The ATP Tour action concludes for 2021 in week 46 with the top-eight players in the yearly race facing off for the ATP Finals, held for the first time at the Pala Alpitour stadium, Italy’s largest indoor sporting arena.
There’s no Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal this time due to injury, so there are opportunities for the likes of Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud to show what they can do in this elite company.
But first, a recap of events in Sweden at the Stockholm Open.
Once again, I feel that we got some good early value last week, with the prices we found (if you were quick) on Peter Gojowczyk, Filip Krajinovic, Emil Ruusuvuori and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina all more than reasonable bets, but not one of them showed their best form.
Gojowczyk was abysmal in a loss from 1.25 pre-match to lucky loser Jozef Kovalik, while Ruusuvuori looked nervy at his ‘home’ tournament and lost one he should have won, while Krajinovic and ADF started well, but couldn’t back it up in round two.
And as has so often been the case this past year or so it was the man that we’d backed in previous weeks (in Moscow and St Petersburg) that came good in his next ATP250 event in Stockholm – that man being Tommy Paul.
Having been on Paul at 50-1 in St. Petersburg and watched him lose a tight one to eventual finalist Taylor Fritz it was pretty galling to see Paul beat (an admittedly hobbled) Fritz and then go on and defeat Frances Tiafoe from 30-1 in-play to make the Stockholm final.
At least we backed Paul in the daily bets to beat Fritz at 2-1, but once again we were a couple of weeks too early with one on the outrights, as Paul defeated Denis Shapovalov to win Stockholm at 33-1.
That pretty much sums this season up.
Conditions and trends
This is the first year at the new venue in Turin and so we are guessing a little bit as far as conditions are concerned, but it’s being played on a GreenSet indoor hard court that’s probably a similar pace to the one at the Paris Masters.
That was a pretty slow surface, but until we see some matches it’s very hard to say if it’ll be similar to the one in Bercy.
Over the years the Paris Masters and the Tour Finals have been prepared to be the same (or as close as possible) so that would be my assumption at this stage.
As far as trends are concerned, we have seen some decent priced winners in recent years, with Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas all taking home the title at good prices and the number one seed hasn’t won the title since 2016 (Andy Murray).
ATP Finals – Green Group
Novak Djokovic will no doubt be delighted at how the draw has panned out, with the world number one (who hasn’t won this title since 2015) paired with an injured Stefanos Tsitsipas, debutant Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev.
As Tour Finals groups go this one looks about as kind as it could be for Djokovic, who looks highly likely to qualify, probably as group winner.
The slight unknown quantity here is Tsitsipas, who, if he’s recovered from an arm injury he’s been carrying lately, could go well on his best form, but that doesn’t seem too likely given his retirement from Paris only 10 days ago.
In his interview ahead of the Finals, Tsitsipas had this to say of his condition:
“In Paris, the pain was unbearable, so I had to quit from that game. It was very painful for me to let the crowd down and not play. But I had to. It was for my safety, for my well-being, and I don’t regret doing that. The last couple of days I’ve been practising with a little bit of pain. But recently I’m feeling much better than I did when I started five-six days ago. It’s heading towards the right direction and I’m doing everything possible to recover from it.”
That doesn’t sound promising and maybe we could be seeing Jannik Sinner entering this group as alternate at some stage, which would be interesting.
So, as far as bets are concerned, I won’t be having a wager in this group, with Djokovic looking the obvious choice and relatively fresh having played only four matches since the US Open.
It’s hard to see Andrey Rublev’s second serve standing up to the test from Djokovic and if conditions are similar to Paris I’m not sure I’d even fancy the Russian to beat Casper Ruud either.
Rublev’s form in the latter half of the season has been nothing like it was earlier in the campaign and his last four events have seen him lose to Taylor Fritz, Botic van de Zandschulp, Adrian Mannarino and Tommy Paul.
Ruud comes here on the back of a good season on hard courts, but he’s still 3-13 win/loss against top-10 opponents and it’s a pretty big ask for him on his Finals debut to cause any serious damage to the elite of the men’s game.
ATP Finals – Red Group
This group looks much the harder one to be placed in and I’d have to give all four of these players some sort of chance of qualifying for the semi finals.
Daniil Medvedev is the favourite of course and the defending champion and he looks very likely to qualify, but I’m not so sure about Alexander Zverev.
Medvedev has proven a very tough match-up for Zverev, winning five of their last six meetings, including a one-sided success in similar conditions in Paris a couple of weeks ago, so the second spot in the Red Group could be up for grabs.
Matteo Berrettini will no doubt be highly motivated playing at home and this will be his second ATP Finals, so he shouldn’t be overawed by the experience, although the pressure of playing at home might turn out to be a factor.
He has beaten Zverev in the past and ran the German close on clay in Madrid earlier this year, so it’s possible he could dent Zverev’s qualification hopes, but Berrettini hasn’t played well since Wimbledon really, so I couldn’t back him outright on current form.
It was at Wimbledon on the grass that Berrettini defeated a nervy Hubert Hurkacz in the semi finals, but on recent form and a slowish indoor hard court that bounces a decent height I’d fancy the Pole to turn that result around.
Hurkacz beat Berrettini in straight sets on slow outdoor hard in 2019 in their only main level hard court match and while that was some time ago now, it’s the Pole that’s shown he’s capable of performing at the highest level.
As well winning Miami back in the spring, Hurkacz became yet another of our semi finals losers when he lost to Djokovic in a final set tie break in Paris a fortnight ago and his record against top-10 opposition this season shows that he’s not far away.
Hurkacz has played eight matches in 2021 against players ranked in the top-10, winning four and losing four – and all four losses have been either competitive or very close defeats.
The only one that I’d say was disappointing was the Berrettini loss at Wimbledon, but the others were that final set defeat to Djokovic in Bercy, a final set tie break defeat to Medvedev in Cincy, and a 7-5 in the final set loss to Tsitsipas in Rotterdam.
So, that level is good enough for me to take Hurkacz as the most likely of the bigger-priced players in this Turin field and his two close matches against Medvedev show that the Pole is capable of potentially winning this group if he finds his best level.
Medvedev would certainly like conditions to be quicker than in Paris and maybe it will be this week in Turin, but if it is the same here as in Bercy I think that Hurkacz should find it to his liking.
Zverev looked pretty tired in Bercy and with a tough match-up against Medvedev to negotiate I’m happy to take the chance that either Hurkacz or Berrettini could also beat Zverev, opening up a path for Hurkacz to qualify.
The most likely outcome here is that we’ll see another Djokovic/Medvedev final, but there’s little value in backing that, so, for me the likeliest ‘outsider’ to cause an upset has to be Hurkacz and I’m a little surprised that he’s rated as less likely to win this than the likes of Rublev and Berrettini.
Most firms are going 1/3 the odds on the each-way, which isn’t for me, so in this final week of the year I’ll take one point on Hurkacz to win it at 20-1 with several firms.
1 point win Hurkacz to win at 20-1 (Ladbrokes/Bet Victor/BoyleSports)