Asian swing that culminates with the Shanghai Masters in a few weeks’ time. Chengdu is a new event that commenced last year and was won by NextGen star Khachanov, who defeated fifth seed Ramos-Vinolas in the final. Shenzen, which is also a new event that has been running since 2014, was won the last two seasons by Berdych, but the Czech number one does not return to defend his title this year and, with 2014 winner Murray not playing, we will be guaranteed a new winner this year.
Shenzen has three years of historical data and it has been dominated by the top seeds up to now with Berdych as the top-seed winning the last two titles and Murray winning in 2014 as second seed. The three finalists were also higher seeds as well with Gasquet seeded three losing in last year’s final, Garcia-Lopez seeded four losing the 2015 final and fourth seed Robredo losing the 2014 final.
Top seed Alexander Zverev is the tournament favourite. He should be raring to go this week and I imagine he will be very difficult to beat given his hard court form this year. I would be happy to advise him but he does not appeal at odds of less than 2/1 and I will bide my time and see if he’s a decent price for the Shanghai Masters that should be a high priority for him.
At Chengdu top seed Thiem is the favorite to win this week’s title, but his hard court form over the summer did not inspire confidence and he’s worth opposing. Defending champion and third Khachanov returns to defend his title but I don’t think he’s playing well enough to repeat his 2016 form this week. From the top half of the draw qualifier the unseeded Fritz (25/1) could spring a surprise this week as he’s got a winning record on hard courts at this level and on the Challenger Tour this season, he’s been knocking on the door at this level recently reaching the quarter-finals at Los Cabos and Winston Salem and he won his two qualifying matches at a canter at the weekend.
From the bottom half of the draw fifth seed Sugita (22/1) is having a great year so far having already won his maiden ATP Tour title on grass at Antalya during the summer. He’s an experienced pro, a prolific winner on hard courts at challenger level and proved he can transfer that to ATP level by reaching the quarter finals at the Cincinnati Masters this summer. If he can produce his best hard court form this week he will be difficult to beat and with no major stars or form players in his path to the final he could spring a surprise at decent odds.
Sixth seed Kyle Edmund could be a danger from the bottom half of the draw and is more than capable of winning a title of this nature but there’s no guarantees he’s fully recovered from the neck injury that cost him his US Open place and I can’t advise him as a result. Third seed and defending champion Khachanov is out of form and has a losing record on hard courts this season so i don’t think he’ll be challenging for the title from the bottom half of the draw.
One player who could spring a surprise at big odds this week is the unseeded Lajovic (40/1) from the bottom half of the draw. He’s more at home on clay but looked comfortable enough on hard courts against Nadal in the first round of the US Open and the score line flattered Nadal in that match as the young Serbian caused in him a lot of problems in the first two sets. If Lajovic can gain confidence and belief from that performance and play anywhere near that level this week he is more than capable and experienced enough to spring a surprise at big odds.