The ATP Tour heads to Marseille, Santiago and Doha in week 10 of the 2021 season, where there’s action on indoor hard, outdoor hard and clay for Sean Calvert to get stuck into from an outright betting perspective.
It was a poor week on the outrights for us in Rotterdam and Buenos Aires, with only a quarter finalist in Laslo Djere to show for our efforts.
I was right about Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev being potentially likely to fall early on in Rotterdam and by the time our man, Roberto Bautista Agut, played his opening match he was favourite to make the final from that top half of the draw.
Sadly, he was well off form in defeat to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in what was a highly unusual week in Rotterdam that saw plenty of underdog winners in the early rounds and the conditions on Centre Court were pretty slow (especially when compared to the other court).
Richard Krajicek has now said he’ll speed up the court for next year, but quite why he has to keep tinkering with it (it could have been fast this year, as there were no paying fans to keep happy with long matches) I’m not entirely sure.
We also had to put up with another loser from sub-1.05 when Ugo Humbert produced another choke to add to his growing repertoire, against, of all people, Jeremy Chardy.
In the end it was 50-1 Marton Fucsovics – a man we’ve backed several times in 250s to no avail – that made the final and became the first man since Nicolas Escude in 2001 to make the title match as a qualifier.
In Buenos Aires, I was banking on the winner of the clash between Marco Cecchinato and Laslo Djere making the final at the expense of a potentially unfit Diego Schwartzman, but Djere lost a tight one to Miomir Kecmanovic for the right to face Schwartzman, who seemed perfectly fine and cruised to the title.
Conditions and trends
The return of 39-year-old Roger Federer after over a year out of action due to injury will be making all the headlines at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open this week, with the Swiss rated a 4-1 shot to win the title.
Conditions in Doha were described as “faster than usual” in 2020 by tournament winner Andrey Rublev, but the surface yielded only five tie break sets all week and just 79% holds.
This year the DecoTurf courts were prepared for the qualifiers of the Australian Open that took place there a couple of months ago and during the WTA event that took place in Doha last week, Karolina Pliskova noted: “I think the conditions here are a little bit slower,” Slower than what, I’m not exactly sure.
It’s usually a tournament that features few tie breaks, with plenty of the matches being played at night when it’s much slower than during the day session, while it’s an event where wind can also be a factor and the favourites generally go well.
Corentin Moutet made the final last year as a qualifier at 100-1, but that was a rarity, with Gael Monfil’s title here in 2018 breaking a 13-year run of Doha being won by one of the top four seeds.
In Marseille at the Open 13 Provence they play on a Gerfloor indoor hard surface that’s usually seen as one of the quicker ones around, but Gilles Simon said last year that it’s now slower than in years gone by (Simon made the semis here last year).
It’s only been won by aggressive types lately though, with Tsitsipas (twice), Khachanov, Tsonga and Kyrgios the names on the winner’s trophy here in the last five years.
No qualifier has ever made the Marseille final in the 26 years that it’s been on the ATP Tour, while the number one seed has only won here twice since 2010.
Santiago’s event was new to the tour in 2020 and given that it’s played at over 800m of altitude it should be no surprise to learn that 44% of its matches featured at least one tie break.
It was won by 50-1 wild card Thiago Seyboth Wild last year and Renzo Olivo made the semis from the qualifying draw, so don’t be surprised if there’s a big priced winner or finalist here again in 2021.
Chile Dove Men+Care Open
Now that we have prices, we can have a look at Santiago and it looks the best place to try and find a big-priced winner this week, with major doubts over all four of the high seeds.
Top seed Cristian Garin looked really rusty last week in his first match of the year following a wrist injury, while second-seeded Benoit Paire is seemingly only here for the sunshine and tanked again last week after losing his mind mid-match once more.
Third seed, Pablo Andujar has been known to go well at this sort of altitude before (Marrakech, Gstaad), but he looks his age now and talked about retirement after losing last week in Buenos Aires.
Fourth seed Laslo Djere could go well – and probably will seeing that we backed him last week – but he’s yet to make a final at altitude and it might be a little too quick for him here.
Qualifying is yet to complete at the time of writing, but the qualie draw looks pretty weak and I’m happy to assume that the winner will come from those already in the main draw.
Renzo Olivo made the semis here last year as a qualifier and may qualify again, but it’s hard to see that happening again and the ones that look the most likely threat to Garin in the top half of the draw are Salvatore Caruso and the winner of the clash between Gianluca Mager and Federico Coria.
I’m not sure Mager has the control to win at this level at altitude, but the more measured Coria might have a chance, although I’m not sure he’s quite good enough.
Joao Sousa looks a million miles away from winning a title at the moment, while Jozef Kovalik doesn’t look up to it either, so perhaps Coria to win Q1 at 5.50 is worthy of a look.
I prefer giving another chance to Salvatore Caruso though, with the Italian now having had more time to prepare on the clay after losing a bad one last week to Mager, having twice failed to serve out the opener.
He would have faced Andujar had he beaten Mager in Buenos Aires and he may well have to go through the Spaniard again to reach the semis.
Caruso has been playing well on hard courts lately, so the quicker conditions in Santiago might work in his favour this week, and a round once clash with Roberto Carballes Baena could be a tough grind and just the sort of match he probably needs on the dirt.
Surely it won’t be another great week for the Cerundolo brothers after the last fortnight and this half of the draw is winnable for Caruso, whose price of 28-1 (Bet 365) holds the most appeal for me.
In the bottom half, we have to take on Paire again, and the one that fits the bill (but, like Caruso, has a tricky round one match) is Jaume Munar at 16-1 (Betfred and Bet Victor).
The Spaniard has been playing well lately, winning 26 of his last 31 matches at all levels, and he did well enough against Schwartzman last week in Buenos Airs to suggest he could be ready to step up to a title at 250 level.
He’s played well at altitude before and the extra zip he gets on his shots might well help him in a similar way to how Quito aided Carballes Baena on several occasions.
It’s also helped Andrej Martin in the past, too, and 45-1 about Martin is another possibility in this part of the draw.
Francisco Cerundolo is surely likely to have a let down this week after a memorable time in Buenos Aires, while Delbonis lacks the control to appear to be a likely winner at altitude these days.
Quarter 3 looks wide open, with Djere, Marco Cecchinato, Frances Tiafoe, Nicolas Jarry, Facundo Bagnis, Pedro Sousa and Leo Mayer all in there.
I’d suggest it might be too quick for Cecchinato (and perhaps Djere), while Mayer lacks the control at altitude and Sousa seemingly doesn’t have the physical fitness to go all the way at the moment.
Bagnis isn’t really up to winning at this level for me, while Jarry probably needs longer to get back to his old level after his ban and has a tough one first up in Tiafoe, who can play on the clay and this faster clay will surely help the American.
If I had to take one in Q3 I’d be tempted with Pedro Sousa at 66s, but his body always seems to let him down.
Open 13 Provence
It’s still listed as a Gerflor surface in Marseille this year, but I wonder if it’ll be a similar pace to the 2020 edition, which was a bit slower, however that didn’t play out in the stats, with 84% holds and 44% tie break matches in the main draw.
I still prefer attacking players in Marseille and the obvious alternatives to number one seed Daniil Medvedev in the top half of the draw are Karen Khachanov and Jannik Sinner.
Khachanov is preferred on the basis of his strong showing in Rotterdam last week and as a former champion in Marseille, but he’s too short for me at 7-1, while Sinner has been struggling with a back injury and we’re guessing a bit as to his fitness this week.
Another contender that could go well from the top half is Egor Gerasimov, who’s been playing well lately and should enjoy the conditions in Marseille this week.
Mackenzie McDonald and Stefano Travaglia have also been in good form of late, but with what looks like a very handy draw Khachanov is the pick in the top half, with Gerasimov the best of the bigger prices at 80-1 with Bet Victor (I managed to get 100-1 on the first show with our friends at Paddy Power/Betfair).
Medvedev’s attitude was so poor last week in Rotterdam that he’s worth taking on again this week, although the faster conditions in Marseille should be more to his liking.
In the bottom half, Kei Nishikori and Mikhail Kukushkin stand out as two that could go well, with Nishikori looking something like his old self in Rotterdam last week and the quicker conditions (presumably) in Marseille should suit the Japanese star.
He’s one possibility, but 16-1 is maybe a little short considering he’d almost certainly have to play play Tsitsipas in the quarters.
Kukushkin made the final here as a 66-1 chance as recently as 2019 and if it’s quick Kuku could spring a surprise in Q3 of the draw, which features fading forces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Feli Lopez along with the limited Petros Tsitsipas and the number four seed, Ugo Humbert, whose habit of choking is becoming a major issue for him now.
I don’t mind backing Humbert at bigger prices, as we did in Paris and Rotterdam, but his nerves look shot at the moment and he’ll do well to overcome them this week back on home soil and 8-1 doesn’t really appeal.
Number two seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is looking for this third Marseille title in a row and is an obvious danger, but he had a tough week in Rotterdam last week in slower conditions and perhaps Nishikori could get the better of the Greek in a potential quarter final clash.
Tsitsipas should enjoy these conditions and looks a decent favourite to make another Marseille final, with 100-1 Kukushkin (Unibet) one for the shortlist at those odds.
A Tsitsipas/Medvedev final is obviously a good possibility in Marseille, but the one for value has to be Gerasimov at 80-1 (Bet Victor) given his strong recent showings that he hasn’t really been getting the rewards for.
The Belarusian lost in two tight sets to Tsitsipas last week and in a final set of the Montpellier semis to David Goffin, plus he was also a final set tie break loser in Melbourne to Felix Auger-Aliassime, who he also lost in the same way to in Cologne.
Assuming that it’s a decent paced surface in Montpellier 80s looks generous – even though he’ll have to beat Medvedev – but that surely won’t be easy for Medvedev first up after what happened in Melbourne and Rotterdam.
Qatar ExxonMobil Open
Most eyes will be on Federer this week in Doha, but surely it’s a big ask even for an all-time great like the Swiss maestro to come back after a year out and win a title first up at the age of 39.
The number two seed is in quarter four of the draw, alongside Borna Coric, Dan Evans, Jeremy Chardy, Nikoloz Basilashvili, John Millman and Malek Jaziri and that’s not the toughest-looking quarter for Federer on paper.
Of those, Coric seems the obvious choice to beat Fed, but both Chardy and Evans have been in good form lately and the winner of the round one clash between those two (a repeat of the recent Melbourne semi final) will have a shot of taking down Federer and going on a deep run this week.
I’m actually quite tempted by Chardy at 200-1 (Paddy/Betfair), given his level last week in Rotterdam, but it’s hard to see him coping too well in windy conditions with his high ball toss and high-risk playing style, and a 3-5 win/loss record here backs up that theory somewhat.
In the adjacent quarter (Q3) another one that has been known to give up in the wind is Filip Krajinovic (as I recall all too well to my cost in Budapest a couple of years ago) and this could be another good week for the suddenly in-form David Goffin.
It’s a tough quarter though, with explosive talents in Denis Shapovalov, Lorenzo Sonego, Taylor Fritz and Vasek Pospisil all capable, as well as Goffin and Krajinovic, of progressing to the last four from it.
But none really scream ‘value’ at me and it’s a no bet for me in this half of the draw.
In the top half I’m going to have a punt on Dusan Lajovic in the likely slowish conditions in Doha, with the Serb showing good form on hard courts so far this year and he comes here fresh from taking down Daniil Medvedev in Rotterdam.
He’s a former quarter finalist here and he could well shock Marton Fucsovics first up, with the injury prone Hungarian quite likely to have a physical (or mental) let down after a huge effort in Rotterdam from qualies and a quick turnaround to very different conditions.
Then he’d face Stan Wawrinka, who looks past his best these days, and was beaten by Moutet in the semi finals here a year ago, and Lajovic does have a 2-0 career series lead over Andrey Rublev (the latest one on clay in 2019 in Umag when Rublev was favourite).
It may appear a tall order for Lajovic to make the final with Rublev in the section, but the Russian could easily be fatigued after Rotterdam and Lajovic looks the value in what doesn’t look the most appealing betting tournament.
Defending champ Rublev is 9-2 win/loss in Doha and is the obvious choice in Q2, but he might struggle in back-to-back weeks and if he does make the semis he’d probably face Dominic Thiem.
That’s not a given though either, as the Austrian was struggling physically in Australia and will most likely face a stern test in his first match from the big-hitting Aslan Karatsev and then he’d need to beat probably Roberto Bautista Agut or possibly one of big serving pair Reilly Opelka or Alexander Bublik.
RBA doesn’t look quite right at the moment, but he’s got an 8-1 win/loss record in Doha and we backed him last week, so he’ll probably come good this week instead.
It’ll be interesting to see how Karatsev fares this week after that rather unexpected breakthrough in Melbourne and I might be tempted to back him to beat Thiem in round two if the price is right.
The outright prices that Paddy/Betfair came up with on their hilarious opening show were certainly right as far as value goes and I’m sitting on 300-1 (each-way) about Karatsev, Bublik and Fucsovics, so none of those are likely to win, as bookies almost always get away with bad prices like those.
Crazy prices indeed and not a lot in the correctly priced books stands out, so I’ll just take the Lajovic bet in Doha.
Now that we have complete prices for the main draw in Santiago I’ll take Munar and Caruso there, while Gerasimov looks too big at 80s in Marseille, and Lajovic could well spring a surprise in Doha and be this year’s Corentin Moutet there.
0.5 points each-way Gerasimov at 80-1 (Bet Victor) in Marseille
0.5 points each-way Lajovic at 80-1 (Unibet) in Doha
1 point win Munar to win Santiago at 16-1 (Betfred/Bet Victor)
0.5 points each way Caruso in Santiago at 28-1 (Bet 365)