ATP Dubai – Tuesday preview

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There’s round two action from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday on the ATP Tour and Sean Calvert returns to assess the potential value wagers in this ATP 500 event.

On a busy Tuesday in Dubai there are 15 second round matches on the schedule and plenty of possible underdogs to consider after a pretty miserable round one for underdogs concluded on Monday.

Only two underdogs won in round one (in completed matches): one of them was our pick Jeremy Chardy and the other was one I talked about yesterday, but concluded he was too short, Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

Round two isn’t usually a great one for frequency of underdog winners either, with an average of 29% of them winning in this round in Dubai in the last eight years, but in three of the last four years you would have made a profit by backing every dog in this round.

In 2017 you’d have made over £180 from a £10 stake, but as I said in my preview the other day that’s down to one or two very big priced underdogs winning.

Evgeny Donskoy’s 17.65 success over Roger Federer was the reason for the large profit in 2017 and we won’t see anything like that this year, but Dominic Thiem could be vulnerable against the power of Lloyd Harris in these quick Dubai conditions.

Fortunately for Thiem that match is being played in the cooler, slower conditions at night, but even so an in-form Harris has to be worth considering for at least a set or maybe more.

Clearly, Thiem has found 2021 a bit of a struggle so far and this is the latest quote (Sunday) from the man himself:

“I’m on the right way, definitely. I’m not at the top of my game right now. Australia was pretty strange and also tough to digest in all aspects, so I’m still trying to find the top of my game again and to work hard every day.”

Given his current struggles and the pacy conditions in Dubai I like Harris’s chances, based on his level in Doha, which was very good against Stan Wawrinka and Marton Fucsovics (until he had a meltdown after suffering misfortune in the second set tie break).

On the negative side for Harris is the start time of around 9pm (or later) local time and having to adjust from a day match on Monday to this time on Tuesday is far from ideal, so I’d probably want a bigger price about Harris than the 3.70 currently on offer.

Other underdog options for Tuesday include: Jan-Lennard Struff, Alexei Popyrin, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Dan Evans, Malek Jaziri, and Alexander Bublik.

Denis Shapovalov has never played Dubai until now and I suspect that the combination of a day match, an opponent he’s struggled against, and the speed of the courts could all count against the Canadian here.

Shapo tends to prefer a slower hard court than this and he can be rushed for time on slick surfaces such as this one (1-3 win/loss in Shanghai, where it’s quite fast) and that certainly could be the case here against a powerful opponent like Struff.

The Canadian has lost four of his five matches against Struff on clay (twice), grass, hard and indoor hard and in those matches he’s only broken the Struff serve 10.1% of the time, while being broken by the German 20.4% of the time.

I wasn’t convinced about Struff’s chances in round one here against a Mikhail Kukushkin who’d come through qualies, but he did it well and now it’s Struff that has the advantage of having a singles match under his belt in these tricky conditions.

Struff was a 2.28 chance when he beat Shapo at the W&S Open (Cincy, but played in New York) last summer and he was favourite on the two occasions they met prior to that, so I don’t mind the price of around 2.50 (generally) today.

Another point of interest is that all five on their opening sets on all surfaces went to at least 10 games, with two ending 7-6 and two 7-5, but I don’t like backing tie breaks in Dubai, where there are usually so few (there have only been five of 15 tie break matches so far).

Malek Jaziri has a great record as underdog and I often back him in tournaments like Dubai and Doha, where he tends to play above his usual level, and indeed I got lucky in round one when Bet 365 paid Jaziri out as a winner in his match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

When Tsonga retired I assume it would be void (and even more so because he retired in set one) but they paid me out the winnings in bet credits, which apparently they’re doing now, so it’s nice to give a little bit of praise to bookies for once.

On Tuesday, Jaziri faces Dusan Lajovic, who I liked in Doha because it’s usually slower there, but I wonder if Jaziri has another big-priced winner in him? He’s tempting at 5.50 in conditions he knows very well while Lajovic is playing his first career match here this week.

I certainly wouldn’t be backing Lajovic at a price like 1.16 and it wouldn’t surprise me if Jaziri chalked up another odds-against success here.

But a more likely underdog winner has to be Alexei Popyrin, who’s been in excellent form all year, but I’ve managed to make the wrong decisions with him this year.

First, I put him up outright at 150-1 to win Melbourne in week five, when he made the last-16. Then I suggested him as the value in the bottom half of the draw in week eight in Singapore and he went and won that event at 25-1.

Now, he’s a 2.75 chance (William Hill) to beat Karen Khachanov and given the respective form of the pair I see a bit of value in the Aussie, who knows these conditions well, having spent a lot of time in Dubai over the years.

Khachanov was once again disappointing last week in Marseille when he was schooled a little bit by Matt Ebden and the Russian will need a lot better than that if he’s going to justify favouritism in this one.

Dan Evans has the sort of game that could very well pick apart Aslan Karatsev if the Russian’s bigger game isn’t firing on all cylinders and it might be too soon to start making Karatsev favourite for matches like this.

Much depends on Karatsev in that one, but Evans could be a decent underdog.

Another player with a big game that might find the conditions very much to his liking is Alexander Bublik, who, if he serves as well as he can, could upset Jannik Sinner, who hasn’t been in the best of form of late.

Sinner’s had a back problem lately and struggled to beat Gregoire Barrere in Marseille last week before being thoroughly outgunned by Daniil Medvedev and the hit or miss Bublik is another viable underdog option at around the 3.0 mark.

It’s a lot of guesswork as to what sort of Nikoloz Basilashvili will turn up in Dubai this week after he spectacularly turned around a long losing streak and won the Doha title on Sunday, but it would be very Basil to see him zone it again and take down my outright of this week, Taylor Fritz.

We already lost our Dubai outright from the top half of the draw when Borna Coric withdrew (stakes should be returned on that one) and there’s a fair chance that Basil could do a very quick double over Fritz after beating him in the Doha semis.

One suspects that there may have been a decent celebration after that title though and it’s a quick turnaround to quite different conditions for the Georgian, but it’s a dangerous one for Fritz, no doubt.

So, plenty of options on Tuesday in Dubai, but I’ll take Struff and Popyrin for the value.

Best Bets

0.5 points win Struff to beat Shapovalov at 2.50 (generally)

0.5 points win Popyrin to beat Khachanov at 2.75 (William Hill)