Sean Calvert’s ATP Moscow/Antwerp Tuesday Preview

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There’s more round one action from the Kremlin Cup and the European Open on Tuesday and Wednesday, with nine opening round matches left to play in Moscow and the same number in Antwerp.

We started the week off in pleasing fashion on Monday, with two odds-against winners from two bets: John Millman finally overcoming Benjamin Bonzi in three after blowing a 5-2 double break lead in set one, while Marin Cilic, as expected, took time to find his range and did need a third set to beat Damir Dzumhur.

Looking at what’s left to play in terms of the round one matches, the most appealing options seem to be in Moscow, so I’m focussing mainly on the Kremlin Cup for today’s bets and also a look at the outright situation in Antwerp, now that the draw is complete.

Adrian Mannarino has struggled for form on his return from a nasty injury suffered at Wimbledon in the summer, but I don’t mind risking him as underdog against Roman Safiulin at a tournament where Manna has made the last two finals.

The Frenchman could have hoped for some better draws than Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andy Murray for his comeback and while the defeat to Gianluca Mager wasn’t great, that was his first match for almost a month and third since the end of June.

Mannarino has been known to go on lengthy poor runs in the past, so I wouldn’t be too quick to write him off this week and this looks a winnable starter for the 33-year-old.

Safiulin lost to a French lefty (Corentin Moutet) at the Orleans Challenger a few weeks ago and in all the Russian is 1-6 win/loss versus left-handers at Challenger level.

Safiulin has only played two top-100 ranked lefties in his career (Moutet and Cam Norrie) and he’s yet to win one, but that aside, I’m struggling to see what form he does have at main level that makes the layers like his chances today.

He’s done no more than OK at main level so far, with a 3-5 win/loss mark and a 100 hold/break total, while in his last 50 Challenger matches he’s gone 26-24 win/loss and a hold/break total of 105.

Again, nothing to get excited about – in Mannarino’s last 50 matches in Challengers he won 42 of them and his hold/break total was 122.

Manna often comes to life in these late season indoor events and in the past 12 months he’s 11-7 win/loss and a hold/break total of 108 at main level, so this is just a question of whether or not Mannarino can find something like his best form again.

The problem now is that the line has moved heavily in favour of Mannarino and after Safiulin opened at 1.68 with Pinnacle, he’s now a 1.90 chance, so the value has been squeezed out of this one.

Federico Coria is yet to show anything on indoor hard at main level, with two one-sided defeats to Pablo Andujar and Benjamin Bonzi and I wouldn’t be backing him at 1.40 on this surface against many players, let alone a highly motivated wild card.

In those two matches he’s only held serve 56% of the time and failed to break at all, so things don’t look too promising for Coria as a force on this surface and the fact that he played on clay between Indian Wells and now suggests that he hardly sees this indoor swing as an opportunity.

Indeed, Coria lost two and two (as number one seed) to Manuel Guinard (world number 275) in Napoli last Wednesday and now he faces a young wild card in Alibek Kachmazov, the world number 638.

Kachmazov has played once before at this level (not surprisingly it was here in Moscow), losing to fellow wild card, Alen Avidzba, in 2019, but his best week in terms of the quality of the opposition came at the Nur-Sultan Challenger in March this year.

Kachmazov beat top seed Ulises Blanch and then lost 7-5 in the third to James Duckworth, so on that form and playing at home in Russia you’d have to give him a very good chance of at least being the one that wants this more.

Evgeny Donskoy, born and bred in Moscow, is another one pretty much guaranteed to be giving it 100 percent this week and he has beaten Ilya Ivashka a couple of times in his career, but times have very much changed since those matches in 2016 and 2017.

Ivashka might be suffering at the moment from the amount of matches he played in the summer, withdrawing from Sofia and Indian Wells with a back injury, so there have to be doubts about his preparation for this match.

Donskoy made the semis here in 2015, but other than that his record in Moscow is quite weak 7-13 win/loss (94 hold/break total in the main draw), so unless you’re taking a punt on Ivashka not being fully fit/match sharp then it doesn’t strike me as that appealing to back Donskoy here.

We had a nice winner with Guido Pella at Indian Wells when he took down Soonwoo Kwon and I wonder if Pella, playing off a protected ranking this week, will fancy upsetting the odds again versus Pedro Martinez?

Pella’s record indoors isn’t great, as you’d expect from a clay court grinder like him, but his numbers aren’t awful, with 82% holds and 15% breaks (97 total) in his 14 main level matches on indoor hard.

Martinez has only ever played one match on indoor hard at this level and that was a few weeks ago in Sofia when he was beaten in straight sets by fellow clay courter, Laslo Djere.

Indeed, Martinez’ full record at all levels on indoor hard is 5-9 win/loss, with only one career win indoors over a player ranked inside the world’s top 350.

This could be another case of one player simply being more motivated, with Pella’s current (non-protected) ranking of 82 not high enough for direct entry this week and the fact that he using his protected ranking here suggests he’ll be aiming to go a few rounds.

He played well enough in outlasting Kwon and being competitive against Roberto Bautista Agut to suggest he could outlast Martinez as well.

Russian-born Alexander Bublik has had some decent results in Moscow over the years, but he’s another one for whom fitness is a possible issue after he withdrew from Sofia and Indian Wells with a shoulder injury.

He’s got a 5-2 win/loss record on indoor hard at main level when priced up between 1.41 and 1.59 (11-7 on all surfaces) but we’re guessing with Bublik much of the time anyway, without worrying about whether he’s fit or not as well, so I’ll pass on his match with Ilya Marchenko.

Yoshihito Nishioka is an interesting proposition at the prices against Mackenzie McDonald, given that of the two it’s actually Nishioka that has the better record at main level on indoor hard.

Nishioka is 11-10 win/loss (McDonald 4-6) and his service hold/break total is a respectable 102 (McDonald 98) and the Japanese has won all three of their career meetings, so to say the least McDonald looks short in price here at around 1.43.

If we’re simply taking the stats from the career series (two of which were played on clay and the other on outdoor hard) they’re heavily in favour of Nishioka, who’s held serve 86% of the time (McDonald 61%) and it’s the Japanese who’s won 10% more points ion first serve and 20% more on his second ball than the American.

It’s perhaps not the most relevant of comparisons, as the one hard court match was in 2014 and the others on clay (French Open and Estoril) in 2019, but Nishioka would hardly class clay as his best surface.

Nishioka was a little fortunate that some withdrawals meant that he got bumped up to the main draw because an issue with a missing Russian visa looked set to delay his arrival until the last moment, but that ceased to be a problem when he got direct entry.

The low-bouncing surface indoors should at least cut out the problem that McDonald was having on clay against Nishioka, whereby the latter would target the former’s backhand with high balls, thus keeping it out of McDonald’s strike zone on the backhand side.

So, it’ll be a different match to those clay clashes, but McDonald has struggled at main level against lefties, winning only three of the 10 matches he’s played, including the last five in a row, and in his career at all levels versus top-100 opponents he’s also 3-7 win/loss.

Plenty of options in Moscow’s remaining round one matches, then, and one I’m tempted by in Antwerp is to back the crowd favourite Zizou Bergs in some way against Lloyd Harris.

Bergs has played some great stuff this year, winning Challengers on indoor hard and clay and his performances last year here in Antwerp were very good, too.

In the last 12 months on indoor hard at Challenger level, Bergs has won 18 of his 21 matches, holding serve 85% of the time and breaking 33% of the time (118 combined total) and even a year ago he was almost too much for Karen Khachanov to handle here in Antwerp.

That day, Bergs lost 6-4 in the third to Khachanov after beating Albert Ramos and he also took clay specialist Lalso Djere to a final set in Gstaad earlier on this season, so his forays into the main ATP Tour have been promising.

Harris has had a great season and is playing well, but he’s coming from very different conditions in Indian Wells and he’s yet to really show his best form on indoor hard, with a 4-5 win/loss record at the moment.

Backing Bergs to win a set here at 2.38 or to win the first set at 3.75 look the ones of interest in this match.

On the outright front, I’ve taken the 25-1 on offer from Betfred about Jenson Brooksby, which looks like nice value, considering the rest go between 10-1 and 14-1.

It’s a tough draw for Brooksby, but that price I’m happy to add him to this week’s small outright portfolio and maybe one more tomorrow, depending on price.

Best Bets

1 point win Nishioka to beat McDonald at 3.20 (generally)

1 point win Pella to beat Martinez at 2.40 (Bet Victor)

1 point win Bergs to win a set against Harris at 2.38 (Bet 365/BoyleSports)

1 point win Brooksby to win Antwerp at 25-1 (Betfred)