Sean Calvert’s ATP Cincinnati Monday Preview

Posted on

The Masters 1000 tennis continues in week 33 of the ATP Tour, with the players making the journey from Toronto, Canada to Mason, Ohio for the 2021 Western and Southern Open.

It’s a quick turnaround for those that went deep in Toronto in hot conditions and it’s set to be steamy this week in Cincy, with thunderstorms expected and high humidity to go with temperatures in the shade of around 27C.

Monday’s play features 10 men’s round one matches in this joint ATP/WTA event and conditions will be steamy, with 27C heat in the shade combined with 80% humidity and scattered thunderstorms are expected, too.

Over the years the Cincy Masters has produced a fairly average return as far as underdog winners are concerned, with 32% of them winning on average in the last eight years (including last year’s event, which was held in New York).

If you’d backed every underdog in the tournament in the last five years you’d have made a profit in three of those years and round one has produced the highest percentage of those winners (36% on average) apart from the final, which the underdog has won three times in the last six years.

The last couple of years haven’t been great for underdog backers in round one, with only 11 of 48 (23%) winning and as far as tie break matches are concerned the tournament has averaged 41% in the last eight years.

Service holds at the Lindner Family Tennis Centre from 2013 to 2019 when it was played on a Decoturf surface averaged 81% and last year when it was held in New York on a Laykold there were 79% holds of serve.

There is a hint of altitude in Mason (230m or so) and power players or attacking players usually fare pretty well at the Cincy Masters – Novak Djokovic didn’t win the title here until his 12th attempt.

Of Monday’s matches, on current form I don’t mind taking a chance on Filip Krajinovic to get the better of Alex De Minaur, who looks bereft of confidence at the moment.

It’ll be a first meeting between the pair, but Krajinovic made the quarter finals of Cincy (held in New York, but on the same Laykold surface) last year, crushing Dominic Thiem, who went on to lift the US Open trophy in his next tournament and losing out 7-5 in the third from a set up to eventual finalist Milos Raonic.

So we know he can play on this particular surface and although he hasn’t played on hard for a long time the Serb’s current form is much better than that of De Minaur and on clay as well, where he’s not usually at his best.

For me, Krajinovic is most effective on quick hard or indoor hard and so these Cincy conditions should suit and De Minaur is coming off two defeats in a row on hard (and one on grass) since winning a weak Eastbourne event on grass in June.

Nikoloz Basilashvili crushed him last week in Toronto and prior to that ADM faded away badly against Steve Johnson in Washington DC, so he’s struggling right now and looks poor value as favourite here.

If we take the stats from the last 10 main level matches of each player on outdoor hard into account we see that Krajinovic has held serve 82% of the time and broken 22% of the time (104 total) while De Minaur has held only 76% of the time and broken 20% of the time (96 total), so recent hard court numbers are in Krajinovic’s favour, too.

The Aussie also hasn’t been one to rely on when priced up in the range between 1.70 and 1.90 at main level in his career, losing seven of his last 10 going back to October 2018 and I couldn’t back him as favourite here.

Fitness is also a worry (as it often is) when thinking about Marton Fucsovics as a potential underdog winner in his clash with the struggling Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Both of these men were Wimbledon quarter finalists only a month or so ago, but it’s gone a bit wrong for both since, with Fucsovics not having played since that quarter final appearance due to a shoulder injury.

The Hungarian withdrew from Hamburg and the Olympics in Tokyo and so we’re guessing as to his fitness, while FAA has lost to Max Purcell, Jenson Brooksby and Dusan Lajovic (and won from a set down against Andreas Seppi) since his quarter final at SW19.

He didn’t win a set against Purcell, Brooksby or Lajovic and he sounds a bit burned out at the moment:

“I just played a lot of tennis, even though I didn’t win a lot of matches at the Olympics or the last week,” he said after losing to Lajovic at his home tournament. “There’s a lot of travelling, a lot of practices, a lot of balls hit and maybe that’s taken a bit of a toll on me, too. I don’t know.”

The pair have faced each other twice in the past and both were peculiar affairs, with two 6-0 sets and a 6-1 in the six sets that they’ve contested (both on hard courts).

I am tempted with Fucsovics, but I think there are better value options around today.

Speaking of value, I wonder what sort of condition Taylor Fritz is in after having heart issues last week in Toronto when he was barely moving and beaten by James Duckworth?

Fritz has said that he likes playing in the heat, but it certainly didn’t seem to be the case last week and it’s not likely to be any more comfortable for him in Cincy either.

And he’ll need to be reasonably fit, as he’s never found Albert Ramos an easy opponent to face in the past on hard courts or clay and three might be some value on the Spaniard today.

The pair have met twice already this year, with Ramos winning in quick conditions (for clay) in Madrid just two days after he’d looked dead on his feet in the Estoril final and prior to that, Fritz edged a four-set battle at the Australian Open in February.

Before that, Fritz won another tight one on hard back in 2017 in Los Cabos and in the nine sets they’ve contested, five have gone to at least 12 games and only two have ended in fewer than 10 games.

Fritz has lost nine of his last 14 main level matches against left-handers and won only one of his four career matches at this tournament, so I wonder if there could be some value in taking either the over games or Ramos on the handicap here?

I can’t back Ramos at odds-on though with a 3.5 game start, but 2.50 (Sky Bet) for there to be a tie break in the match looks decent, as does the 4.50 on a set one tie break (Bet 365, Unibet).

Another one that might be worth thinking about at a big price – and this one has the potential to go badly wrong – is to chance Federico Delbonis to force Jannik Sinner to a tie break in their opening set on Sinner’s 20th birthday.

Sinner was unable to back up his Washington DC title in a leggy effort the following week in Toronto and he’s never played at the Linder Family Tennis Centre, so he won’t be familiar with the conditions here.

When he played ‘Cincy’ last year he lost in round one to Salvatore Caruso and it might take him a while to get going against Delbonis, who might prove tricky at first in conditions that are quite bouncy in what will be a first career meeting.

Delbonis should get some good height and pace on his serve and while it’s too quick for him to be much of a threat in general and he’s 1-5 win/loss here he’s always been competitive.

In those five defeats, only one has ended in fewer than 21.5 total games, three have featured tie breaks and he’s taken sets off Gael Monfils and Casper Ruud.

At 9.0 (William Hill) I don’t mind a small punt on 7-6 to Sinner in set one here.

Elsewhere, I’ll be watching Fabio Fognini take on my big-priced one this week, Nikoloz Basilashvili and the prices look about right there, as they also do about Jan-Lennard Struff to beat John Millman.

Dan Evans is getting his fitness back after testing positive for Covid and hasn’t looked anywhere near his best since, while fellow Brit Andy Murray doesn’t seem much value as slight underdog against Richard Gasquet given all Murray’s injury woes.

I watched Gasquet yesterday and he looked pretty decent after a slow start against Jaume Munar and those two qualie matches should stand him in good stead here.

So, I’m happy to take Krajinovic on the match odds today as well as Fritz to be forced to a breaker by Ramos and a big-priced punt in the Sinner match, too.

Best Bets

1 point win Krajinovic to beat De Minaur at 2.20 (generally)

1 point win tie break played in Fritz/Ramos at 2.50 (Sky Bet) or 2.37 (Bet365, Unibet)

0.5 points win Sinner to win set one 7-6 at 9.0 (William Hill)