Tennis - This Week's Preview
Last week's ATP Tennis action at the Masters 1000 Series Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada provided plenty of world class action and it was good to see the NextGen closing the gap again on the proven, experienced veterans of the ATP Tour. The exciting 19 year-old Tsitsipas from Greece and 22 year-old Khachanov from Russia both made the semi-finals and Tsitsipas continued his giant killing run beating fourth seed Anderson in an epic marathon encounter 6-7 6-4 7-6 to reach his first Masters 1000 Series final and top-seed Nadal proved to good for Khachanov beating the Russian 7-6 6-4. Yesterday’s final was the second meeting between Nadal and Tsitsipas and the young Greek will have hopefully learned from that experience as he only won three games.
On to this week’s ATP action and it’s the Cincinnati Masters 1000 Series in Cincinnati, Ohio USA. Defending champion and fifth seed Dimitrov returns to defend his title but judging by his form this year it’s unlikely he’s going to win back-to-back titles this year. The tournament has been dominated by three of the Big Four over the last decade and seven time champion (five over last decade) and second seed Federer returns to the ATP Tour for the first time since losing to Anderson at the quarter final stage at Wimbledon this year and the Swiss great will aim to win an unprecedented eighth Cincinnati title this week.
Top seed Nadal won his one Cincinnati title back in 2013 and he will look to continue his excellent 2018 form this week but at the time of writing he was through to the semi-finals at Toronto and if he contends Sunday’s final I don’t think he will be 100% focussed on winning this week with the final Grand Slam of the 2018 season the US Open just around the corner. Wild Card Andy Murray continues his come-back from a long injury lay-off this week and he won the other two Cincinnati titles over the last decade back in 2008 and 2011. He showed promising signs at Washington that he’s on the right track winning two tough matches before withdrawing before his quarter final match. He faces a potentially tough opener against sixteenth seed Pouille who has had an inconsistent year and is searching for his best form but Murray does lead the head-to-head 4-0 so knows what it takes to beat the talented young Frenchman.
Third seed Sascha Zverev looks in good enough form to challenge for the title this week and he can be excused for losing a match he had in his grasp against Tsitsipas at Toronto quarter final stage last week having won the Washington title the week before. Outside the big four he has the best Masters 1000 Series record and he should be motivated to win this week having lost the ranking points from winning Montreal last year and a week’s rest due after before the US Open commences on the 27th August. Fourth seed Del Potro lines up after missing the Toronto Masters 1000 Series with a left wrist injury and this was obviously the reason for his shock defeat against Fognini in the recent Los Cabos final. Del Potro has been so unlucky during his career with injuries, especially where his wrists are concerned, and he will hope it is not as serious as the right wrist injury that took years to recover from.
Sixth seed and veteran Anderson continued his excellent summer form last week at Toronto and at the time of writing he was due to face Tsitsipas in the semi-finals. Both players were contending to reach their first Masters 1000 Series final and at almost 32 years-old I think it might be Anderson’s time to reach another first milestone in his career. Eighth seed Thiem has not shown any signs he’s going to be a serious contender this week having had a disappointing year at Masters Series level and on hard courts by his standards.
From a statistical perspective over the top two seeds have experienced mixed fortunes and the top-seed won two of the last ten titles (last Federer 2012) and the top-seed was a losing finalist three times during this period (last Murray 2016). The second seeds record is not as good as the top-seed over the last decade and they won two of the last ten titles (last Federer 2015) and they were a losing finalist once during this period (Djokovic 2012). Seeded players in general have a very strong record at Cincinnati and a player seeded no higher than twelve won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than eight won nine of the last ten titles (last Dimitrov 2017). A seeded player no higher than six was also a losing finalist seven times during this period (last Murray 2016) and an unseeded player has never won the title during this period, but they were a losing finalist three times during this period (last Kyrgios 2017).
From an outright tournament betting perspective past statistics suggest siding with a seeded player no higher than twelve and the winner is statistically most likely to be seeded no higher than eight. From the top-half of the draw I’m happy to oppose Nadal for reasons mentioned above and the players who look most likely to capitalise from a winner/finalist perspective are third seed Sascha Zverev (9/1), seventh seed and 2016 winner Cilic or tenth seed Djokovic, who will aim to complete the career Masters 1000 Series sweep as Cincinnati is the only one he’s not won. Djokovic lost a close three set encounter against the red hot Tsitsipas at Toronto last week, which is no disgrace, and he’s drawn to potentially face Nadal at the quarter final stage this week. If this does transpire I’d expect Djokovic to prevail as he should be fresher given Nadal’s exertions at Toronto last week. Third seed Zverev and seventh seed Cilic are also both drawn to potentially meet in the quarter finals and if this does transpire I think Zverev will prevail on this occasion and face Djokovic in the semi-finals.
From the bottom half of the draw second seed Federer is of course the one to beat given his favourable draw and record at Cincinnati, but he’s not played since Wimbledon and is likely to be a bit rusty so he’s far from a certainty. He’s potentially drawn to meet Murray in the third round then possibly either eighth seed Thiem, twelfth seed Schwartzman or the unseeded Nishikori, Wawrinka or Rublev at the quarter final stage. Fourth seed Del Potro will be a threat if his wrist has fully healed but it’s hard to back him with any confidence given the severity of the injury is unknown. Sixth seed Anderson (20/1) is a definite threat this week as he’s in the best form of his career at present and if there’s no negative after effects after his semi run at Toronto last week, he should be able to put up another good effort this week
The current form of eleventh Seed Goffin, twelfth seed Schwartzman, fifteenth seed Kyrgios and sixteenth seed Pouille suggests none of them will be challenging for the title this week even though they are all more than capable. No seeded players appeal from a betting perspective from the bottom half of the draw, so instead I’ll highlight a couple of NextGen stars who might be capable of challenging for the title because it is starting to occur more frequently at this level. The players who appeals the most from betting perspective are Coric (66/1) from Croatia, who performed well at the Indian Wells and Miami Masters 1000 Series this year reaching the semis and quarter finals respectively. He lost his first match since Wimbledon at Toronto last week against Cilic in three sets, which is no disgrace as Cilic had reached the quarter finals at the time of writing and I expect Coric will build and improve on that performance this week.
Chung has been making a steady return from injury, he won and lost two matches at Atlanta and Washington but missed Toronto last week and while I expect him to be competitive, I think he still needs more competitive matches under his belt before he starts winning more regularly and challenging for titles again. Finally, Russian Rublev (100/1) is a definite dark horse this week as he impressed at Washington recently reaching the semis just losing to fellow NextGen star De Minaur. If he’s fit and healthy and can consistently produce his best tennis this week he has to be taken seriously as an outside contender.
From a first round match betting perspective there’s a few matches that I like and they will hopefully do better than last week and return a profit. American NextGen star Tiafoe faces Canadian NextGen star Shapovalov and I think Tiafoe will take this one as he beat Shapovalov in their only meeting on hard courts at Delray Beach this year in straight sets and Shapovalov has not been in the best form overall this summer. I also think Querrey will win the all American and veterans encounter against compatriot Isner, as Querrey leads the head-to-head 4-2, which includes three wins on hard courts.
A Zverev Win (9/1)
Anderson Win (20/1)
Coric EW (66/1)
Rublev EW (125/1)
Tiafoe to beat Shapovalov
Querrey to beat Isner