Round one completes and round two begins in Vienna and St. Petersburg on the ATP Tour on Wednesday.
It was a grim day for underdog backers at the Erste Bank Open and the St. Petersburg Open, with not a single one of seven winning in Vienna and only a marginal underdog (Andujar) getting the win in St. Petersburg.
Consequently, it was a poor day for my bets, with Grigor Dimitrov wasting his opportunity in the opening set against Stefanos Tsitsipas, blowing a 6-3 lead in the tie break and missing a very makeable forehand at *6-5.
Other than Andujar, none of the other 13 underdogs on Tuesday even so much as won a set, on a great day for favourite backers.
Maybe we’ll see some better performances from the underdogs on Wednesday and while Lorenzo Musetti hasn’t beaten a top-50 opponent since the French Open, it wouldn’t surprise me if he does something against Gael Monfils.
Monfils’s tendency to sit back and absorb could play in Musetti’s favour in this match and you feel that Monfils needs to be a bit more proactive than he often is if he wants to justify a price as short as 1.25 in this one.
Monfils has a fair record lately as a short-priced favourite indoors, winning 10 of 12 in the 1.21 to 1.39 price range going back to 2016 and he should win this, but he may have to do it in three unless he approaches this one with positive intent.
It would be little surprise either if Diego Schwartzman were to be pressed by Fabio Fognini, with the Argentine’s level really up and down lately.
A heavy loss in the Antwerp final to Jannik Sinner can’t be good for Schwartzman’s confidence and perhaps Fognini can take advantage, but the Italian’s numbers on indoor hard aren’t exactly inspiring me to back him.
Fognini has only held serve 64% of the time in his last 10 main level matches on indoor hard, and I’d expect a lot of breaks in this match as well, but with Fognini having won only 25% of his career matches against top-20 opposition, the 2-1 to Schwartzman look a decent option in this one.
Conditions are different here to Antwerp and Fognini usually has at least one good set in him against the better players, so perhaps the 2-1 to Schwartzman at around 4.0.
Lorenzo Sonego and Dominik Koepfer are two players whose levels are tough to predict on any given week, but Sonego will probably be the more motivated of the two here given that he made the Vienna final a year ago (as a lucky loser).
Neither man has been able to string wins together lately, with both players failing to win more than two consecutive matches since Wimbledon.
Since the start of 2019, Sonego has a service hold/break total of 103 in his 17 main level indoor hard matches (9-8 win/loss) and Koepfer is a bit of an unknown quantity on this surface at this level.
The German has played only two main level matches on indoor hard on the main tour (63 career matches at all levels indoors) and he hasn’t looked great by any means, but he does enjoy facing big servers, so this match-up might suit him.
I’ve taken Koepfer a few times as underdog against the likes of Reilly Opelka with good success, so Koepfer might do well against the biggish serve of Sonego, but the German’s form lately has been so poor that it’s hard to have much confidence in him.
Talking of Reilly Opelka, I’ve already taken a small stakes punt on him on the outrights, so I won’t back him to beat Jannik Sinner, but I do suspect that the change of conditions and quick turnaround for Sinner, combined with his lack of experience against huge servers could count against him here.
When Sinner won on the tour in Washington DC in August he lost as a 1.24 favourite three days later to James Duckworth and when he won Sofia he lost in his second match the next tournament week.
He may get a little lucky in the sense that Opelka has been pretty lacklustre lately, but Opelka will at least have a small advantage of having played in the arena in the Red Bull Bassline exhibition event on Friday night.
I haven’t seen anything really from Matteo Berrettini since Wimbledon that makes me think he’s anywhere close to his best and I think that conditions in Vienna are slow enough for Nikoloz Basilashvili to really push the Italian in their second round match.
Berrettini qualified for the Tour Finals in Turin by beating Alexei Popyrin on Tuesday, which he was clearly delighted to do: “My words aren’t going to describe the happiness I feel in my heart, I really cannot describe how happy I am,” Berrettini said. “I hope the country is really proud of me.”
It’s certainly possible that Berrettini might just relax a little having achieved what he surely set out to do this week – we definitely saw that with Novak Djokovic here in Vienna 12 months ago – and in any case Basil is in the sort of form to test Berrettini at the moment.
His run in Indian Wells was backed up by a very professional (and patient) performance here in Vienna against the kind of player he has struggled against in the past – a player that makes a ton of balls, such as Pablo Carreno Busta – and that has to be a good sign.
My worry with Basil is that he doesn’t win enough first serve points to be a force indoors, but on the other hand, Berrettini doesn’t break serve enough either (just 16% of the time in his 10 matches at main level since Wimbledon).
Another concern with Basil is that he’s 3-12 win/loss in his career against the big servers in my database, but only two of those were played after the summer of 2019, and he returned the Berrettini serve well when they met in Rome (Berrettini won that day in three sets).
Basil tanks away too many sets for me take him on any sort of handicap, so I’ll take a tentative half point on him to win the match at 3.0 (generally).
St Petersburg – Wednesday
Marin Cilic has a great record in Russia, which is now 23-6 win/loss after a strong showing in Moscow last week, but he hasn’t played St. Petersburg since he won it back in 2011 and I wonder which Cilic we’ll see this week?
We benefitted in Moscow from a classic Cilic performance when he dropped the opening set to Damir Dzumhur before powering past the Bosnian and I don’t see him having a straightforward day against Albert Ramos either.
Ramos’s game isn’t exactly built for indoor hard, but he’s twice beaten Cilic in quick conditions in Shanghai (he also beat Roger Federer in Shanghai) and it’s slow enough here in St. Petersburg for Ramos to defend against Cilic.
Their stats of their eight career clashes (six of which have been played on hard courts) show that there’s not a lot in it, with Cilic holding serve only 1% more often than Ramos and winning 1% more of the points on second serve.
As you’d expect Cilic has the edge on first serve (76% won compared to 69%), but he wins only 3.5% more service points overall and 3.5% more return points, so it’s hardly a comfortable match-up for the big Croat.
This strikes me as another Cilic match where he’ll have to play his best stuff to win in two sets and I’m happy to chance him dropping a set and having to go the distance against the stubborn and determined Ramos.
Ilya Ivashka can’t be written off against Andrey Rublev either, with the Belarusian having produced some great results in the last three months or so and a superb service break/hold total of 119 (88% holds and 31% breaks) at main level (15-3 win/loss).
In the same timeframe (last three months), Rublev has produced a hold/break total of 108 and lost six of his 16 matches, plus Ivashka played pretty well against Rublev back in 2019 (when Ivashka was 135 in the world) here in St. Petersburg.
Rublev won 2-1 that day, but he was helped out by a nervy Ivashka hitting a whopping 16 double faults and I’m tempted by either Ivashka to win it, or to win set one, or perhaps Rublev to win it 2-1.
Both men played doubles here yesterday, but Rublev was only on court for 46 minutes, while Ivashka played singles as well (beat Djere), so the underdog should be in the better rhythm and the price of 2.75 (generally) about Ivashka taking the first set looks good value based on Ivashka’s impressive recent form and numbers.
Koepfer is tempting in Vienna, but his recent poor form is too off-putting, so I’ll just take Basilashvili there, and Ivashka to win set one against Rublev, plus the 4.0 about Cilic beating Ramos 2-1.
0.5 points win Basilashvili to beat Berrettini at 3.0
0.5 points win Ivashka to win set one at 2.75
0.5 points win Cilic to beat Ramos 2-1 at 4.0