Sean Calvert’s ATP Moscow/Antwerp Day 1 Preview

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The ATP Tour heads indoors for the final month of the season, kicking off at the European Open in Antwerp, Belgium, and the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, Russia – two ATP 250 events in the lead-up to the Paris Masters in a fortnight’s time.

Over the years, the Kremlin Cup has produced its fair share of ‘interesting’ results and on average in the last eight editions there have been 36% underdog winners, with the highest average (40%) coming in round one.

If you’d backed every underdog at the ATP Kremlin Cup in its last five editions (2015-2019) with a stake of £10 per bet you’d be in profit by £146, making it the ninth-best tournament on the tour in that regard.

Backing all of the underdogs in round one alone in the last five editions would have seen you in profit by £131 (£10 stake) so it’s been a good event over the years for underdog bettors.

Antwerp can’t quite match those sorts of numbers, but it has provided 35% underdog winners on average in its five years on the tour and you’d have made a loss of £29 had you backed all of the Antwerp underdogs to a £10 stake in the last five years.

Round one of Antwerp has seen 35% of the underdogs win on average in its five years on the tour, but you’d have made a loss of £40 if you’d backed all of them (£10 stake) from 2016-2020.

As I mentioned in my outright preview, Moscow is being played at two venues this year, so the matches that are listed in the schedule as ‘Centre Court’ are at the Irina Viner-Usmanova Gymnastics Palace and those listed as ‘Court 1’ or ‘Court 2’ will be played at the Luzhniki Palace of Sports.

There are only three men’s main draw singles matches on the card on Monday in Moscow and you wouldn’t rule out an upset in the matches featuring Marin Cilic and Benjamin Bonzi.

Cilic hasn’t played since the US Open, having taken family time off due to the birth of his latest child in September, and I wonder how likely it is that at some point in his match against qualifier (and former Moscow champion (2017) Damir Dzumhur?

Considering Cilic’s erratic form these days I’d say it was reasonably likely and while he has an obvious power advantage over Dzumhur that doesn’t mean he’ll be able to utilise it for long enough to win comfortably.

Dzumhur has fallen away badly since his days ranked inside the top-25 in the world in the summer of 2018 and he hasn’t beaten a top-50 player for over two years now, but he did take down Stefanos Tsitsipas (then ranked 12) on indoor hard in 2019 (and he beat Tsitsipas in the 2018 Paris Masters).

Away from grass, Cilic has only won back-to-back matches in three tournaments all season and he’s only won three of his last 35 hard court matches in straight sets in a run that goes all the way back to the start of the 2020 season.

So, backing Cilic to win 2-0 on hard courts in the last 22 months or so would have led to some seriously heavy losses and given that Dzumhur should be much the more match tight and attuned to the conditions having come through qualies, it’s worth opposing Cilic to win 2-0 again.

I’m not sure that Dzumhur on his current form is much value at 2.95 to win the match or at odds-on to win a set, so for me the 4.0 about Cilic winning this 2-1 looks the play.

Benjamin Bonzi has been in the form of his career this season at Challenger level, but he may well be running out of gas now after a colossal 81 matches so far in 2021.

The Frenchman went on a run of 21 wins from 23 matches in late July to mid-September, but he then retired (not surprisingly) in round one at main level in Nur-Sultan and since then he’s lost to Henri Laaksonen and Mats Rosenkranz in his latest Challenger outings.

So, after all that tennis it would be no shock at all if Monday’s opponent John Millman (who’s played 42 matches in 2021) simply had the legs on Bonzi and I’m a little surprised that Bonzi is as short at 1.70 here.

Granted, Millman’s form hasn’t been great, but he battles, and that might be enough against an opponent who, despite his Challenger success, has a record of 5-10 win/loss at main level in his career so far and a hold/break total of 94 in those 15 matches.

Bonzi has eased a bit overnight in the betting from around 1.70 to 1.80, but I’ll still take Millman at 2.10 in this match.

Over in Antwerp at the European Open, they’re still to complete qualifying, and so there are only three main draw matches scheduled for Monday.

Arthur Rinderknech should be too much for Federico Delbonis to handle on an indoor hard court (he also beat Delbonis comfortably on clay at altitude in Kitzbuhel this summer) with Delbonis’ record indoors reading 5-13 win/loss and a hold/break total of 91.

Delbonis hasn’t won a match since the end of the clay swing in July and it would be an upset if he beat Rinderknech here, but the latter has been struggling a little bit for wins lately and a tie break in this match would be no surprise.

Richard Gasquet versus Dusan Lajovic is one for the purists, with plenty of technically sound hitting, elegant one-handed backhands and probably a close match, I would expect.

Gasquet is a bit of an enigma these days at 35 and lost to Jiri Vesely two weeks ago at the Orleans Challenger (quarter finals) after being beaten by Mats Moraing at the Rennes Challenger a couple of weeks prior to that.

Vesely isn’t the best of returners, but he created 15 break chances (only took three) against Gasquet, which would worry me if I were backing the Gasman today.

Lajovic is always tough to call, with consistency not his strong point, with wins over Felix-Auger Aliassime and Emil Ruusuvuori on hard courts this summer showing his upside, but he was poor in what should have been favourable conditions last week at Indian Wells.

That came after he withdrew from San Diego (not sure why) and indoor hard isn’t usually the best surface for Lajovic, who’s 12-27 win/loss all-time on indoor hard at main level and with a hold/break total of 93.

In his last 10 main level matches indoors, Lajovic is 1-9 win/loss, with a hold/break total of just 87, but the one win came against none other than Daniil Medvedev (Rotterdam this season), which sums Lajovic up perfectly.

The bookies can’t split this pair and I don’t wish to, but Lajovic has played at least one breaker in eight of his last 13 main level matches on indoor hard and in his only clash with Gasquet he won it 7-6, 7-6 on clay, so maybe backing a tie break is an option here rather than picking the winner.

Finally, Alexei Popyrin and Botic van de Zandschulp face off for the first time in their careers in the evening match and this looks tough to call, with slight preference for me going to Popyrin, who’s 2.20 underdog.

Popyrin played really well against Miomir Kecmanovic at Indian Wells, hitting 32 winners on a slow court that day before trying the same aggressive approach against Hubert Hurkacz in the next round, which didn’t work out.

Popyrin wasn’t accurate enough against Hurkacz, but any repeat of the Kecmanovic match level would make him a good value underdog against Van de Zandschulp, who’s got something to prove now at this level after his US Open exploits.

VDZ is favourite based on the main level stats of the pair this past season (and also on their last 10 matches each), so the prices look about right, but if I were betting on this I’d probably be on Popyrin in the hope he’ll reproduce the level he found against Kecmanovic.

But I’ll take the Cilic bet and Millman only on Monday.

Best Bets

1 point win Cilic to beat Dzumhur 2-1 at 4.0 (generally)

1 point win Millman to beat Bonzi at 2.10 (generally)