The ATP Tour continues on the grass in week 25 of the 2021 season and the players are in Eastbourne and Mallorca for their final opportunity to attune their games for Wimbledon next week.
Sean Calvert will be dodging the showers in Eastbourne and from there he brings us his preview of the opening day’s play at the Viking International and the Mallorca Championships.
Greetings from Eastbourne, where at the time of writing the weather is rather unsettled, but the forecast for the week is actually looking a little more promising than it was a few days ago, although Monday’s play looks like it will be seriously disrupted by rain.
Over the years Eastbourne has been very erratic in terms of winning underdogs, with a whopping 16 of 27 winning as recently as 2018 (£143 profit to a £10 stake if you backed every underdog), but only four of 27 won in 2014 for a £177 loss.
On average, in its last five editions it’s produced 36% winning underdogs and a loss of £122 if you’d backed every underdog in those five tournaments.
Round one alone has produced 38% underdog winners and a small profit of £14.00 (£10 stake) if you’d backed every underdog in round one in the last five editions.
There looks to be no problems with the weather on Monday in Mallorca, where a lovely sunny day of 27C in the shade is expected, so it looks like we’ll have to focus our attentions there for the day, unfortunately.
Jiri Vesely can be effective on the quicker surfaces and he’s won 60% of his main level matches on grass, so he looks a decent favourite to get the better of Salvatore Caruso, who’s had a shocker of a season.
Caruso looked like he was making good progress on the clay in 2019 and he also showed improvement on hard courts in 2020, too, but he’s struggled badly this year and won only six of 19 matches.
Of the six wins, five were against opponents ranked between 107 and 388, and he hasn’t beaten a top-100 opponent since February.
He’s also yet to win a main level match on grass (0-2) and he’s 7-7 at all levels on the surface, so this looks a good opportunity for Vesely, but he may take some time to get this done.
The Czech played Stuttgart on the grass a few weeks ago, losing in qualies to Dennis Novak before heading back home to play the Prostejov Challenger on clay, which didn’t work out as planned when he lost to Tobias Kamke in round two.
And he wasn’t happy about it either: “I was worried and fighting with myself,” Vesely said. “My expectations were completely different. I have to find my game in some way, and if I don’t find it, it will be hard for me to stay in the top 100 for a long time until then.”
What interests me here is Vesely’s propensity to play tie breaks on grass, with nine of his last 12 main level matches on the green stuff featuring at least one breaker.
So, with Vesely not feeling at his most confident and Caruso clearly lacking in confidence a nervy one is likely and with Vesely having played so many breakers on grass I don’t mind a shade of odds-against about there being a tie break in this match (2.10 Bet365 or it’s 2.50 with Sky Bet if you can bet with them).
Lloyd Harris is still learning on this surface and I wouldn’t be surprised if Corentin Moutet took a set off the South African, but I’m not really fancying many of the other dogs in Mallorca today.
Lucas Pouille looks a fair way away from the player he was at his best after injury problems set him back, but maybe his experience of the conditions in qualifying could help him to do some damage against Karen Khachanov.
Or there could be some value in siding with another of the qualifiers, Nicola Kuhn, to either take a set or take Feli Lopez to a tie break.
Having beaten decent opposition in Radu Albot and Pedro Martinez – both in straight sets – in qualies Kuhn should be in good shape to face the soon-to-be-40-year-old Feli Lopez.
Lopez hasn’t shown his usual sparkle this grass swing and this may well be his last season on the tour and while he might have too much grass court nous for Kuhn, who’s only ever played three matches on the surface, I wouldn’t back him at 1.28.
A tie break in set one (or over 12.5 games in set one) is around the 3.80 mark and that might be the way to go in that one, but I think there’ll be better opportunities in the days to come – if it stops raining here in Eastbourne.
1 point win tie break in match in Vesely/Caruso at 2.50 (Sky Bet)