The ATP Tour has resumed after the completion of the final major of the 2021 season and the players are in Nur-Sultan and Metz – both ATP 250 events held on indoor hard.
I talked about the playing conditions of both tournaments in my outright preview and looking back at the one year that we’ve had so far of Nur-Sultan on the tour it produced quite a few underdog winners.
There were 37% underdog winners at the Astana Open in 2020 and many of those came in round one when 50% of them won, but you’d still have made a small loss if you’d backed every betting underdog in the tournament.
Only nine of its 27 matches (33%) featured a tie break and when combined with only 76% holds of serve it strongly backs up the feeling that conditions in Nur-Sultan are very much on the slow side.
The Moselle Open in Metz has far more stats to look back on and it has produced an average of 33% underdog winners in its last seven editions (2013 to 2019) and if you’d backed all of them in the last five editions you’d be out of pocket by almost £100 (to a £10 stake).
It tends to produce a lot of holds (82% in its last four editions) and tie break matches (46% in the last seven editions), so quite different conditions in Metz when compared to Nur-Sultan.
Round one of the Moselle Open has averaged 36% underdog winners in the last seven editions and if you’d backed every round one underdog in the last five editions you’d have made a loss of £35 (£10 stake).
On day one there were two underdog winners from four main draw matches, while in Metz there was one from three.
Nur-Sultan has four round one matches on the schedule for Tuesday and Metz has seven.
The lack of pace in these Nur-Sultan courts should assist Lorenzo Musetti, who’s making his debut on indoor hard at this level today against Marc Polmans.
Musetti’s not exactly a stranger to this sort of surface though, as he made the final of the Biella Challenger in February indoors, beating Seppi, Gulbis and Lacko, so assuming that he’s fit and up for it this week he should be too good for Polmans.
The Aussie doesn’t have much of a record indoors either, with a 6-11 win/loss mark at all levels indoors and he’s yet to win on this surface at main level, so it’s not so easy to make a case for Polmans in this one.
Winston-Salem winner Ilya Ivashka hasn’t got a fabulous record at this level on indoor hard either (7-6 win/loss) but he’s progressed a lot lately and the confidence that he has in his game right now should make him tough for Elias Ymer to beat.
That said, the slow conditions here should suit Ymer and I wonder if Ivashka will be able to hit through Ymer often enough to win as easily as the layers expect him to and the Swede has the advantage of having played qualies.
Ymer took out the attacking game of Maxime Cressy in qualies, which is probably another indicator of the slow conditions, and perhaps the Swede can take advantage of Ivashka’s slight rustiness, having not played since the US Open.
It’s hard to see Ymer winning the match, but the first set is possible at a price of around 3.30.
Dmitry Popko is yet to win a match on the ATP Tour, but he’s only played one so far and that was here last year when he lost in three sets to Radu Albot.
He was a wild card then and this time he’s come through qualies, beating Matt Ebden and Simon Anthony Ivanov, but there’s nothing in his record to suggest he’s a likely winner against defending Nur-Sultan champion John Millman.
The one chink of light for Popko backers is that Millman has struggled with injury this season and especially of late when he had a foot injury in Toronto and then withdrew from Cincy and Winston-Salem before losing in straights to Henri Laaksonen at the US Open.
So maybe Popko could catch Millman at a good time from the Kazakh’s point of view, but we’d just be guessing on Millman’s fitness.
I was a little surprised to see Benoit Paire rated a slight underdog against Egor Gerasimov, but on reflection you wonder what information the layers have about Paire, who complained that he needed a rest after the US Open.
If Paire shows up and puts the effort in then this is a decent price against an opponent who’s lost 20 of his last 27 matches and won three of his last 16 versus top-100 opponents (two of those were the fading Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the other Guido Pella who was playing only his fourth match in six months).
It’s always an ‘if’ with Benoit, but he’s been playing well lately, making the quarter finals of the Cincy Masters only a month ago, and in slow conditions I’m not too sure I understand why he’s underdog against an out of form Gerasimov.
The reason will probably become all too clear after about five games, but I have to take Paire at this price (but only for small stakes).
Moving on to Metz and first up it’s difficult to fancy Gilles Simon who lost comfortably to Teimuraz Gabashvili last week in Rennes after having to withdraw from the US Open and quarantine because his coach had Covid.
That said, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina isn’t in the best of form either, with four straight losses now, but he’ll probably have too much for a 36-year-old Simon with no match time under his belt lately.
I’d expect Arthur Rinderknech to have too much power in the end against Marcos Giron, while Karen Khachanov is unlikely to be troubled too much by Alexandre Muller, who’s yet to show much at main level (1-4 win/loss so far).
Andy Murray is a hard guy to predict these days, as he showed last week in the Rennes Challenger when he lost as a 1.46 chance to Roman Safiullin, but this is a new week and it’s possible that he could produce a vintage performance against Ugo Humbert.
I’d expect Humbert to come through that one, but Jan-Lennard Struff may well be vulnerable against a Mikael Ymer who’s proven tough to beat on all surfaces lately.
Ymer made the final in Winston-Salem, beating Carlos Alcaraz and Frances Tiafoe amongst others and prior to that he had a great chance to beat Casper Ruud on clay in Kitzbuhel, but he wasted that opportunity.
Nerves are often a problem for Ymer, but round one of Metz against Struff is hardly likely to be a nerve-jangling affair and the Swede has already beaten the German (in Miami back in 2018) so he shouldn’t fear Struff.
On his best form Struff could possibly overwhelm Ymer, but we haven’t seen his best form for some time and at the moment Struff is on a run of five losses from his last six matches and eight from his last 10.
In those 10 matches, Struff has broken serve only 12.5% of the time and he’s facing an opponent in Ymer that’s broken serve 39% of the time in his own last 10 main level matches.
Ymer hasn’t got much of a record on indoor hard at main level (5-10 win/loss) but he didn’t have a great record on outdoor hard either until Winston-Salem and he’s playing more aggressively now, too.
I wouldn’t say it was fabulous value, but 2.30 about Ymer is okay for a small wager.
0.5 points win Paire to beat Gerasimov at 1.95 (several firms)
0.5 points win Ymer to beat Struff at 2.30 (Bet365)