Sean Calvert’s ATP Metz/Nur-Sultan Outright Preview

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The ATP Tour resumes in week 38, with two ATP 250 tournaments held on indoor hard in Nur-Sultan and Metz.

But before that, a brief look back at what was another disappointingly predictable US Open (on the men’s side at least).


We’ve done very well with our daily bets in majors this season and that continued at the US Open, where we made a profit of 5.4 points, despite one loser from 1.12 in-play, but the big-priced outrights continue to elude me in 2021.

Hubert Hurkacz was really disappointing in a loss from 1.04 in-play against an Andreas Seppi who’d played a five set marathon the previous round, while Denis Shapovalov was equally bad – if not worse – against Lloyd Harris.

So, once again, it came down to the market leaders, but Novak Djokovic was denied his ‘calendar slam’ by number two seed Daniil Medvedev, who, of course, we backed the major before at Wimbledon (when, ironically, he was beaten by Hurkacz).

No 21st major and no history made for Djokovic then and he’ll have to wait for Melbourne (assuming it takes place) to overtake Federer and Nadal in terms of most majors won.

Conditions and trends

Nur-Sultan was given a single-year license in 2020, but it carries on in 2021 to fill the gaping hole in the calendar that’s been left by the lack of an Asian swing and this was played on a really slow indoor surface 12 months ago.

There were just 71% holds in qualies and 76% in the main draw, combined with only 33% tie breaks on a GreenSet surface that was one of the slowest I can recall in recent times.

John Millman won it last year and this is the sort of surface that does favour the baseline grinders over the more attacking players – unless they’ve quickened it up considerably since 2020.

It’s a different story in Metz, where they’ve played on a Slamcourt surface since 2017 and it’s far quicker here at a hint of altitude (170m) than in Nur-Sultan and it regularly features in the top-10 of all tournaments in terms of service holds and tie break matches.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the most recent winner here (in 2019), but grinders like Aljaz Bedene and Gilles Simon have been finalists lately, too, while Matthias Bachinger was a finalist as recently as 2018.

Indeed, Peter Gojowczyk won it as a qualifier in 2017, so it’s worth keeping an eye on those that progress from the qualie draw here in Metz, while French players usually go well here, too (there’s been at least one French player in the final every year bar one since 2007).

Moselle Open, Metz

Heading up the top half of the draw as our number one seed this week is the aforementioned Hubert Hurkacz, whose form, as we’ve seen on a few occasions lately, can vary substantially.

He seems to be the sort of player that goes through good spells followed by poor spells and at the moment the Pole isn’t at his best, although that could change at any moment.

Hurkacz is yet to produce anything of note on indoor hard, with a pretty weak main level record of 7-14 win/loss and only one quarter final (no further) so far.

And this half of the Metz draw looks the toughest, with Andy Murray, Ugo Humbert, Alex De Minaur, Arthur Rinderknech, Richard Gasquet, Vasek Pospisil, Peter Gojowczyk and Karen Khachanov all capable of making the final on their best form.

Gasquet has never won the title in Metz and he probably won’t now at 35 years of age, but he couldn’t be totally discounted this week.

The likeliest Frenchman to make the final from the top half though is Ugo Humbert, who hasn’t shown his best form yet in Metz, but conditions here should favour the lefty, who’s a force to be reckoned with on quick surfaces.

He showed that again in winning the Halle title on grass in the summer and while he may have a tricky one first up in Murray, Humbert is the one I’d fancy rather than Hurkacz.

Humbert has faced Murray before (lost in three in the 2019 Antwerp semis) so he shouldn’t be fazed by playing the Brit again and you really never know what to expect from Murray these days – he lost poorly to Roman Safiullin in the Rennes Challenger last week.

Humbert has held serve 87% of the time on indoor hard since the start of 2020 (14-7 win/loss) but he does need to improve a touch on return, where he’s broken only 15.4% of the time, leading to too many tie breaks (0.30 per set).

The other worry about Humbert is that he’s yet to make a final at home in France at main level and he was poor in both semi finals that he’s reached here, so maybe he’s a bit too short at around 8/1 to back in a single bet.

The other French player in the top half that could very well go deep here is Arthur Rinderknech, who lost a tight one to Humbert in the Marseille quarter finals in very similar conditions in March.

Rinderknech should have won that day, but blinked at the vital time, and he’s more appealing at around 25-1.

If he beats Marcos Giron first up he’d have a test against De Minaur, but the Aussie has been poor lately, losing five of his last six matches, and the power of Rinderknech could well be enough to win that one.

I do wonder a little bit about his fitness though – he had an MTO on Saturday in the Rennes Challenger semi finals (lost to Bonzi) for a lower back issue and maybe it’s a big ask for him after he spoke about fatigue following the US Open.

I took the 45/1 that Unibet put up about Vasek Pospisil on the basis that it was twice the price of anyone else, but I’m not so sure about the Canadian’s desire these days, with off-court activities seemingly more on his mind now.

Peter Gojowczyk is often a player to have on your side when he’s on a winning run and after a great US Open where only really injury stopped him in the last-16 I’m happy to back him here at 33/1 (Betfair/Paddy Power).

The German has qualified, as he did in 2017 when he won the title, and if he can stay fit he’s a real threat in these conditions.

Karen Khachanov is a definite possibility on his best form, but it’s hard to know when he’s going to produce it, with no titles now for the Russian since the 2018 Paris Masters.

On that basis alone it’s tough to see any value in Khachanov at around 9/1 and he’s just the kind of big serving/big forehand type that Gojowczyk love to take on, which he may well get the chance to do in round two.

In the bottom half, I’ve had a lot of success with Nikoloz Basilashvili this year, but I’m not backing him at 14/1 or so on quick indoor hard – his record indoors isn’t the best at 18-23 win/loss in his last 50 main level matches and a hold/break total of 95.

That third quarter of the draw could well go the way of Gael Monfils, who has a 15-4 win/loss record in Metz, but, typically of Lamonf he’s generally lost the matches that matter, with one title, two semi final losses (as favourite) and one defeat in the final.

Monfils is too difficult to win with for my liking (seven titles in the last decade) so I’ll give him a miss at 7/1.

The man I was considering, Alexei Popyrin, has withdrawn, so it looks like Q4 could well be won by Lorenzo Sonego.

The Italian looked decent in beating a typically hit and miss Marton Fucsovics on Monday and he should have few problems against either Holger Rune or a lucky loser in the next round.

Pablo Carreno Busta is the obvious problem for Sonego, but Sonego has beaten PCB before on a quickish surface (on grass in Antalya in 2019) and PCB is vulnerable indoors.

PCB hasn’t made a final on indoor hard since 2016 and his overall record indoors at main level in his last 50 matches is 25-25 win/loss, with a hold/break total of 98, so it’s hard to see any value in him as 7/1 second favourite.

In these conditions I’ll take a chance on the 16-1 on offer (BoyleSports, Unibet, Ladbrokes) about Sonego as my wager in the bottom half in Metz.

Astana Open, Nur-Sultan

This looks a very uninspiring field and betting market in Nur-Sultan and there isn’t a single player in this draw that stands out to me as any serious value from an outright perspective.

Benjamin Bonzi is in the form of his life at the moment and I wonder if he might carry that Challenger form (he’s now won six titles at that level this season, tying the record) into the ATP Tour.

It’s a big ask physically, having won three titles in three weeks, but it’s a possibility that the adrenaline could keep him going for another week and his confidence must be sky high at the moment.

He’s got a potentially very tough draw though: Ruusuvuori, Karatsev, and then probably Ivashka, so I’d want a big price on Bonzi and 25/1 isn’t big enough for me.

Karatsev’s form has tailed off lately and it’s slower here than would be ideal for him, as it probably is, too, for Ruusuvuori (he did make the semis here last year though), while Ivashka is much too short for me, with the Belarusian having played a lot of tennis these past few months.

I’d say it was probably too slow for the seemingly fading Mikhail Kukushkin, too, but Q2 is a tricky one due to the unknown fitness status of the two seeds, Filip Krajinovic and John Millman.

Both looked well below peak fitness at the US Open, with Millman having struggled with a foot injury this summer and Krajinovic suffering with a shoulder problem in New York.

Krajinovic has always been a player that struggles with injury, but if he is fit this looks very much like the sort of tournament that’s within his ability range and he might well grab a maiden title this week – if he’s fit.

His hold/break total in his last 50 main level matches indoors is 104 and while he’d perhaps want it quicker than this the Serb has strong claims on his best form.

James Duckworth would probably be Krajinovic’s first opponent and the Aussie comes here in form, having just won the Istanbul Challenger on outdoor hard on Sunday, but he’s struggled to back up that sort of form at main level and is 0-4 win/loss indoors on the tour.

The bottom half of the Nur-Sultan draw looks wide open, with favourite and number two seed Alexander Bublik likely to find it too slow for him as he did last year when he lost to Mackenzie McDonald in straight sets.

You never know with Bublik, but he’s been out of form this summer and perhaps someone like Miomir Kecmanovic could be the one to take advantage in this half.

The Serb is a bit hit and miss and does have a tendency to fade away if matches aren’t going his way sometimes, but he started well enough against Fernando Verdasco on Monday and if he beats Bublik, the bottom half of the draw would open up nicely.

But 10/1 is too short for me about Kecmanovic.

Ricardas Berankis is capable indoors and it wouldn’t surprise me if he made the latter stages, but it’s tough to see him having the consistency to win the title.

A more likely contender is the winner of Benoit Paire vs Egor Gerasimov and a resurgent Paire looks to have a fair chance this week if he’s in the mood.

It’s probably too slow for Gerasimov (although he did make the quarters here last year) and he’s been in poor form for some time now, so maybe Paire will go well, but it’s always a risk with Benoit.

Q3 of this Nur-Sultan draw has plenty of players in it that are more comfortable on clay, so perhaps it could be an opportunity for Soonwoo Kwon to go deep.

He’s more accomplished on hard courts than most in Q3 and he’s got a chance of making the final from this half of the draw, but equally I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost to Evgeny Donskoy in round one.


Nothing in Nur-Sultan is strong enough for me to have an outright single, but I’ll have a small double on Krajinovic in Nur-Sultan and Humbert in Metz which would pay a tasty 90/1 (Ladbrokes) if successful.

A long shot, yes, but half a point is really all Nur-Sultan is worth and we should get a good run for our money with any luck.

Gojowczyk gets the vote in the top half in Metz at 33/1 (first show after play ended on Monday, so you may get a bigger price) and Sonego will carry my money at 16s in the bottom half.

Best Bets

1 point Sonego to win Metz at 16/1 (several firms)

0.5 points Gojowczyk to win Metz at 33/1(Paddy Power, Betfair, Ladbrokes)

0.5 points double Krajinovic to win Nur-Sultan/Humbert to win Metz at 90/1 (Ladbrokes)