The National Bank Open presented by Rogers (or the Rogers Cup or Canada Masters to everyone else) is underway in Toronto and Tuesday’s play features the remaining seven round one matches as well as the start of round two.
In years gone by, Toronto has averaged a service hold mark of 81% (last five editions from 2010 to 2018) but they’ve now changed the surface to the same Laykold one that’s also used at the US Open (since 2020) where previously both events were played on a Decoturf surface.
That 2020 US Open produced 79% service holds and the Cincy Masters that immediately preceded it was also played at the same venue and also produced 79% service holds.
The 2010 to 2018 Rogers Cup tournaments held in Toronto (five editions) averaged 33% underdog winners and overall, if you’d backed every underdog in those five tournaments you’d have made a tiny profit of £22 to a £10 stake.
Round one has tended to be a good round for backing underdogs, with 41% of them on average winning in the last five editions, which would have made you a profit of £265 if you’d backed every round one underdog in those five tournaments.
Round two has been nowhere near as good in that sense, with just 24% of the betting underdogs winning in the last five editions of Toronto, which would have seen you £175 down if you’d backed all of those underdogs.
The other peculiarity in Toronto’s recent history is that 50% of the matches in round two (rising to 57% in the last three editions alone) have produced at least one tie break.
Round one of the 2021 Rogers Cup has so far produced one genuine underdog winner (James Duckworth over a sick Taylor Fritz, who had heart problems and looked in a bad way) and three very slight underdog winners, so the dogs have gone four from nine so far.
Tuesday’s weather forecast is predicting scattered thunderstorms in Toronto after a tough day on Monday that was described by Marin Cilic as “brutal… very humid and hot.”
It’ll be a little windy (15mph strength), so conditions might be tricky on day two as well, with humidity as high as 79% expected during the day and as high as 86% by 9pm local time.
Of the remaining round one matches, the clash between Nikoloz Basilashvili and Jenson Brooksby could prove to be very interesting.
Basil beat the up-and-coming American at the 2019 US Open in four sets, but only after coming from a set and 1-4 down against the fading Brooksby, who had an elbow problem that day and didn’t have much left in the tank by set four.
Basil hit 71 unforced errors in that match and this one on Tuesday will be all about whether or not the Georgian is able to breach the strong defences of Brooksby.
The unusual style of Brooksby might well frustrate Basil, who loves to be on the baseline hitting as hard as he possibly can and I’d imagine that Brooksby will look to use his drop shot fairly often to get Basil out of his rhythm.
That double-handed slice backhand drop shot that Brooksby hits is almost a carbon copy of the one that Florian Mayer used to use and it could well prove effective against Basilashvili.
That said, the price on Brooksby of around the 1.40 mark looks plenty short enough and if Basil has one of his better days he might well be able to overpower the young American.
He could also possibly benefit from a bit of fatigue on the part of Brooksby, who went deep last week in the heat in Washington DC and faded rather in the second set against Jannik Sinner.
I couldn’t back Brooksby at this price and Basil is perhaps one to consider, given that he’s faced Brooksby before and should know what’s coming and that he played pretty well on hard courts in Tokyo (he came the closest of anyone in terms of games won to Alexander Zverev, losing by only three games in total to the eventual champ).
Benoit Paire and Mackenzie McDonald played each other only last week in DC and it was a tight one, with the American coming through in three sets on his way to the final there.
Both players scored the same number of points in that match and Paire summed up his day in pretty typical style, saying on Instagram: ‘FUCK. Game level = ZERO’
With fans back in attendance, Paire has improved from the dismal level we saw from him throughout 2020 and earlier in 2021 and if he gets more first serves in on Tuesday we might see a turnaround of the DC result.
Paire managed just 49% of first serves that day, but he won 79% of his first serve points (10% more than McDonald) and he was only 5% behind the American on second serve points won.
If he serves at nearer to 60% he could turn this around and he should also be fresher than McDonald, who played for almost three hours in the DC final only two days ago, and he’ll have to go again in very humid conditions after a fast turnaround.
Paire also converted only three of 12 break chances (25% conversion rate) and while McDonald wasn’t great either in that regard (5 of 17) I don’t mind 2.90 on Paire against a fatigued opponent, although I can imagine that some won’t fancy it because it’s Benoit.
John Isner has a very mediocre record at the Canada Masters, coming as it does in-between Atlanta/Washington and Cincy and he’s lost to the likes of Garin, Chardy, Dodig and Harrison here over the years.
He didn’t fare that well on the Laykold surface last autumn either, losing in round one of the US Open to Steve Johnson and he scraped past John Millman in a final set tie break before losing to Tsitsipas the next round.
Isner should get past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who’s very inexperienced indeed when it comes to facing big servers (he’s only played one from my list and that on clay against Berrettini in Monte-Carlo).
But, as the prices suggest, it’s unlikely to be an easy one for Isner (who reportedly had his luggage lost by Air Canada on the flight over), with ADF being much the better player off the ground and Isner will need a strong day on serve to pass this test.
Miomir Kecmanovic is a tough guy to try and predict, with a really lacklustre effort last week in DC when he lost tamely to Ricardas Berankis, which came after another tight loss to Ugo Humbert (this time at the Olympics in Tokyo).
He lost to the same player from a winning position in Majorca on the grass and played very well in a five set loss to Roberto Bautista Agut at Wimbledon, but I wonder which Kecmanovic will turn up on Tuesday?
He faces Kei Nishikori, who he beat on clay at altitude in Kitzbuhel as underdog last September, but Nishi was in the early stages of a comeback from injury at that point.
This time he might find Nishikori below par again after a busy spell in Tokyo and Washington DC and I wouldn’t be too keen on Nishikori, who indicated that he’s rather tired a few days ago:
“I was little bit tired after coming from Japan,” he said after beating Lloyd Harris in DC. “I had a couple of days rest, it wasn’t easy, I had only 3 or 4 days before first match, I was able to manage, fight through first couple of rounds, now I’m feeling good again, I will do my best this weekend we’ll see for next week.”
It’s the “we’ll see for next week” bit that would worry me as a backer of Nishikori at 1.39 and I’m happy to chance Kecmanovic, who can certainly compete with Nishi on his best form, at 3.30.
Cam Norrie is another underdog possibility, too, with the Brit having walloped Karen Khachanov 6-1, 6-1 on clay in the Lyon semi finals a few months back (he also beat the same opponent in Barcelona, also on clay, a month prior).
Very different conditions today, of course, but I wonder if this run of Khachanov’s to the Olympic final has been taken too much into account in the pricing of this match?
Norrie’s more than capable on hard courts, as he showed in winning his maiden tour level title in Los Cabos a few weeks ago, but I’m a little worried about fatigue with Norrie, who’s looked a bit leggy since Los Cabos.
Our man from last week, Seb Korda, has withdrawn with a lower back problem that might (if I was feeling generous) go some way to explain why he couldn’t serve out a set from 5-2 up against Jannik Sinner and the lucky loser is Frances Tiafoe, who plays Yoshihito Nishioka.
And I have to say, I’m rather surprised that Tiafoe is as short as 1.44 to win this given that he lost in qualies heavily to Emil Russuvuori and was bageled by JJ Wolf in the earlier qualie round in a match where Wolf won more points but lost.
Tiafoe has also lost nine of his last 12 main level matches on all surfaces against left-handers such as Nishioka and against top-60 ranked lefties as main level Tiafoe is 5-10 win/loss.
Nishioka beat Tiafoe in their only hard court meeting way back in 2016 and Tiafoe edged Nishioka out in a final set tie break on clay in Estoril in 2019, so I’m really struggling to see where this price comes from on Tiafoe.
Nishioka was unlucky last week when he was beating Jack Sock, who went on to almost beat Nadal in DC, and had to retire with a calf injury, but he’s qualified here in Toronto and I’m more than happy to take 2.90 (William Hill) about the Japanese player today.
So, a few options I like in the remaining R1 matches on Tuesday and while I’ll probably give Basilashvili a miss, I don’t mind backing Paire, Kecmanovic and Nishioka today at the prices.
1 point win Nishioka to beat Tiafoe at 2.90 (William Hill)
0.5 points win Paire to beat McDonald at 2.75 (Bet 365)
0.5 points win Kecmanovic to beat Nishikori at 3.20 (Bet Victor)