The regular 2021 ATP Tour season reaches its conclusion in week 45 as the players head to Sweden for the Stockholm Open.
This ATP 250 event on indoor hard courts has been on the tour since 1969 – it’s the oldest indoor event in the world – and after being cancelled last year it returns for its 52nd edition with a field….
Before that, a recap of events last week at the Paris Masters in Bercy.
We did about as well as we could last week as far as big-priced value is concerned, with our 40-1 shot Hubert Hurkacz becoming yet another semi final loser to add to our collection.
Hurkacz got as close as a mini-break up in the final set tie break against world number one and eventual champion Novak Djokovic and went favourite at that late stage of the match, but couldn’t get it done.
Of our last 13 outright singles that have made the semi finals, 12 have now lost in the semi final, and 17 of the last 18 to have made the last four have failed to go on and win the title, which is incredible by anyone’s standards.
Conditions and trends
We’re back at the Kungliga Tennishallen in Stockholm for the last main season event of the year and this year they’re playing on a Plexipave indoor hard court, rather than the GreenSet that they’ve used in the last three editions.
They changed it to GreenSet in 2017, with the idea being to match the quick conditions of Shanghai, which Stockholm followed in the calendar, but with Shanghai not currently being staged they’ve opted for a Plexipave surface.
There were 86% holds in the qualifying event, so I’m assuming it’ll be quicker than Paris was last week.
Number one seeds have either won the tournament or made the final seven times in the last 10 editions, while Ernests Gulbis (who we backed that year – 2018) was the first player to have come through qualies to make the final in Stockholm since Jarkko Nieminen in 2001.
Indeed, Gulbis and Nieminen are the only two qualifiers to make the final here in over 50 years and no qualifier has ever won this title.
Stockholm Open draw – top half
The first quarter of this Stockholm draw looks a high quality one, with Jannik Sinner, Andy Murray, Tommy Paul and Taylor Fritz all in this section along with a couple of qualifiers and wild card Leo Borg, who stands about as much chance as I do of getting out of this quarter.
The daft wild card for Borg aside that quarter looks tough to call, with Sinner perhaps lacking a little motivation this week having failed to qualify for the Tour Finals in his home nation of Italy next week (he’ll be first alternate).
Sinner used up a lot of energy in Sofia, Antwerp and Vienna and I couldn’t back him as favourite this week, while Fritz is too short after his recent good form and Murray doesn’t look like his body will allow him to go all the way to a title at the moment.
So, the first really decent value bet I had in this top half of the draw is one that I posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.
That was Unibet’s 50-1 about Emil Ruusuvuori, for whom this is about as close as it gets to a home tournament and contrast the Finn’s social media post with that of Dan Evans, who’s also in Q2 of this draw.
Ruusuvuori: ‘Really looking forward to my first @sthlmopen, feels almost like home.’
Evans: ‘One more week to go @atptour’
That doesn’t mean a great deal, of course, but it tends to suggest that Ruusuvuori’s motivation here is likely to be higher than that of some of the other players, for whom this is just the last stop before they pack their bags for somewhere warm and sunny.
That doesn’t mean that the inconsistent Ruusuvuori will win this week, but in the last week of the season I want someone on my side likely to put the effort in and 50-1 is a great price.
Evans, Frances Tiafoe and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina are the main opposition to our man in this section of the draw, but Tiafoe is too short after his efforts in Vienna and Evans has failed to find his form since getting Covid in the summer.
Davidovich Fokina hasn’t won three matches at a single tournament since the French Open and must be quite a frustrating player to back on the outrights, as he hasn’t been able to find the consistency to match his ability yet.
That said, everyone has their price, and the 50-1 about ADF that’s available with Betfred looks the best of the Monday morning value and is worth half a point, with all other layers going between 18-1 and 25-1.
So, all told, I’m happy with the price I got on Ruusuvuori in the top half and as of Monday morning it’s still available with Betfred at 50-1.
Stockholm Open draw – bottom half
The bottom half of this Stockholm draw is full of possibilities and again the early price that Unibet put up about one player on Saturday was too big and that’s former Stockholm finalist Filip Krajinovic at 50-1.
Krajinovic hasn’t really found his best form this season, but 50s it too big back a tournament where he’s had success in the past and given that he’s only played 39 matches this season he should have something left in the tank.
High seed in this half, Felix Auger-Aliassime, has played 58 matches and after missing out on qualifying for the Tour Finals I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a similarly limp end to the season from him that we saw a year ago in Sofia (Krajinovic has also beaten FAA in two of their three main level matches).
On that occasion exactly 12 months ago he lost to Salvatore Caruso and this doesn’t look a week to be relying on the high seeds to live up to their best form with little for them to really play for other than 250 ranking points.
I suppose FAA could be looking at this week as a chance to finally win a tour level title after eight losses in a final and set himself up nicely for next season, but we’ll see if he has the energy left for a title run.
Fellow Canadian, Denis Shapovalov, has been really disappointing since Wimbledon and he withdrew from Paris last week for unspecified reasons, so despite the fact that he’s the defending champion here (from 2019) it’s hard to fancy him at the prices.
If we are taking on the Canadian duo there are plenty of possible options, including: Marton Fucsovics, Botic van de Zandschulp, Marcos Giron, Peter Gojowczyk, Alexander Bublik and Arthur Rinderknech as well as Krajinovic.
It might be useful to consider how many matches each of these contenders has played this season, so here are their match totals for the 2021 season:
Van de Zandschulp: 72
The number of matches that Rinderknech and Van de Zandschulp have played puts me off them a bit, while Fucsovics is hard to win with and too often puts in a weak performance after looking promising and I couldn’t trust his suspect fitness at this stage of the year.
If he’s fit he’s got every chance and 28-1 (Sky Bet) is a fair price, but I was delighted to see Paddy Power/Betfair throw another daft price into the mix in their opening show, which was the 200-1 about Gojowczyk that I tweeted about on Sunday.
I’m not sure if anyone else was able to get that price, but if the conditions here are on the quick side I’d give the German a good chance this week.
Bublik is another one who would enjoy quicker conditions, but he’s been struggling with injuries lately and is hard to trust at this late stage of the season, so I’ll pass on Bublik this week.
Once again, there was some early value around this week, with three very generous prices available on Saturday and the price on Ruusuvuori is available again, so that’s worth taking, and I’m adding in Davidovich Fokina purely on price at 50s.
Already advised: 1 point each-way Krajinovic at 50-1 (Unibet)
Already advised: 1 point each-way Russuvuori at 50-1 (Unibet/Betfred)
Already advised: 0.5 points win Gojowczyk at 200-1 (Paddy/Betfair)
0.5 points each-way Davidovich Fokina at 50-1 (Betfred)