The ATP Tour makes its yearly stop off in Canada in week 32, with the players heading to Toronto for the Canada Masters.
It’s a pretty weak field for this year’s National Bank Open (formerly the Rogers Cup) though, with a whole host of big names giving this week a swerve, and so there could be an opportunity for a decent-priced winner or finalist.
But first, a look back on what was another frustrating week of outright betting in week 31 in Washington DC.
Once again, the bookies got away with a horribly (from their point of view) mispriced selection in 50-1 Seb Korda when the young American (who was 14-1 with most layers) blew his chances in DC.
Korda failed spectacularly to serve out set against eventual champion Jannik Sinner from a double break lead to lose to the Italian in two tie breaks and once again he didn’t look fully fit.
Neither did our other bet, Reilly Opelka, who had treatment on an ankle issue in his round one match before putting in a weak effort against John Millman in the last-16.
Home hope Frances Tiafoe managed to be out-performed by fellow DC’er Denis Kudla, but he was at least beaten by the fast-improving Jenson Brooksby, who went on to beat number two seed, Felix Auger-Aliassime and make the semi final.
And to add to that, our 25-1 pick form the previous week in Atlanta, Lloyd Harris, went and beat Rafael Nadal, having blown a 5-1 tie break lead that ultimately led to defeat against Jordan Thompson in round one in Atlanta.
Conditions and trends
The ATP Tour stops off in Toronto for the first time since 2018 and on that occasion they played on a Decoturf outdoor hard court, which still seems to be the case in 2021.
Back then the CPI of the court was a slowish 29.8, so in the past it’s not been the quickest of surfaces and Rafael Nadal ended up winning the title that year, beating 100-1 shot Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
It was here in 2014 when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga enjoyed probably the finest week of his career when he beat Djokovic, Murray, Dimitrov and Federer back-to-back to win the title.
That’s usually what it takes to win a M1000 and big-priced winners are rare, but we saw in Miami earlier on in the year when 100-1 chance Hubert Hurkacz won it just what’s possible in a weakened Masters field.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not been a great tournament for qualifiers, with no one from the quali draw having made the quarter finals in Toronto since 2004 when Thomas Johansson and Jan Hernych did it.
National Bank Open 2021 draw
Our market leaders this week, then, are Rafael Nadal, who, having also won Montreal in 2019 is a two-time defending Canada Open champion, and the man Nadal beat in that 2019 Montreal final and that’s Daniil Medvedev.
The Russian, who’s a 100/30 chance this week hasn’t really produced his best tennis since the beginning of the year when he was very good in Australia and I think he could be vulnerable in this top half of the draw.
Clearly, the brutal conditions in Tokyo had quite a bearing on Medvedev losing in the quarter finals of the Olympics to Pablo Carreno Busta, but he wasn’t at his best during the grass swing either and he doesn’t represent any betting value for me this week.
Neither to me does Medvedev’s compatriot, Andrey Rublev, who, similarly to Medvedev, hasn’t yet recovered his early-season form, although winning gold in the mixed doubles at the Olympics could be a nice boost for him.
A price of 7-1 (you can get 10-1 with Unibet) seems rather short, considering Rublev’s many failures (so far) to play his best tennis in Masters and majors and there are plenty of players in this top half of the draw that could represent better value.
At three times the general price of Rublev (22/1 with Ladbrokes), Denis Shapovalov is the one that stands out in his home tournament and as well as being motivated playing at home his form lately (Gstaad aside) has been good.
The semi final showing at Wimbledon will be an obvious boost to his spirits and he’s been at least a match for Rublev in their four career meetings so far (2-2 head-to-head).
Indeed, a shoulder problem led to a slew of double faults from Shapo when he led Rublev by a set in St. Petersburg in their most recent clash last autumn and the Canadian won the two meetings before that, so his best tennis is more than capable of upsetting Rublev.
He’s also beaten Medvedev in two of their career clashes, but they haven’t met since 2018, so I’m not sure that series is too relevant at the moment.
Shapo has played well at home before, beating Nadal as a 17/2 chance and going on to make the semis in Montreal in 2017 and in all main level matches in Canada he’s 12-6 win/loss.
He hasn’t played here since 2019 though when he was number 32 in the world, so I’d expect that record to get even better in the years to come.
Shapo’s draw looks good, with the obvious stumbling block from my point of view being that he’ll probably have to face the man I backed last week, Seb Korda, first up and it’ll be annoying if Korda suddenly becomes rock solid serving out sets this week after last week’s (and Wimbledon’s) shambles.
Other, bigger-priced options, include Jannik Sinner, Hubert Hurkacz, Alex De Minaur, John Isner, Taylor Fritz, Korda, and Kei Nishikori and of these the first two look the most likely.
Sinner’s return to form in DC will have delighted his fans and he could well back that up this week, but he hasn’t been that successful against Medvedev so far in his career and he’s a bit short for me.
Hurkacz’s run to the Wimbledon semis means that the Pole is a 25-1 chance this week and that price isn’t overly appealing in a tricky mini-section that also includes Nishikori, De Minaur, Jenson Brooksby and Nikoloz Basilashvili.
Isner has rarely gone well in Canada, with a mediocre 11-10 win/loss record here and he’s probably more likely to be a factor next week back on US soil in Cincy.
Nishikori will probably be feeling it physically after a tough few weeks in Tokyo and Washington DC, while De Minaur doesn’t look up to winning a M1000 at the moment – he’s yet to better the last-16 at this level.
So, Shapo for me in the top half at 15-1, then (Bet 365) and in the bottom half, fellow countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime won’t mind his draw in Q3.
He’s been put in alongside Casper Ruud, Albert Ramos, Dusan Lajovic and Marin Cilic, which looks decent for FAA, but he’s yet to beat Cilic in three attempts and current form is a big worry, with his last two losses coming against Max Purcell and Jenson Brooksby.
I don’t really see any value in FAA at around 30-1 when also taking his dismal record in finals into account and Q3 may go the way of former Toronto finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But, similarly to Medvedev and Rublev, current form isn’t fabulous, with the Greek losing in round one at Wimbledon and then early on in Hamburg and at the Olympics, so 11/2 is plenty short enough about Tsitsipas.
He’ll also quite possibly have to face the man who beat him in Tokyo, Ugo Humbert, in his opening match in Toronto and there’s also Karen Khachanov, Aslan Karatsev and Cam Norrie in Q3, too, so it’s quite open-looking.
Q4 is interesting, with Rafael Nadal not looking that good in Washington DC last week in a very tight win over Jack Sock and a loss to Lloyd Harris and he may well face Harris again in his opening match in Toronto.
Rafa is also managing a foot injury, so despite his fine record in the Canada Masters (won 17 of his last 19 at the Rogers Cup) I’m not sure he’s going to continue his winning run this week as a 4/1 shot.
Perhaps the possibility of facing Nadal will spark Nick Kyrgios into life (they could meet in round 3) but it’s hard to see NK having the fitness (and probably the desire) to go much further in the tournament, as tempting as it is to back him at 50-1 upwards.
I think the best value in the bottom half could be the 40-1 that Ladbrokes are offering about Roberto Bautista Agut.
RBA won’t get a better chance to win at this level at the age of 33 now and if we’re assuming that Nadal’s foot injury and lack of form will prevent him from making the final RBA looks the most viable alternative and 40s is a decent price (other layers have him between 16s and 33s).
He hasn’t shown his best form since earlier on in the season (rather like Medvedev and Rublev) but he made the semis in the most recent hard court M1000 in Miami in March when the likes of Djokovic were again missing and he was favourite to make the final (lost to Sinner in three).
He also lost in a final set tie break (to Monfils) in the last eight in Montreal in 2019, so he’s got decent form at this venue and in all M1000s played on hard courts he’s won 17 of his last 24 matches, so he tends to play well at these events.
RBA has never won a set against Nadal in three meetings, but all three were on clay, and in what looks a pretty open bottom half of the draw Bautista Agut fits the bill at a nice price.
One worry is that he’ll probably have to face Vasek Pospisil in his opening round match and Pospisil did beat RBA in five sets at the US Open last season and of course the Canadian is playing at home.
Pospisil doesn’t look the force of old these days, but he might be up for this and hopefully RBA can negotiate that one (he’s beaten Pospisil on all three other occasions that they’ve clashed).
I’ll take two good prices from Ladbrokes this week, then, with Shapovalov the stand-out for me at 22s in the top half and Bautista Agut at 40s in the bottom half, with his solid record in M1000s on hard courts making him fair value, too.
1 point each-way Shapovalov at 22-1 (Ladbrokes)
1 point each-way Bautista Agut at 40-1 (Ladbrokes)