The ATP Tour continues indoors in week 43, with ATP 500 action in Vienna at the Erste Bank Open, as well as the ATP 250 St Petersburg Open in Russia.
Anyone who was able to take Betfred’s 25-1 about Jenson Brooksby in Antwerp got themselves some excellent value, with the American youngster a best-priced 14-1 everywhere else and after he eased into the semi finals things looked good.
Having made it to the semis at combined odds of just 3-1 and been priced up as favourite for his semi final match at around 1.70, had Brooksby won he’d have made the final at actual odds of less than 6-1.
Brooksby would have been underdog for the final against Jannik Sinner, but I imagine he’d have been at worst a 2-1 dog for that final (probably shorter), so the 25-1 that we got was great value, but Brooksby was less than fully fit, sporting more support tape in his loss to Diego Schwartzman than Mikhail Kukushkin regularly used to.
That defeat for Brooksby increased our ridiculous run of semi final losers in outrights to 11 of the last 12 and now our last 15 outright single bets that have made the semi final stage have failed to go on and win the title.
Over in Moscow, I said that no one player stood out in the top half of the draw, so I took a chance on Tommy Paul, who was beaten by a Maric Cilic that was able to produce one of his occasional solid weeks, while Aslan Karatsev did what he was seeded to do in the bottom half of the draw, making the final and going on to win the title.
So, no big-priced outright winners, with the number one and two seeds contesting the Antwerp final and the number two seed winning Moscow.
Conditions and trends
In Vienna at the Wiener Stadhalle they play on a Rebound Ace indoor hard court and there’s a hint of altitude here (219m) so it’s regularly a tournament that sees a high percentage of service holds (83% on average in the last three editions).
It’s also produced 46% tie break matches on average over the last nine years, so while it never appears that quick to the naked eye it’s not easy to break serve here.
Somewhat improbably, Lorenzo Sonego made the final here last year at 250-1 after losing in qualifying, getting back in as a lucky loser, and going on to beat a tanking Novak Djokovic on his way to the title match.
Qualifiers often go well in Vienna, with players from the qualie draw making either the final, semis or quarters in six of the last nine years, but the biggest priced winner in recent years was 28-1 Lucas Pouille in 2017.
Number one seeds have a decent record in Vienna, with seven finals in the last 11 years (six titles) and rarely do they lose early, with Stan Wawrinka’s early exit in 2008 being the last time that a number one seed has failed to make at least the last eight.
They also usually play on a Rebound Ace in St. Petersburg, where the lack of any altitude and slow balls make it appear slower than in Vienna and that’s backed up by the service holds and tie break matches – 77% holds in the last five years and 37% tie break matches.
Traditionally, clay courters have been able to compete here and Cam Norrie said of the conditions last year: “I really like the surface, it’s quite slow, the balls themselves are quite slow. It all fits my style of play.”
It was bumped up to an ATP 500 last year due to the lack of tournaments elsewhere at the time, but it’s back as an ATP 250 for 2021 and with a less star-studded field than 12 months ago.
Damir Dzumhur won here as a 50-1 shot in 2017, but big-priced winners are rare in recent times in St. Petersburg, although the number one seed has only taken home the trophy once since 2008 (Thiem in 2018).
Erste Bank Open, Vienna
Top seed in Vienna this year, Stefanos Tsitsipas, lost in round two 12 months ago to Grigor Dimitrov and the Greek will have to face the Bulgarian again this time around in the opening round.
Dimitrov has shown a bit of form lately in San Diego and Indian Wells and it’s very possible that Tsitsipas, who hasn’t found his best form really since the clay court spring/summer could be taken down by Dimitrov again.
Those likely to benefit from an early exit for Tsitsipas could include Gael Monfils, Jannik Sinner, Casper Ruud, Lloyd Harris, Diego Schwartzman, Reilly Opelka, or perhaps Frances Tiafoe or last year’s runner-up Lorenzo Sonego.
Sinner and Schwartzman were in Sunday’s Antwerp final and so it’s a fast turnaround for that pair and for Sinner, well, he’d face a rough opener against Opelka in his opening match in new conditions, so that puts me off the Italian a bit this week.
The price I liked and took in this top half was the 40-1 that Betfred offered about Gael Monfils.
Lamonf was priced between 12-1 and 16-1 elsewhere and he’s got a decent record in Vienna, making the semis on his last (completed) appearance here in 2019 (he retired in his opening match in 2020) and he’s made either the quarters or the semis in his last three visits here (disregarding 2020).
Should Tsitsipas fall early, this top half looks quite open, and plenty will fancy their chances in that case, with Sonego at 40-1 (Betfred) another reasonably priced option, while 66-1 about Opelka is fair enough as well.
Opelka has looked rather disinterested lately, but plenty of big hitters have gone well in Vienna in the past, so if he catches Sinner cold in round one (Sinner is 0-1 versus the big servers in my database) the American might start to fancy the job.
Harris and Schwartzman both played well last week and couldn’t be ruled out either, while Ruud has made great strides on hard courts lately, but price-wise I like Monfils and Opelka in the top half.
Alexander Zverev heads up the seeding in the bottom half of the draw and leads the way as market favourite to win the Vienna title this week, but the summer hard court season must have taken a lot out of the German, who’s also still very much in the spotlight over off-court allegations.
There are quite a few players waiting to take advantage of any slip ups from Zverev in this half of the draw, not least Felix Auger-Aliassime, who beat Zverev at Wimbledon.
There’s also Indian Wells champion, Cam Norrie, while Matteo Berrettini poses a threat indoors, as do Hubert Hurkacz, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Alex De Minaur.
And that’s without mentioning Andy Murray, Carlos Alcaraz, Marton Fucsovics, Kevin Anderson and Pablo Carreno Busta, so the quality of this half – and this Vienna field all told – is very good.
Dan Evans made the semis here 12 months ago and should be relatively fresh, having played only 13 matches since Wimbledon.
Evans has struggled for fitness since getting Covid back in July, but this indoor swing could be good for him, with no issues with heat to deal with, and he’s been playing well enough in spells to suggest that a deep run soon isn’t beyond him.
The likely quarter finalists from Q3 are Hurkacz and Berrettini on their best form, but we haven’t seen Berrettini’s best form for a while (he was poor at Indian Wells) and the likes of Evans and Basilashvili have their chances in this part of the draw.
Norrie will also fancy it after winning by far the biggest title of his career a few weeks ago, but that’s probably taken a lot out of him mentally as well as physically, as it quite possibly has with Basilashvili (who lost in the final), too.
Auger-Aliassime has lost his last six matches on indoor hard, but he made finals in all of his three tournaments prior to those half dozen losses, including a final and a semi final at this same stage of the season in 2020 in Cologne.
FAA is very hard to predict, making the semi finals of the US Open and then in his next tournament losing to Albert Ramos in straight sets, but he’s in with a fair shot this week, too.
But I like the price on Evans at 66-1, so I’ll take a chance on him this week in this bottom half for a spot of value.
St. Petersburg Open
I said last week in my Moscow preview that I wasn’t convinced about Andrey Rublev as a short-priced favourite and I was correct, but he’s likely to be highly motivated to do better this week in St. Petersburg after a first match loss in the capital last week.
Rublev has Ilya Ivashka, Seb Korda, Roberto Bautista Agut, Marin Cilic and Karen Khachanov as his main opposition in the top half of the draw, with qualifying yet to complete.
RBA looks like his best days are behind him at the moment, while the hit and miss Cilic hasn’t made finals in back-to-back weeks since 2014.
Khachanov will be motivated to go well at home, but he looked nervy last week in Moscow and he’s only 12-10 win/loss on indoor hard in Russia, with one title (Moscow 2018) and he’s yet to pass the last eight in St Petersburg.
I wouldn’t be a backer of Khachanov at the 11-1 or so that most layers priced him up at, but the 25-1 that Paddy Power/Betfair offered on their opening show was too big to refuse.
I’d expect Adrian Mannarino to present a challenge to Khachanov in round one and the Frenchman has gone very well indoors in Russia in the past, but it tends to be in Moscow, where he beat number one seed Rublev last week.
In all Mannarino is 3-6 win/loss in St. Petersburg and perhaps it will be Korda that will provide the sternest challenge to Rublev in the top half of the draw, but 300-1 (Paddy/Betfair’s opening show) was too big to turn down on Mannarino.
Korda has struggled with fitness lately, playing only eight matches since Wimbledon, and he hasn’t looked fit or in form in many of them, pulling out of Moscow last week citing a stomach virus.
But he’s been practicing in Prague since then (with Tomas Berdych) and he wasn’t far away when he took on Rublev in the quarter finals of Miami (7-5, 7-6 to Rublev) so he could be the one to challenge Rublev this week – if he’s fit and healthy.
In the bottom half, Denis Shapovalov should really have beaten Rublev here in St Petersburg a year ago, but having won the opening set his serve fell apart (he also had shoulder problems at that time) and he ended up losing in three.
I expected Shapo to kick on after making his maiden major semi final at Wimbledon in the summer, but it hasn’t happened, with the Canadian losing seven of his last 11 matches and in his last 10 matches since Wimbledon he’s won only 41% of his second serve points.
With Russian heritage and a fluent speaker of the language, Shapo is obviously comfortable and motivated playing here, where he’s 5-2 win/loss so far in his career, and a strong showing is very possible, but he’s not for me at the moment at a price like 6-1.
Alternatives to Shapo in the bottom half include Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, Aslan Karatsev, Alexander Bublik, and perhaps Jan-Lennard Struff or James Duckworth.
Bublik played a highly dubious match last week in Moscow and may not be fit after a shoulder problem, while Karatsev’s efforts (emotionally and physically) in Moscow put me off backing him this week.
Struff is tempting mainly due to his record against Shapovalov, in which the German has won four of the last five and he did make the semis here in 2017, but his form lately has been weak, failing to win back-to-back matches since the French Open.
Consequently, he’s only a 50/50 chance to beat Duckworth in round one and I’ve had zero luck all season long in 50/50 matches on the outrights, so backing Struff on current form is just asking for trouble, I feel.
Having backed Taylor Fritz at 33-1 on his home patch in San Diego, watched him fail, and then saw him become favourite a week later at the semi final stage of Indian Wells, I would have been sour to see Fritz win – and luckily he didn’t.
Now he’s back on indoor hard where his main level record of 13-17 isn’t inspiring and neither is the fact that he hasn’t won back-to-back matches on this surface on the tour since Basel in 2018.
Fritz has played seven events on indoor hard since then and he’s got much to prove in these conditions at the moment.
John Millman won Nur-Sultan last year on slow indoor hard, but it wasn’t as good a field as this one, and while he hasn’t looked in his best form lately, I wouldn’t rule him out.
We backed Tommy Paul last week, so on that alone he’s got a good chance this week, and if we are taking on Karatsev in Q3 he might be the value again at 33-1. He was certainly fair value at the 50-1 that I advised on Twitter that Paddy/Betfair were offering.
I wasn’t seeing a huge amount of value this week initially, but purely on price, the bets I advised pre-preview on Twitter on Sunday afternoon look excellent value.
Gael Monfils at 40-1 (Betfred) in Vienna, Karen Khachanov at 25-1 (Paddy/Betfair), Tommy Paul at 50-1 (Paddy Power) and Adrian Mannarino at 300-1 (Paddy/Betfair) in St. Petersburg were all much bigger prices than anywhere else, so they didn’t last long.
For those not on the early prices, Evans at 66-1 (Betfred) and Opelka at the same price with several firms look the big-priced interest this week.
So, more bets than ideally I would like, but it was hard to refuse some of the early prices that were on offer this week.
Already advised: 1 point win Monfils to win Vienna at 40-1 (Betfred)
Already advised: 2 points win Khachanov to win St Petersburg at 25-1 (Paddy/Betfair)
Already advised: 1 point win Paul to win St. Petersburg at 50-1 (Paddy/Betfair)
Already advised: 0.5 points each-way Mannarino to win St Petersburg at 300-1 (Paddy/Betfair)
0.5 points win Evans at 66-1 to win Vienna (Betfred)
0.5 points win Opelka to win Vienna at 66-1 (several firms)