ATP Miami – Thursday preview

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Round one of the 2021 Miami Open completes on Thursday at the Hard Rock Stadium and Sean Calvert is back with his preview of the second day’s play in the men’s singles at this Masters 1000 event.

It wasn’t the kind of start to the 12 days in Miami I’d hoped for on Wednesday when both of my underdogs were beaten on day one of the main draw and my other bet lost from match point up.

Steve Johnson drifted alarmingly in the betting just prior to his match with Yannick Hanfmann – and played like it (although not quite as appallingly as his doubles partner Sam Querrey) – while Mischa Zverev had his chances against James Duckworth (was a break up in the decider), but ended up losing a poor quality match late on in the third.

Frances Tiafoe just needed one more point on serve for an opening set tie break against Stefano Travaglia, but failed, and it was that sort of day, with only Yen Hsun Lu’s surprising win over a poor Querrey and Hugo Gaston’s win over Acapulco semi finalist Dominik Koepfer upsetting the odds.

Laslo Djere and Marcos Giron also won as slight underdogs, but both of those looked correctly priced to me, so I didn’t see any great value in that pair.

On to Thursday and we’re expecting another sunny day, peaking at 28C in the shade, and very humid at over 70% humidity, so again quite tough playing conditions.

Jack Draper gets a wild card here for what will be his first Masters 1000 appearance and indeed a main level debut for the 19-year-old Brit.

And the fact that he’s as short as 2.50 with some layers to beat a vastly experienced pro such as Mikhail Kukushkin suggests two things: Draper is highly rated by the bookies and/or Kukushkin has little left to offer at this level at the age of 33.

The veteran Kazakh has certainly struggled this season and at the moment it looks like his body has perhaps had enough after many years of the tour grind.

Also, Kukushkin prefers a faster, lower bouncing surface than these Laykold courts and the ones formerly at Crandon Park and that’s illustrated by his results here: 5-8 win/loss in completed matches in the main draw and he’s never won back-to-back completed matches in Miami’s main draw.

That said, I can’t back Draper at 2.50 or thereabouts. That’s some way too short for me.

Radu Albot is a possibility as a 3.0 chance against Sebastian Korda, but you rarely know what you’re going to get with Albot these days.

He’s a former Delray Beach winner just down the road from Miami, so he’s proven in the conditions, but his form lately has been all over the place: losing on quick outdoor hard to Federico Coria; beating an admittedly injured Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne; easily beating Adrian Mannarino indoors in Singapore (after he should have lost to Yannick Hanfmann the previous round) and latterly losing to Bernabe Zapata Miralles on quick hard in Dubai.

Korda is another that’s done well at Delray Beach (finalist this year) and he’s shown a better level than Albot lately, plus he has more weapons, but he feels a bit short at 1.48.

Albot’s not usually the best of underdogs to take a punt on though – just 4-25 win/loss on outdoor hard when priced up as a 2.80 underdog or bigger (and one of the four wins was against the injured RBA) – so I’ll pass on him.

Talking of Federico Coria, has the Argentine clay courter got enough to take down the fading Marin Cilic as a 4.50 chance?

That win over Albot in Melbourne in February is one of only two that Coria has to his name at main level on hard courts and the only one in a completed match, but he wouldn’t be the first clay courter to find conditions to his liking on Miami’s hard courts.

Cilic was mentally very poor again last week in Acapulco and if the Croat has one of his off days Coria could surprise, but it’s all on the racquet of Cilic and guessing as to how Cilic will play from one day to the next isn’t for me.

If I’d have said two or three years ago that Kevin Anderson would be a 1.60 chance to beat Thiago Monteiro at a M1000 on a hard court you’d have snapped the bookies’ hand off to back the big South African.

Monteiro’s only main level win on hard in his first 10 tries was an extremely questionable affair against Alexandr Dolgopolov in Winston-Salem (coincidental that we’ve barely seen Dolgo since, isn’t it?)

Indeed, he didn’t get a ‘proper’ win over a top-100 opponent on hard until just over a year ago when he beat Cam Norrie in Auckland when he faced Anderson in Pune in 2018 Anderson was a 1.12 shot.

Since then Anderson’s really struggled with injuries and Monteiro made the semis of the 250 in Melbourne this February, while Anderson has played only four matches in 2021 and is here on a protected ranking.

I’m tempted by a set one tie break here, with Monteiro manging to break serve only 14.3% of the time in his 10 main level outdoor hard court matches in the past year (0.32 tie breaks per set) and in the three matches he’s played on hard against the ‘big servers’ in my database he’s played 0.75 tie breaks per set.

Given all of that, the 4.33 (Bet 365) about a set one tie break (over 12.5 total games) looks fair value.

Elsewhere, Fernando Verdasco could be a possibility on his long-awaited comeback, but we’re guessing as to how he’ll shape up against Bjorn Fratangelo. Nando hasn’t played regularly since the 2019 season, so it’s quite an ask for him today.

It’s also a big ask for 2019 Wimbledon Boy’s champion Shintaro Mochizuki (who lost in straight sets to Altug Celikbilek in Singapore’s main draw) to beat injury-prone Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Neither of those underdogs seem likely winners, but Pedro Martinez is a possibility against Tennys Sandgren, however it is the first match back for the Spaniard after a fibrillar tear in the abdomen at the Australian Open.

I distinctly recall backing Federico Delbonis to beat Jordan Thompson as underdog at Indian Wells a couple of years ago, with Delbonis losing in a final set tie break, and I’m a little tempted to do so again.

Thompson didn’t look quite right in a bad-tempered loss to Emil Ruusuvuori last time out in Dubai and played with tape on his neck, which wasn’t a great sign given that the neck was the problem area at the Australian Open and the Ruusuvuori match was Thompson’s first match since then.

That Indian Wells match lasted for almost three-and-a-half hours and I wonder if Thompson is fit enough yet to potentially do that again in this rematch?

Delbonis is one of many clay courters who appreciate the slowish surface and high bounce here in Miami and his record shows that, with a 7-5 win/loss mark that includes wins over Carreno Busta, Struff, Gojowczyk and Millman and he took Novak Djokovic to a third set here in 2019.

He’s also lost in deciders to Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori in Miami, so he’s not to be underestimated at this tournament.

Thompson played well himself here last year, beating Dimitrov, Khachanov and Norrie before falling to Anderson in the last-16, but his record against lefties is patchy at best, and 2.38 about a Delbonis win (Bet Victor) is worth risking.

It’ll no doubt be a very frustrating watch, as all Delbonis matches tend to be, and the overs and/or 2-1 set betting win for Delbonis at 5.20 (Unibet) are also options worth considering.

Best Bets

0.5 points win over 12.5 games in set one of Anderson/Monteiro at 4.33 (Bet 365)

0.5 points win Delbonis to beat Thompson at 2.38 (Bet Victor)