Tuesday’s play at the 2021 Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio sees the remainder of the round one matches complete and the second round begin.
We didn’t get much luck on day one in Cincy when my idea of siding with Albert Ramos against Taylor Fritz ended up with me choosing the wrong bet (as usual), as Ramos won it in three as a good underdog – and there was no tie break played in three 6-4 sets.
Then Filip Krajinovic opened up with a bagel against Alex De Minaur and as is so often the case when a player wins the first set 6-0, Krajinovic went on to lose in three after a rain delay allowed ADM the chance to regroup following that bagel.
We’re expecting a similar sort of day, weather-wise, on Tuesday with early rain giving way to scattered thunderstorms and it’ll be very humid again (85% humidity at midday) and around 27C in the shade.
John Isner is tempting in these conditions as slight underdog against Cam Norrie, with the Brit holding a 1-7 win/loss record against the big servers on my list at the moment.
Indeed, Norrie’s only win in those eight matches came against Isner on clay in Lyon and since then Norrie has lost to Isner, Anderson, Raonic, Opelka, Raonic again and Berrettini.
Only the Berrettini loss was this season though, so perhaps the more confident Norrie that we’re seeing these days will be able to cope better, but in these conditions it’s hard to be confident in Norrie against an Isner who was in fine form again last week.
The American is vastly more experienced in playing at the Lindner Family Tennis Centre, with 31 matches played here compared to Norrie’s two (lost them both) and perhaps the key stat in this match-up is Norrie’s woeful record at breaking big servers.
In those eight matches that I mentioned, Norrie has broken serve only 2% of the time, winning only 23% of the return points in those matches and by comparison, Isner himself has won 27% of his return points against the same group of big servers.
With that in mind, tie breaks seem nailed on here, but the worry with Isner is fitness after losing heavily to Daniil Medvedev in Toronto on Saturday and of that match and Isner’s serve, Medvedev said: “I felt like it’s the conditions [they played at night] or something was wrong with him, he was definitely not serving 230 or 240 like usually.”
The odds have moved overnight, with Isner now slight favourite with most layers and I like the idea of also backing Isner to win set one 7-6 at 4.60 (William Hill).
Tie breaks also seem highly likely when Reilly Opelka and Corentin Moutet clash, with the latter currently holding a surprisingly good 4-1 win/loss record against the big servers in my database, although three of the matches were played on clay.
Moutet beat Opelka as a 2.37 chance on clay in Lyon in 2019 and he’s also beaten Ivo Karlovic twice on the red dirt (one of those was at very high altitude in Quito) and Milos Raonic on outdoor hard (in Doha in 2020).
Every one of those five matches involved at least one breaker and Moutet has played 0.53 tie breaks per set in those matches, breaking serve only 8.5% of the time.
You never really know what you’re going to get from Moutet on any given day, but Opelka has definitely had trouble against nimble lefties in the past (0-3 versus Dominik Koepfer) and there’s a case to be made for Moutet here.
The inconsistent Frenchman battled his way through qualies, saving three match points against Alexei Popyrin after cruising past another biggish server in Vasek Pospsil the previous round.
Moutet did have the physio out in both of those qualie matches, which is a little off-putting, but this is a tough turnaround for Opelka from Sunday’s final in Toronto and I don’t mind taking a punt on Moutet at 3.0 (Betway).
Still on the tie breaks theme, it would be pretty typical if Albert Ramos played his tie breaks today instead of yesterday and there’s every chance of that happening against the returning from injury Matteo Berrettini.
The Italian usually needs matches to find his form and he hasn’t played on a hard court since the Australian Open in February or on any surface for over a month, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him below par here.
Berrettini has never faced Ramos before and the experienced lefty will be looking for that weaker Berrettini backhand as a leveller in the rallies (as he did with Fritz) and the Italian has found lefties to be tough opposition for that reason.
The fading Guido Pella took a set off him at Wimbledon and Berrettini hasn’t won any of his last seven matches against lefties without either dropping a set or needing at least one tie break (or both).
Ramos +1.5 sets at 2.50 (Bet 365) or Ramos to win set one at 4.0 (Bet 365) look the ones to consider here.
Alexander Zverev, as I mentioned in my outright preview, is yet to win a match in the main draw at Cincy and an opener against Lloyd Harris doesn’t look an easy option for the German to try and stop the rot.
When this pair met in Cologne indoors last autumn Harris was struggling with injury and still took a set off the eventual champion that week and having beaten Nadal a couple of weeks ago Harris is in confident mood.
Zverev potentially losing early on would be great news for my huge-priced punt on Ugo Humbert in this quarter of the draw, so I don’t need to back Harris today, but the South African is likely to provide stern resistance today.
Also on the outright front, I’m obviously hopeful that Hubert Hurkacz can turnaround the 0-2 head-to-head that he currently has against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and he’s got a great chance of doing that this time.
When the pair met at the 2020 US Open, Hurkacz had a bicep injury, while their Montpellier clash was Hurkacz’s first match for two weeks and first indoors for three months, whereas ADF had played one match already in Montpellier and two the previous week indoors in Biella.
Indeed, ADF’s previous 16 matches to that Montpellier one were all played on indoor hard, so he was much more attuned to conditions than Hurkacz, who should be better prepared this time – hopefully.
We haven’t had any luck at all this season with outrights whose opening matches have been 50/50 affairs – pretty much all of them have lost, as Nikoloz Basilashvili also did yesterday – so Aslan Karatsev’s opening match against Marin Cilic could be a nervy one.
Cilic seems unable to keep his best level up for more than a set or maybe two on a good day these days, but he’s a former winner here in Cincy and knowing my luck at the moment he’ll probably play two great sets.
All I can do is hope that isn’t the case and that Karatsev hits some form, as conditions here should suit him nicely if he gets past this round one test.
Our outright of last week, Denis Shapovalov, had a shocker on a windy night in Toronto last week against Frances Tiafoe and he could be vulnerable again versus a Benoit Paire who’s started playing again now that he’s got a crowd watching him.
Other than his appalling attitude, the constant worry with Paire is that terrible first serve percentage and yet again he was below 50% yesterday but still beat Miomir Kecmanovic handily in the end.
He’s beaten Shapo twice in three meetings (on clay and grass) and Shapo hasn’t been able to find anything like good form since his run to the Wimbledon semis.
So, plenty of underdog options on Tuesday in Cincy and I’ll take four of them.
1 point win Isner to beat Norrie at 1.93 (Unibet)
0.5 points win Isner to win set one 7-6 at 4.60 (William Hill)
0.5 points win Ramos to win set one at 4.0 (Bet 365)
0.5 points win Moutet to beat Opelka at 3.0 (Betway)