The ATP Tour heads to a new venue on outdoor hard in San Diego, USA and to Sofia, Bulgaria on indoor hard in week 39, with two ATP 250 events in the week before the rescheduled Indian Wells.
But before that, a brief look back at what was another frustrating week on the outrights in Nur-Sultan and Metz.
It’s been a thoroughly dispiriting season on the outrights and that was compounded in week 38 when we had yet another big-priced semi final loser and another one that got away.
I said last week about Soonwoo Kwon in Nur-Sultan: “he’s got a chance of making the final from this half of the draw,” yet I opted against backing the Korean, who, of course, went on to win the title as a 25-1 chance.
And in Metz, we did as well as we could with the big prices in backing 80-1 chance Peter Gojowczyk, who became the latest in a long list of semi final losers when he was beaten by the man who let us down in the US Open (and Cincy) Hubert Hurkacz.
Of our last 10 outright single bets that have made the semi finals, nine have lost, and of the last 14 outright singles that have reached a semi final, not a single one has gone on to win the title. Absolutely incredible, but that’s how it’s been in recent times unfortunately.
Conditions and trends
The Sofia Open at the Arena Armeec Sofia in Bulgaria is usually played on a fair paced Proflex surface, but it’s not entirely clear if that’s the same this time around.
The ATP have it listed as ‘hard, acrylic on wood’, as they did last year, but either way it’s a surface that’s produced an average of 82% holds in the last three years and an average of 46% tie break matches in the last four years.
So, along with 550m of altitude, it’s one of the quicker indoor events around, but only in 2018 when Mirza Basic won it at a huge price as a qualifier (and 50-1 Marius Copil made the final) has it produced a champion at a double figure price and Basic is the only qualifier so far to have passed round two of the Sofia Open.
The San Diego Open is a new event on the tour and has been given a single-year licence to be staged in California the week before the rescheduled Indian Wells, also in California.
It’s going to be played at the Barnes Tennis Centre on Laykold outdoor hard courts (the same as most of the US Open Series) and we’re expecting a pleasant week of sunshine and cloud between 23C and 26C in the shade.
Jannik Sinner returns to Sofia to defend the title that he won last year in a final set tie break against Vasek Pospisil (yes, of course, we were on Pospisil outright) and he may have to face Pospisil again in his opening match.
The Canadian hasn’t looked the same player for a while now and seems more interested in off-court tennis activities, but that doesn’t mean he can’t knock Sinner out in the Italian’s first match.
There are several in Sinner’s top half of the draw in with chances on their best form and among those are Emil Ruusuvuori, James Duckworth, Benoit Paire, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Alexander Bublik and Lorenzo Musetti.
Duckworth is probably feeling it after making back-to-back finals, while Musetti hasn’t looked himself for a while now after admitting to off-court issues (and it’s probabky a bit quick for him here) and Bublik has proven rather inconsistent and difficult to win with.
Bublik does have a nice draw in Q2 though, alongside Musetti, two local wild cards, a qualifier and Laslo Djere, but the same could be said of Filip Krajinovic.
I thought that Krajinovic might go well last week, but he lost first up to James Duckworth, however the quicker conditions in Sofia compared to Nur-Sultan should suit Krajinovic better.
Players have mentioned in the past how hard it is to control the ball here in Sofia at slight altitude and I could imagine Krajinovic to be better suited to deal with that problem rather than Bublik.
In the bottom half of the draw John Millman doesn’t look fully fit at the moment and Alex De Minaur is struggling with his game, so Q3 might be an opportunity for Mikael Ymer to show what he can do.
De Minaur will probably face an immediate rematch with Marcos Giron (assuming Giron beats Jaume Munar), who beat ADM last week in Metz, and De Minaur doesn’t appear as if he’s in title-winning form at the moment.
Ymer played pretty well again last week in Metz, beating Struff and pushing Pablo Carreno Busta hard for a set and perhaps the altitude here will help Ymer to hold serve a little more than he usually does. His price isn’t that appealing though.
The two qualifiers could also have a say in proceedings in Q3, with Pedro Martinez, Andreas Seppi and Egor Gerasimov still in with chances of qualifying, but with qualies not likely to be concluded until Monday afternoon I’ll have to ignore the qualifiers in Sofia.
In Q4 I’m tempted to take a chance on Adrian Mannarino, who will have more gas in the tank than many of the others having only played two matches since Wimbledon, but he did withdraw from Nur-Sultan last week, which is a concern.
Mannarino made the final of Nur-Sultan in conditions that are too slow for him really and he made the semis here in Sofia a year ago, losing out to Sinner, so he’s not without a chance.
He’s beaten Gael Monfils, our number two seed this week, a couple of times (both on grass) and he’s also beaten MiomirKecmanovic three times (7-0 in sets and none have gone past 10 games).
That alone puts me off Kecmanovic, while Ilya Ivashka has played a lot of tennis in recent months and was beaten by Duckworth in Nur-Sultan last week, plus he’d have to get past Monfils, so I’m not wild about Ivashka this week either.
If Mannarino is fit and ready he stands a fair chance in the bottom half of the draw and I don’t mind taking a chance on him at 33-1, but that will be my only interest in Sofia.
San Diego Open
Many of the market leaders in San Diego have been playing Laver Cup on slow indoor hard in Boston this past week and will have to make the transition to outdoor hard on the West Coast pretty quickly.
Among them are all four high seeds: Andrey Rublev, Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Diego Schwartzman, so with Indian Wells only 10 days away I’m not so sure that we’ll see a full week from that quartet.
And it’s a really good quality field for a 250 that’s assembled in San Diego, so there are plenty of possible alternatives to the top seeds this week.
In the top half Lloyd Harris looks a threat on his form this hard court summer in which he’s totalled 85% service holds and 24% breaks for a very solid combined total of 109, losing only to Zverev (twice), Opelka and Nishikori in his last three defeats.
That’s better than the 85% holds and 19% breaks of top seed Rublev in the same period and if Tiafoe can get the better of Rublev on these Laykold courts there’s no reason why Harris can’t, too, so at 16-1 (Betfred) he’s the bet.
Brandon Nakashima is another one that’s impressed on hard courts of late, compiling his own 11-5 win/loss record at main level and a hold/break total of 104, so you’d have to give him a fair shot as well.
His draw looks a little trickier though, with Fabio Fognini first up and then Rublev and after that maybe Harris or Diego Schwartzman, so I’d want a bigger price than 22-1 about him I think.
Schwartzman found the slow courts in Boston to his liking, but it’ll be quicker here and he usually runs into someone with too much power sooner or later in these conditions. Perhaps it’ll be Harris on this occasion.
Q2 looks wide open, with Denis Shapovalov’s form having fallen away badly since Wimbledon, with a 2-5 win/loss mark and the two wins coming against out and out clay courters Federico Delbonis and Roberto Carballes Baena.
Any of the others in Q2 are capable of progressing at the expense of Shapo and of these I like the 25-1 about San Diego boy Taylor Fritz.
Fritz was born in the area and lives just up the coast near LA, so he knows these conditions better than most and will be keen to impress after enduring injury and health issues this past few months.
The bad injury at the French Open he recovered from amazingly quickly and he went on to make the semis in Los Cabos and Atlanta, but he had a health scare in Toronto and lost a tough one to Jenson Brooksby in New York.
I’d expect a renewed effort from him in California though and having beaten Shapovalov the last time they met and holding a 2-0 lead over Dan Evans, Fritz looks well-placed to threaten this week at 30-1 (Unibet).
British stars cam Norrie and Evans are also more than capable in this quarter, as is Nur-Sultan winner Kwon, but it’s a tough turnaround for the latter.
The bottom half of the San Diego draw looks packed with quality and it’s far easier to rule players out than it is to call the winner.
Federico Delbonis and probably Tommy Paul will do well to get very far this week, but any of the other 11 in the main draw are all potential finalists on their best form.
Number two seed Casper Ruud has been playing very well on hard courts lately, but I still feel that he can be undone by power in these conditions – assuming that they are on the quicker side.
We’ve been unlucky with Seb Korda this season, with Kordalosing a ridiculous final set at Wimbledon against Karen Khachanov that should have seen him into a ‘for the money’ match with Shapovalov.
The he lost in two tie breaks to Jannik Sinner in Washington when Sinner went on to win the title and after that he struggled with injury and in New York he had food poisoning, so he’s relatively fresh at the moment.
Korda has only played four completed matches since Wimbledon, so he should be fresher than most and his draw isn’t bad: Tommy Paul first up and then either Basilashvili or Sonego.
Ruud is beatable as well and I don’t mind investing in Kordaagain: he certainly has the ability to be mixing it in this sort of field.
Q3 looks impossible to call, with Hubert Hurkacz, Aslan Karatsev, Marton Fucsovics, Grigor Dimitrov and Felix Auger-Aliassime all possible winners, so I’ll leave that part of the draw alone.
Just a small interest in Sofia this week then with 33-1 Adrian Mannarino my long shot in Bulgaria, while in San Diego I’m taking Lloyd Harris as my main bet there, with Taylor Fritz and Seb Korda as back-up.
2 points win Harris to win San Diego at 16-1 (Betfred)
0.5 points win Fritz to win San Diego at 30-1 (Unibet)
0.5 points win Korda to win San Diego at 25-1 (generally)
0.5 points win Mannarino to win Sofia at 33-1 (Paddy Power/Betfair)