The ATP Tour is in North America for the next six weeks or so and this summer hard court swing begins with the Citi Open in Washington DC. Sean Calvert is back to preview the outright betting market in this ATP 500 level tournament.
We didn’t get any joy in Kitzbuhel and Atlanta in week 30, with Lloyd Harris losing a match that he could and should have won in straight sets in Atlanta in what was my only outright single bet of the week.
The Kitzbuhel draw proved as tricky as I suspected, with the one I liked, Arthur Rinderknech, making the semis before losing to Casper Ruud, who should have been beaten in the previous round by Mikael Ymer.
As it turned out, market leader Ruud went on to win his third title in as many weeks, which hadn’t been done at this level since Andy Murray managed it a decade ago.
My tentative pick in the bottom half in Kitzbuhel and one part of my small stakes double was Roberto Buautista Agut, who lost to a very good performance from eventual finalist Pedro Martinez.
The second part of that bet, John Isner, is favourite in Sunday night’s final, so anyone on Isner as a standalone outright would be in a good position right now.
Conditions and trends
The Citi Open is usually played on a Decoturf outdoor hard court with Penn balls and often in very hot conditions.
Tie breaks are plentiful here, with 44% of its matches in the last seven editions featuring at least one tie break, and it averages 81% service holds in its last four editions.
It was last played in 2019 when Nick Kyrgios won it as a 20-1 chance (beating my bet Daniil Medvedev in the final) and that was one of the few occasions when one of the top-five seeds didn’t win the tournament (the one before that was Radek Stepanek in 2011).
It’s only been won by the number one seed once in the last six editions and the record of qualifiers here isn’t great: Peter Gojowczyk’s lucky looser run to the 2019 semis was the first time anyone from the qualie draw had gone that far since David Wheaton in 1997.
Big servers have tended to go well here, with Kyrgios, Anderson, Karlovic and Isner all finalists in the last five editions, while Alexander Zverev won it in 2017 and 2018.
The forecast says to expect a pretty hot and dry week, with temperatures increasing as the week goes on from around 28C to around 32C by finals day and with high humidity (60% in the day, rising to 75% at night).
Citi Open Washington DC
Our top seed this week, Rafael Nadal, plays Washington for the first time in his career and is in action for the first time since struggling physically in the French Open semi finals.
He then withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympics and it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on here in conditions that don’t appear to be particularly suitable for his game and after a break of six weeks.
This week will be the first time that Rafa has played an ATP Tour 250 or 500 in the United States in his entire career, so it’s a rare opportunity for US fans to see him play live outside of a M1000 or major.
He has a pretty decent record in ATP250/500s on outdoor hard (105-29 win/loss) and the last time he played one he won it without dropping a set (Acapulco in 2020), but he’s been beaten a few times as well and I couldn’t back him outright at 6/4 this week.
But, quite honestly, the opposition to Nadal doesn’t look particularly strong in the top half, with a pretty weak field for a 500 having assembled, due to last week’s Olympic Games tennis event.
Aside from Nadal, only Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex De Minaur are top-20 players and both of them are in the bottom half of the draw, with Nadal’s highest-ranked opponent in the top half being Grigor Dimitrov, who Nadal has beaten 14 times in 15 matches.
Dimitrov has only played two matches since the French Open due to an ongoing back problem and in his career as a whole the Bulgarian has only made one quarter final in Washington DC.
The other seeded players in the top half are Lloyd Harris, Alexander Bublik, Cam Norrie, Benoit Paire, Taylor Fritz and Dan Evans and none of those seem likely to beat Nadal on paper.
Nadal’s rustiness may give one of them a chance though – or perhaps one of the non-seeded players, such as Sam Querrey, Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios or Brandon Nakashima might go on a run.
Querrey and Kyrgios have the weapons to beat Nadal and both have done it before, but Querrey’s best days look behind him now, while Kyrgios probably lacks the fitness and matches to repeat his 2019 title winning week at the moment.
Bublik could be dangerous in these quick conditions, but he’s proven to be a frustrating player to back and it seems unlikely that his first title will come in a 500 from the same side of the draw as Nadal.
I prefer, then, to focus on the bottom half of the draw and the one that stands out for me is the man we were really unlucky with at Wimbledon and that’s Sebastian Korda.
The young American was agonisingly close to making the quarter finals at Wimbledon when he lost in a farcical fifth set to Karen Khachanov, but he showed a wider audience exactly what he’s capable of that week.
In quick conditions and over the shorter best-of-three format Korda has every chance of beating the likes of Jannik Sinner and De Minaur in Q3 and making the semi finals.
Korda beat De Minaur at Wimbledon, while Sinner looks unsuited to the fast conditions on the North American hard court swing, as he showed last week in Atlanta when he was outgunned by Christopher O’Connell (although he did make the final of the doubles).
I’m happy to take him on again this week and Korda looks the best placed to take advantage ahead of Miomir Kecmanovic, Emil Ruusuvuori and De Minaur in this quarter, but as Twitter followers will know, the value has gone a bit now.
Having taken Paddy/Betfair’s silly opening price of 50/1 about Korda he’s now a best-priced 22-1 with the same firm and that’s still a reasonable price, but win only, as they go 1/3 the odds on the each-way.
Fitness is often a worry with Korda and he withdrew from Los Cabos and Atlanta with unspecified reasons, but I’d assume (hope) that he’s just delaying his return until the optimum time.
In Q4, Reilly Opelka stands a fair chance of going deep in these conditions, with the big man expected to progress past John Millman (who usually hates facing big servers) and I’d give him a reasonable shot of beating the inconsistent Auger-Aliassime, too, so 25-1 isn’t bad about him this week.
Felix was beaten as a 1.15 chance by Max Purcell in Tokyo last week and I can’t be backing a player that’s lost all eight finals he’s contested (and not won a single set in any of them) at a price like 10/1 to win a 500 with Nadal in the field.
I’d rather take a chance on Frances Tiafoe, who’s always highly motivated (perhaps too highly motivated) to play in his home tournament and this bottom half of the draw isn’t beyond him on his best form.
Consistency is always the problem for Tiafoe and splitting with his coach Zack Evenden recently isn’t exactly a positive sign, but at odds of 50/1 he could be interesting.
Tiafoe played some superb stuff at Wimbledon and looked to have a fair chance of making the quarter finals, but put in a bad one against Khachanov in round three and therein lies the problem with Tiafoe – he’s always likely to have a bad day at some point in the week.
Former Washington DC finalist Kevin Anderson is another possibility in Q4 and he has beaten Tiafoe in four of five meetings, but Tiafoe somehow lost the last one from long odds-on and won the one before that in Melbourne, so I’m not sure that head-to-head is valid any longer.
Anderson got back in the winners’ circle for the first time since the start of the 2019 season when he won Newport a few weeks ago, but I’m not convinced about his fitness these days at 35 years of age.
Nobody in the top half of the draw looks worth taking on Nadal with, so my interest in Washington is in the bottom half, with Seb Korda the one of interest, although much of the value has already gone.
With Paddy/Betfair going 1/3 the odds on the each-way I’ll advise the straight win on Korda at 22-1 and hope someone takes care of Nadal in the top half.
I’ll also have a small interest in Reilly Opelka and Frances Tiafoe in a bottom half that looks quite open.
2 points win Korda at 22/1 (Paddy Power/Betfair)
1 point win Opelka at 25/1 (generally)
0.5 points win Tiafoe at 50/1 (Paddy Power/Betfair)