Tennis - This Week's Preview
I came very close to predicting the two finalists at Montpellier last week and at one stage it looked like Tsonga (4/1) and Gasquet (5/1) were nailed on to be contesting Sunday’s final. However, Tsonga then had to withdraw injured from his semi-final against Pouille when he was a set up and at 5-5 in the second set. Second seed Pouille then went on to beat Gasquet in the final, which was frustrating, but you should have been able to at least cover your stakes on Tsonga and Gasquet if you followed their progress closely.
There were plenty of shocks and surprises at last week’s other two ATP Tournaments at Sofia, Bulgaria and Quito, Ecuador. At Sofia the final was contested between two first-time ATP finalists, the unseeded veteran Copil, (from Romania) and qualifier Basic from Bosnia & Herzegovina and it was the little-known Bosnian who emerged victorious and he joins compatriot Dzuhmur as the second Bosnian to win an ATP title. At Quito, the finals were an all-Spanish affair between second-seed veteran Ramos-Vinolas, who continued his good Davis Cup form, from the previous week, and surprise finalist, qualifier Carbellas Baena aged 24. Carbellas Baena was contesting his first ATP final and while he is a late developer who has come through the Futures and Challenger route, it still looks like Spain might have unearthed another potential top player.
On to this week’s ATP action and there are three ATP tournaments to focus on again this week. We have the first ATP 500 event of the season, which is the traditional indoor tournament in Rotterdam, and two ATP 250 events. The first is a new indoors tournament in New York, which places Memphis, and finally, the continuation of the Golden Cay Swing in South America at Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Roger Federer announced he will be taking a Wild Card at Rotterdam last week, which is a huge bonus for the organisers and fans. He will line up as the top seed and will attempt to add to his two Rotterdam titles (2005 and 2012). More importantly, he has a chance of replacing Nadal as the world number one if he reaches the semi-finals or better. If he does achieve this remarkable feat, it will be the first time in five years he has topped the men’s ATP singles rankings. Furthermore, at the age of 37, he will also become the oldest male player to hold the world number one ranking since Andre Agassi aged 33.
The top seed does not have the best record at Rotterdam winning only three of the last ten titles (last Federer 2012) and they were a losing finalist once during this period (Federer), which does not bode well for top seed Federer’s chances this week. However, if any player is going to buck this statistical trend, Federer is definitely one of them as he’s one of only a handful of players who abilities surpass historical trends. The second seed also has a poor record at Rotterdam and has only won one of the last ten titles (last 2013) and has never been a losing finalist in this period, which does not bode well for Dimitrov’s chances this week.
Seeded players in general have a better record at Rotterdam and a player seeded no higher than six has won eight of the last ten titles (last Tsonga 2017) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist six times in this period (last Goffin 2017). Unseeded players have also experienced success at Rotterdam in the past and there were two winners over the last decade (last Klizan 2016) and three losing finalists (last Cilic 2014).
From a betting perspective top seed Federer will be very popular this week given his form over the last twelve months and his imperious record indoors. However, given the record of the top seed at Rotterdam over the last decade and at the prices I’m happy to oppose the Swiss great, especially as it’s a competitive field with four top-10 players (including Federer) taking part this week. Going for a player seeded no higher than six this week looks like a good strategy given the record of seeded players over the last decade at Rotterdam.
Third seed Alexander Zverev (10/1) resides in the top half of the draw and he’s drawn to meet Federer in the semi-finals. He has a fairly easy route to the semi-finals, he has a strong record indoors having already won two ATP titles at St Petersburg and Montpellier and, most importantly, has winning form against Federer, which makes him a live contender this week. From the bottom half of the draw I can’t side with second-seed Dimitrov given the record of the second-seed at Rotterdam over the last decade and his inconsistent form so far this season. Fourth seed Goffin has to be respected as he reached the final here last season and warmed up well for this week by reaching the semis at Montpellier. If he can improve on that level of form this week he should find himself in contention for the title come the weekend. However, I have doubts surrounding fatigue as he’s already played a lot of tennis this season without any real break and there have been signs so far in 2018 that he’s not at the same level as he was at the end of the 2017 season. That’s a good enough reason for me not to back him this week.
As unseeded players have experienced some success at Rotterdam over the last decade I’ll highlight one such player who I believe is capable of springing a surprise at big odds this week. Next Generation star Rublev (33/1) has the talent to challenge for the title and he resides in the bottom half of the draw so avoids some of the big dangers like Federer, Zverev, Wawrinka and Montpellier finalist Gasquet. He faces a tough opener against seventh seed Pouille, who won the title at Montpellier on Sunday, but this could hand the advantage to Rublev as all bar the game’s elite players tend to struggle in their opening match the week after winning a tournament.
North America hosts its first ATP tournament of the season this week and it’s a new indoor tournament held in Long Island, New York, which replaces the long running indoor tournament at Memphis. As New York is a new tournament and because it has no historical statistical data to help analyse the draw I will use the 10-year statistical data from Memphis as the indoor conditions should produce similar form and results to New York.
The top seed has a good record winning six of the last ten titles (last Nishikori 2016) and they were never a losing finalist during this period, which bodes well for 2015 finalist Anderson’s chances this week. The second seed has a poor record and they have never won the title or reached the final over the last decade, which does not bode well for Querrey’s chances this week. Seeded players in general do have a good record and a player seeded no higher than eight won seven of the last ten titles (last Nishikori 2016) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist six times during this period (last 2015). Unseeded players also have a good record and an unseeded player won three of the last ten titles (last Harrison 2017) and an unseeded player was a losing finalist four times during this period (last Basilashvili 2017).
From a betting perspective top seed Anderson does not appeal at the prices, and third seed Isner, who also resides in the top half of the draw, does not appeal either as he does not have career indoor form to warrant backing him. Fifth seed Nishikori (odds to be confirmed), who missed the second half of the 2017 season due to injury, returns to the ATP Tour this week and he warmed up well for a shot at the title winning the Dallas indoor Challenger a fortnight ago, where he only dropped one set. He has to be respected this week given his record at Memphis, where he won three titles in a row between 2014 and 2016, and because he is a former top-five player in the world who will no doubt be heading back in that direction this season if he can stay injury free.
Sixth seed and defending champion Harrison returns for a shot at winning back-to-back titles and has to be respected from the bottom half of the draw. His win in 2017 was the first time he had reached an ATP final or won a title, and it’s safe to say Harrison is a late developer at the age of 25, which is not uncommon on the ATP Tour as form and success requires a level of maturity many players don’t develop until they’ve spent a good few years plying their trade. While it’s tempting to side with Harrison this week it has to be acknowledged that it’s very hard to win back-to-back titles at ATP Tour level and this difficult feat is more often than not usually reserved for the game’s elite players like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.
As unseeded players have a good record I’ll look at a couple who have the potential to challenge for the title this week. German Gojowczyk (odds to be confirmed), made a name for himself on the ATP Tour last season winning his first ATP Title indoors at Metz and he is another player who is a late developer at the age of 28. He has the game and talent to reach the final from the bottom half of the draw and with seeded players like fourth seed Mannarino and seventh seed Johnson not at their best so far this season and with history not on the side of second-seed Querrey, it’s worth taking a risk on the unseeded German at big odds this week.
Defending champion Dolgopolov does not return to defend his Buenos Aires title, but 2016 winner and top-seed Thiem returns, as does 2017 semi-finalist and second seed Carreno-Busta who lost his opening match at Quito last week. The top-seed has a good record at Buenos Aires winning seven of the last ten titles (last Nadal 2015) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (last Nishikori 2017), which bodes well for Thiem’s chances this week. The second seed does not have such a good record winning only one of the last ten titles (Ferrero 2010) and they were a losing finalist twice in this period (last 2014), which does not bode well for Carreno-Busta’s chances this week.
Seeded players have a strong record and a player seeded no higher than five has won nine of the last ten titles (last Thiem 2016) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist six times during this period (last Nishikori 2017). An unseeded player has won one of the last ten titles (last Dolgopolov 2017) over the last decade, but they were a losing finalist four times during this period (last Dolgopolov 2017). From a betting perspective Thiem (5/2) has to be respected as he has a winning head-to-head record against some of the potential dangers from the top-half of the draw like veterans fourth-seed Fognini, seventh seed Cuevas and Monfils, and if he produces anywhere near his best clay form he should add to his six clay titles this week.
From the bottom half of the draw second-seed Carreno-Busta and third-seed Ramos-Vinolas do not appeal from a betting perspective as the record of the second-seed over the last decade suggests Carreno-Busta will struggle this week, and Ramos-Vinolas was due to contest the Quito final at the time of writing and I’ll be very surprised if he reaches back-to-back finals this week. Fifth seed Schwartzman (8/1) has proven form on clay having already won an ATP title on the surface at Istanbul in 2016, he looks to have a fairly easy route to the semi-finals from the bottom half of the draw and if he can produce his best form this week he should go close to challenging for the title. Compatriot, Delbonis (40/1), who also resides in the bottom half of the draw also has proven form on clay having won two ATP titles at Sao Paulo 2014 and Marrakech 2016 and he also reached two finals at Nice 2013 and Hamburg 2014. If he can replicate that level of form this week he definitely has the game to challenge for the title and he could spring a surprise at big odds.
From a match betting perspective, I advise opposing the players who featured in ATP finals on Sunday ie Pouille and Gasquet at Rotterdam against Rublev and Herbert respectively, Copil against Dzumhur at Rotterdam and Ramos-Vinolas and Carbelles Baena at Buenos Aires against Vesely/Bedene and sixth seed Edmunds respectively, who is a surprise name to see taking part at the Golden Clay swing. I also think qualifier Klizan can continue his recent good form and beat veteran Lopez today and I think he is worth doubling up with Dzumhur, who looks like a solid favourite to beat Copil, who is likely to struggle after his Sofia final exploits yesterday.