It’s the last week of the regular season in week 45 and the players are in Sweden for the Stockholm Open, an ATP250 event on indoor hard.
Over the years the Stockholm Open has produced no more than a middling amount of underdog winners – 31% on average in the last seven editions – but this season it’s being played in the final week of the tour, so we could see a few more less-than-committed performances than in previous years.
Early indications are that the Plexipave surface that they’ve laid this year (previously it was a GreenSet) is quicker than last week’s pudding of a court in Bercy and so we may see more tie break matches than the 39% that Stockholm has averaged in the last seven editions.
Breaking down the underdog winners in Stockholm shows us that round one has averaged 32% of dog winners in the last seven editions and if you’d backed every underdog in the main draw in Stockholm in the last five editions (all rounds) you’d have made a loss of £218 (£10 stake).
If you’d done it in round one alone in the last five years you’d be down by £51.00 to a £10 stake.
There were four round one matches on Monday and I thought we might have got lucky when 200-1 shot Peter Gojowczyk’s slated round one opponent Marcos Giron withdrew and Gojo was left as a 1.25 favourite against lucky loser Jozef Kovalik, but no.
Gojowczyk, who looked like he was suffering with illness or fatigue, was really poor on the day, with his serve barely functioning and his high-risk ground game was littered with errors in what was painful viewing against Kovalik.
Then Andrea Vavassori won as underdog against Pavel Kotov and Frances Tiafoe survived despite a pretty lacklustre performance against Elias Ymer (he later said: “It’s been a long season and I’m tired so it wasn’t my best today) and our 50-1 shot Filip Krajinovic won as favourite against Denis Istomin.
Tuesday’s round one matches feature several short-priced favourites, starting with Andy Murray, who takes on 24-year-old Norwegian qualifier Viktor Durasovic, who defeated Teimuraz Gabashvili and Adrian Menendez-Maceiras to reach his first main draw of an ATP Tour event.
He did play in the ATP Cup for Norway at the start of 2020 and was outclassed by Taylor Fritz, Stefano Travaglia and Karen Khachanov, with Durasovic failing to win more than two games in any of the six sets he played.
Durasovic hasn’t made much of an impression at Challenger level either, losing 15 of his last 19 matches (four of five in 2021), so it’s tough to envisage him beating or even really testing Murray here on all known form.
But, if Egor Gerasimov can find his best level the lucky loser might test Taylor Fritz, who must be at least a little fatigued after 16 matches since the US Open and nine in the last fortnight.
If we take Gerasimov’s stats on indoor hard at main level from the start of 2020 to now they’re decent: 13-12 win/loss and 81% holds/21% breaks (102 total).
He’s actually won fractionally more of his second serve points than Fritz has in the same time period and only 4% fewer on first serve, but Gerasimov hasn’t been anywhere near his best for much of this season.
Last February he was closing in on the top-50 at 65 in the rankings, but since playing really well on quickish indoor hard in Montpellier earlier this season and making the semis he hasn’t won back-to-back matches at main level at all.
A loss to Pavel Kotov in straight sets in qualies here doesn’t suggest a revival is imminent and unless Gerasimov can summon up his best form from nowhere (or that Fritz tanks it) an underdog win doesn’t seem that likely here.
Our 50-1 shot, Emil Ruusuvuori should (in theory) be motivated to do well this week and the ability that the Finn has must surely translate into a main level title sooner or later after three losing semi finals so far.
His round one match against Pedro Martinez looks very winnable for Ruusuvuori, with the Spaniard’s last outing resulting in a straight sets loss to Andreas Seppi in slow conditions in qualies in Paris as 1.65 favourite.
In Martinez’s only five main level matches indoors he’s held serve just 65% of the time and broken 22% of the time (87 total) and won only 62% of his first serve points, so on a quickish surface he’s surely at a disadvantage against opponents with bigger weaponry.
That said, Martinez beat Ruusuvuori as 3.04 underdog at the Australian Open at the start of the season from a set down and outlasted the Finn, who didn’t fare well in the heat.
“I played well for one and a half sets,” Ruusuvuori said. “I am sad that I did not manage the possibilities in the other sets. A 2-0 lead after two sets would have been something completely different than 1-1. Martinez raised his level noticeably in the second set. At the same time, I lost myself both game-wise and physically.”
And that’s been the problem for Ruusuvuori, whose best level is very high, but he loses concentration or focus at times and sometimes struggles to get it back during matches.
At his home tournament with no weather conditions to bother him I’d expect the Finn to win this one.
Alexander Bublik hasn’t had the best of runs lately, only once recording back-to-back match wins since Newport on the grass back in July and he hasn’t seemed fully fit lately either.
He withdrew from Indian Wells with a shoulder injury and then played a highly suspect match in Moscow where he lost to Ilya Marchenko and last week in Paris he was bageled by Casper Ruud after receiving painkillers and an MTO for a right bicep problem.
And if we take the numbers from this season’s main level matches on indoor hard we find that Arthur Rinderknech has better stats than Bublik on this surface.
Bublik has played 14 matches indoors in 2021 at main level and held serve 79% of the time, breaking serve 17% of the time for a total of just 96, while Rinderknech in his eight such matches has held 84% of the time and broken 20% of the time (104).
Rinderknech has won 2% more points both on first serve and second serve and created more break point opportunities (0.51 per game compared to Bublik’s 0.40).
As I mentioned in my outright preview, Rinderknech has played a lot of matches this season, which put me off him to win the tournament, but this looks within his ability range against an opponent who hasn’t looked at it for a while.
The quicker conditions here this week compared to recent events in Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg etc, should suit both men and I was happy with the opening price of 2.10 that Bet365 offered about Rinderknech, but that’s gone now and the prices have been reversed.
Botic van de Zandschulp was expecting to be facing Jordan Thompson in round one, but now has lucky loser Nino Serdarusic after Thompson withdrew citing illness.
Serdarusic plays most of his tennis on clay and was beaten by Andrea Vavassori in qualies (Vavassori has only played 33 career matches at all levels on indoor hard himself) so you’d think in lively conditions that Van de Zandschulp would have too much quality for Serdarusic.
But, the Croat played pretty well against Seb Korda on slow indoor hard a few weeks back in St. Petersburg and he does possess a powerful serve and a big forehand, weapons that should serve him well in these quicker Stockholm conditions.
He’s only played two main level matches on indoor hard in his career – the one against Korda and another against Reilly Opelka (also in St. Petersburg) – but he’s held serve 89% of the time in those two matches and only broken 3.6% of the time.
If Serdarusic can keep his game under control there’s a decent chance of a tie break in this one and on what looks a tricky day for value-seekers I like the 2.62 about there being over 0.5 breakers (Bet365) or the 7.5 about VDZ winning the opening set 7-6.
1 point win over 0.5 tie breaks in Van de Zandschulp/Serdarusic at 2.62 (Bet365)