The ATP resumes straight after the Australian Open ends, with three ATP 250 tournaments on indoor hard and clay in Singapore, Montpellier and Cordoba.
We managed to find yet another outright semi final loser last week when Stefanos Tsitsipas fell at the last four stage, but at least it wasn’t after about half a dozen match points or similar, like it usually is in these matches.
As is almost always the case in men’s majors these days, it was won by one of the two favourites (and the two market leaders contested the final) so once again value was nowhere to be seen at a men’s major.
Those who followed on my ‘potential round 1 upsets’ picks would have been in the money though, with four of them winning at prices between 2.55 and 3.35 and had Mikhail Kukushkin converted set point on his own serve against Dominic Thiem in their opening set and you’d had the picks in an acca you’d had landed a 500-1 plus winner.
Conditions and trends
The Singapore Tennis Open is another of those single-year licence tournaments that have been so common on the ATP Tour lately and it’ll be played on indoor hard at the OCBC Arena at the Singapore Sports Hub.
It’s the first time since 1999 that Singapore has featured on the tour and back in those days it was played on outdoor hard and it was won on the last two occasions it was held by Marcelo Rios.
It’s listed as being a DecoTurf surface and no fans are allowed at least until the semis and final when up to 250 may be allowed depending on a number of factors, so it’ll be pretty much a closed doors event.
Also on indoor hard this week is the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, where they play on a GreenSet surface that’s usually one of the pacier ones on the tour and it’s usually a good tournament for the seeds and for French players, while being a poor one for qualifiers.
No qualifier has made the final yet in Montpellier, which has always been won by one of the top-five seeds and there has been a French player in the final here every year so far.
The start of the short clay swing in South America begins in Argentina at the Cordoba Open, which is being staged for the third time and three Argentine players have taken the four spots in the Cordoba final in its two years on tour so far.
The other finalist was also South American, Cristian Garin, and Juan Igancio Londero won it at a huge price as a qualifier in its first year on tour in 2019.
There’s a bit of altitude involved in Cordoba, which sits at around 415m above sea level, and there have been 39% tie break matches in the two years so far, which is the same number as in Kitzbuhel, so it’ll play on the quicker side.
Singapore Tennis Open
The field that’s assembled in Singapore isn’t exactly the highest quality, as is illustrated by Adrian Mannarino and John Millman being the top two seeds and there are plenty in with chances.
Mannarino’s dismal record in finals (1-9 win/loss) makes him virtually unbackable as a 5-1 or so favourite here, even in a field of this lack of quality, and instead in Manna’s top half of the draw I prefer taking a chance on 16-1 shot Yoshihito Nishioka.
Nishioka has started the season poorly, but he’s played well in Asia before, winning the 250 in Shenzhen in 2018 on quick outdoor hard courts and his poor start to the season means he’s a few points bigger than he ought to be in this sort of field.
He’s been in Singapore since Thursday and he’s one of the few players that won’t be looking on this tournament as merely a stopover on the way back to Europe, as I suspect quite a few will.
The difficulty in assessing these one-year licence tournaments largely centres on not knowing the pace of the courts, so I’ll only be having this one bet in Singapore on a player that at least appears to be motivated.
Nishioka faces old pal Michael Mmoh in round one (they’re former room-mates from the IMG Academy) and if he wins that one the route to the final doesn’t look too hard, with Alexander Bublik (if he’s on a go week) the obvious danger.
Mannarino should come through his quarter, but it would hardly be a shock if he didn’t, and on Nishioka’s best form this tournament is certainly within his ability range.
The bottom half of the draw looks wide-open as well, with Marin Cilic looking very much a spent force these days and Soonwoo Kwon still in Italy at the time of writing playing a Challenger final.
Alexei Popyrin is perhaps the best value option in the bottom half of the draw at 25-1 (Boylesports) but I’m not seeing anything that I’m overly tempted with here.
This looks the best tournament of the week for a possible big-priced winner, with many of the players switching surfaces after Australia, so I’ve listed below the main draw players that have played their most recent match on clay, rather than right from hard courts:
Dellien, Martin, Elahi Galan, Kovalik, Kicker (played the Buenos Aires wild card event), J. Sousa, Seyboth Wild, Coria, Cerundolo, Munar, and Jarry.
The choice of two players just back from bans to receive main draw wild cards is a tad controversial, with Kicker returning from a match-fixing suspension and Jarry from a doping ban.
Starting with the top half of the draw and number one seed and last year’s Cordoba finalist Diego Schwartzman is the obvious choice to make the title match again, but at a price of around 5-2 he’s a tad short for me this week.
Alternatives to Schwartzman are easy to find, but I’m not sure that 2019 finalist Guido Pella has done enough lately to be as short as 10-1 or so given his fitness issues in the last year or so, too.
Albert Ramos often goes well at altitude or slight altitude and is a fairly obvious threat, while Thiago Monteiro’s unexpected form on quick hard courts in Australia will mean he’ll have his backers, too.
The prices I like are the 66-1 (now best-priced 50-1) about Pedro Sousa, who (albeit rather fortunately) made the Buenos Aires final a year ago, the 22-1 about Marco Cecchinato and there was 66s on offer about Andrej Martin, but 33s is a touch short.
Cecchinato ended last season in very good form in Sardinia on the clay, making the final there, narrowly losing out to Laslo Djere and assuming he beats the out of form Hugo Dellien in round one he’d be a tough opening opponent for Schwartzman.
The Italian crushed Schwartzman in the Buenos Aires final a couple of years ago and Cecchinato was impressive enough in that last dirt outing in Sardinia for me to take a chance on him here at a nice price.
Pedro Sousa pulled out of the Concepcion Challenger not due to injury, but because of travel problems, and that’s meant that Sousa has been in Cordoba since Wednesday night, giving him plenty of time to adapt to the conditions.
Most of the other players coming from clay have been playing at sea level in Concepcion, so this may work in Sousa’s favour and his round one opponent Federico Delbonis pulled out of the Australian Open at the last minute due to a back injury.
You’d assume it must have been quite bad to have meant missing the £50,000 pay cheque for losing in round one (he was drawn against Londero) and I don’t mind taking a chance on Sousa at these odds in Q2 of the draw.
This section doesn’t look that strong and Sousa is another one with good clay form last time out, winning the Maia Challenger in December.
In the bottom half of the draw we have to take high seed Benoit Paire on, with the mercurial Frenchman on a run of one win in his last 19 matches at all levels in the last 12 months.
Indeed, Paire’s quarter of the draw (Q4) looks really open, with the other high seed, Dominik Koepfer usually more at home on hard courts, although he did play well on clay in Rome in September.
The German has never played a main level match in South America (only one at all levels) so it would be a surprise if he won a clay event in these conditions, but the likes of Jaume Munar, Gianluca Mager, Francisco Cerundolo or Federico Coria are possible winners on their best form.
Mager made the final of Rio a year ago, beating Dominic Thiem and Casper Ruud in the process before losing a tight one to Cristian Garin in the final, so we know his best is good enough to win this.
He’s got a tough one in the in-form Cerundolo in round one, with the latter having won a ton of matches on clay at Challenger level lately, but he is still playing in Concepcion at the time of writing, so he won’t have much time to attune himself to the different conditions in Cordoba.
Neither Cerundolo or Coria have really shown they can be a force at this higher level yet, with the former just 0-2 at main level, although that’s not to say that they won’t do something similar to what Londero did here a couple of years ago.
For me the 50-1 about Mager and 33-1 about Coria are good options, with Mager getting the nod on what looks a nice price if he can find his best form.
In Q3 I’m tempted by the 50-1 about Thiago Seyboth Wild, with that price being based on his form since the tour was suspended, right after he had a breakout week when he won the Santiago title.
He came back after the break and made the Aix En Provence final, but he’s barely won a match since then, but he wouldn’t be alone in struggling with the ‘new normal’ of the tour since its resumption.
He won a couple of matches in Concepcion last week and he looks the value in Q3, with Miomir Kecmanovic another one with very limited experience in South America (one Challenger match in 2017 is all for him) and Joao Sousa having missed Melbourne after he caught Covid-19.
Sousa played one match at the Antalya 2 Challenger and lost it in straight sets, so combined with his poor performance lately – he hasn’t been past round one at main level since Chengdu 2019 – he’s overlooked.
Monteiro is too short for me, while Roberto Carballes Baena would need to be bigger as well for my money.
Open Sud de France
Given that one of the top-five seeds has always won in Montpellier this is rarely a tournament that offers much in the way of outright value and it doesn’t hold much, if any, appeal to me this time around.
Ugo Humbert fits the bill as a French player who should be suited to the quick conditions, but 6 or 7-1 doesn’t appeal in what’s quite a strong field.
Lorenzo Sonego and Aljaz Bedene are two that could possibly spring surprises at 66-1 (Bet 365) but I’d rather take my chances in Cordoba than in Montpellier.
So, focusing mainly on Cordoba this week, where if we can get Schwartzman beaten early there’s a decent chance of a good-priced winner, and I’ll take a trio in Cordoba and one in Singapore this week.
1 point win Nishioka to win Singapore at 16-1
1 point win Cecchinato to win Cordoba at 22-1
0.5 points each-way P.Sousa to win Cordoba at 50-1
0.5 points each-way Mager to win Cordoba at 50-1