The North American hard court swing begins in earnest in week 31 of the ATP Tour, with the Citi Open in Washington DC the week’s only tour level event.
Some of the players were in Atlanta last week for the very first US outdoor hard court event of the summer, while some were in Tokyo at the Olympics, but for several this is their first hard court tournament since the spring.
What’s happened in the recent past at the Citi Open is that it’s produced a pretty run of the mill (33%) amount of underdog winners (last seven editions average), an average of 81% service holds (last four editions) and a high number of tie breaks (44%).
That latter figure is behind only the US Open, the Australian Open (both played over the longer format) and Pune in terms of matches featuring a tie break and looking at the field that’s assembled this week we could be seeing quite a few in 2021.
In terms of profitability or otherwise in backing every underdog in the tournament, you’d have made a loss of £63 if you’d backed them all in the last five editions (£10 stake) and round three has been by some way the best round for finding dog winners.
A healthy 45% of them have won on average in the last seven editions (£141.50 profit to a £10 stake if you’d backed all of the round three underdogs), while a more modest 30% only have won in round one in the same timeframe.
That would have seen you in the red figures to the tune of £158 if you’d have backed all of the round one underdogs in the last seven editions of Washington DC.
Back to 2021’s tournament, then, and Monday’s weather forecast is suggesting a sunny day in DC of around 27/28C in the shade at its peak and around 45% humidity in the afternoon, so a decent day for tennis, with not much wind expected.
Jack Sock said about the Citi Open in 2017 after losing to Kevin Anderson in the semi finals: “I don’t think I’ll be back at this tournament probably in the future. It’s probably the worst court of the year. Speed, bounces, everything. It’s pretty shocking.”
Needless to say, he came back in 2019 and is back again in 2021 to see if the SportMaster surface has gotten any better since it’s “shocking” performance in 2017.
Maybe he’ll moan about it again if he loses to Yoshihito Nishioka, which is quite possible, despite Sock beating the Japanese player pretty easily on grass a few weeks ago in Newport.
I’m not sure why Nishi bothers playing any grass tournaments apart from Wimbledon as he clearly hates the surface, saying after losing to Sock: “It was a match that I couldn’t take to my own style. After all, I’m not good at grass.”
And that’s coming from a player who beat John Isner on grass at Wimbledon only a month or so ago and for me that says two things: 1) the grass at Wimbledon is slower and firmer than other grass events and 2) Nishioka tends to show up way better at majors than he does in clay and grass tour events.
I watched him at Eastbourne in practice and he was barely interested (he lost in straight sets to Andreas Seppi) but on a lively hard court in hot and humid conditions (Nishioka won Shenzhen in hot and quick conditions as a qualifier) he may well be a different player.
He played pretty well in a final set loss to eventual finalist Karen Khachanov in Tokyo and I’m not convinced that Sock is back to the sort of form that should make him favourite here.
Based on the stats of the match-up I’m not sure that Kei Nishikori should be as short as 1.44 to beat an admittedly out of form Sam Querrey.
Nishi leads the head-to-head 6-4 and has won five of the last six and that seems to be swaying the layers into making Nishi too short here, given that it’s Querrey who’s won more service points and more return points in the 10-match series.
Querrey has also broken serve more often and so why does Nishi lead 6-4? Mainly because he’s won all five of the tie breaks that the pair have contested (two of them final set tie breaks).
Querrey’s hard court form is a worry, with the American losing nine of his last 11 hard court matches, but last week’s defeat to a player who simply loves beating big servers, Peter Gojowczyk, was in a final set tie break.
That will have allowed Querrey some match time back on US hard courts, while Nishi has been in Tokyo, and it could be worth chancing Querrey here at this price.
There’s often a case to be made for backing the underdog when two rivals from the same country face each other and that’s the case when Ilya Ivashka and Egor Gerasimov clash on Grandstand Court at around 4pm local time (9pm UK time).
Ivashka has now played 48 sets of tennis since the French Open, while Gerasimov has played just 18, which is a pretty significant difference, and Ivashka may well become a bit of a victim of his own success here.
Gerasimov is hamstrung quite a lot by his lack of ability on clay and grass, which leaves him in trouble for substantial parts of the season, but hard courts are where he plays his best and he’s likely to be taking the next few months much more seriously.
He played well on hard and indoor hard at the start of the season, losing one he should have won against eventual finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime in Melbourne’s ATP 250 event before making the semis in Montpellier (lost to eventual champ Goffin).
He’s a former finalist in Pune on quick outdoor hard in hot conditions and he’s also won three of his six career clashes with Ivashka. Indeed, he was favourite for their most recent encounter in November 2019, which he won.
Ivashka has won only 39% of his career main level matches on hard courts (Gerasimov 55%) and looks rather short in price for this one.
Recent form points very much to Ivashka winning this one, hence the price, but I like the odds on Gerasimov here and +1.5 sets at 1.87 (Bet Victor) or +3.5 games at 2.10 (Paddy/Betfair) or the straight win at 3.45 (Unibet) look like decent value.
So, three underdogs I like the prices about on Monday, then, and let’s see if we get any reward by taking on the favourites today.
0.5 points win Nishioka to beat Sock at 2.30 (Bet 365)
0.5 points win Querrey to beat Nishikori at 2.80 (Bet Victor)
0.5 points win Gerasimov to beat Ivashka at 3.45 (Unibet)
0.5 points win Gerasimov +3.5 games to beat Ivashka at 2.10 (Paddy/Betfair)