Tennis

ATP Finals Betting: Thiem offers a hint of value in competitive field for O2 swansong

November 13, 2020

Debrief

 

We’re still in contention at the Sofia Open (at the time of writing) with last week’s outright bet on Vasek Pospisil, as our 15-1 shot has made it through to the title match in Bulgaria.

Given that ‘for the money’ matches have not exactly gone our way in the last couple of seasons it’s hard to be overly bullish about our chances and Pospisil faces a tough ask against Jannik Sinner in the final.

There’s no value at all in hedging the outright at the likely starting price of around 3.0 about Pospisil, so I’ll let it ride and only place a hedging bet in-play if our man has a good chance to win.

I’ll go one point on Sinner if he reaches 3.0 in-play and move on to the last event of the season – the Tour Finals.

 

Conditions and trends

 

It’s all going to be very different at the O2 this year in what will be the final time that the end of season knockabout is staged in London before it moves to Turin in 2021.

The whole point of these year-end tournaments (apart from to make money for the ATP and the players) is to bring live elite level tennis to the general public, but with no fans at the O2 this year it’ll be an odd atmosphere.

I wonder if they’ll still do the whole razzmatazz thing this year, with lights flashing and sound effects blaring on break points etc? It’ll be weird with nobody in the arena, but I suppose they’ll probably have to.

From a playing point of view there’ll be no line judges, with HawkEye Live calling the lines (which, for me, works a lot better than the ‘old’ way) and the players will all have to stay in the same hotel.

They’ll be disqualified from the tournament if they leave their bubble without a ‘justifiable reason’ and they won’t be allowed to leave their hotel room without a negative test.

Oh and the prize money is much less this year, too. Apart from that it’ll be a fun week.

They play on a GreenSet surface here usually, although information on this is incredibly hard to come by, and we won’t know how it plays until the tournament starts unless the players comment on it on Friday or Saturday.

Decent-priced players have won the tournament in the last three years – one of whom was Grigor Dimitrov that we backed at 12-1 in 2017 – and Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas backed up that recent trend in 2018 and 2019.

Indeed, only Novak Djokovic of the ‘elite’ players has made the final here in the last three seasons, and it looks quite open again, with for me, only a win for Rafael Nadal or Diego Schwartzman this week would count as a surprise.
 

Group Tokyo 1970

Much will depend on the motivation levels of world number one Novak Djokovic in this group, with the Serb having the opportunity to draw level with Roger Federer by winning a sixth Tour Finals title this week.

Is that motivation enough for Djokovic, who quite shamelessly tanked his way out of the Vienna event a few weeks ago once he’d achieved his goal of securing the year-end world number one spot?

Maybe it will be, but I’m not so sure and instead I quite like the look of Daniil Medvedev in this group, although I’m less than enthused about his price of 5.50.

Medvedev, as I suggested he might at the start of the season, had endured a comparatively poor campaign compared with his stellar 2019 until he finally found his form at the Paris Masters, taking the title there last time out.

Of course, the six-month hiatus didn’t help matters, but his stats for 2020 (service hold/break total of 113.4) are still very good, despite a win percentage of 69.7% compared with 73.4% last year, so there hasn’t been as much of a dip in his level on paper as it’s appeared – and it’s been far from a full season.

He’ll be happy to take on Djokovic anyway, having won two of their last three meetings, and it was probably just a lack of titles (Paris was his first final for over 12 months) that was eating away at his confidence a bit.

Medvedev has mentioned in the past that he rarely feels comfortable at a tournament the first time he plays it and that looked to be the case here at the O2 last year when he struggled for form, despite coming into the event on a run of 29-3 win/loss.

He shouldn’t have that problem this time and having beaten Diego Schwartzman easily in Paris and also Alexander Zverev at the same event Medvedev has a clear opportunity in this group.

Schwartzman, I feel, simply has to play his absolute best to compete with the bigger-hitting elite opponents in these indoor conditions and it’s a really big ask for him to do that here on debut at the Tour Finals, too.

It would be some feat for him to qualify from the group and the one that could be anything this week is Alexander Zverev.

We’ve seen a clear upturn in his form in recent months after that run to the US Open final was backed up by titles in consecutive weeks in really slow conditions in Cologne and then a final in Bercy, but fitness and off-court issues put me off him a bit.

He had hip problems in Cologne, despite winning both weeks there, and faded away badly in the Bercy final, and he comes here having played 31 sets since the French Open.

In comparison, Medvedev has played 23, Schwartzman 16, and Djokovic just six.

So, we’ll see what he has left in the tank and if he’s fit he’s a live contender, but not for me at that price with that much tennis in his legs lately, plus the problem of well-publicised allegations having been made against him by a former girlfriend. 

Djokovic should be fresh after barely breaking sweat since the French and he’s the obvious choice to win the group and tournament, but maybe that lack of matches will count against him and I’d side with Medvedev to win this group.
 

Group London 2020

This group looks very open and all of the four are potentially in with chances to win it and the title, but I’m siding with Dominic Thiem as a tiny hint of value perhaps to take the trophy home this week.

The Austrian had a foot injury the last time we saw him on court, which was at home in Vienna, where he lost to group rival here, Andrey Rublev, and I’ll take him to overturn that form with the Russian this week if Thiem is fit.

It seems a tall order to ask Rublev to turn up and win the Tour Finals on his first attempt and given that he’s only just broken the top-10 and he's still 3-8 win/loss against top-five ranked opposition in his career.

His form has been excellent lately, but we’ll see if that very aggressive style of his will have the same effect against elite opposition in back-to-back matches and I’d want bigger than 9-1 about Rublev here.

Indeed, Rublev’s form coming into this is very similar to that of Medvedev a year ago (Rublev is 20-2 win/loss) and we saw quite clearly that Medvedev was unable to relax on debut here, so let's see if Rublev handles it any better. 

Going back to Thiem and we have a player here that has shown huge improvement on the quicker surfaces in the past year or 18 months and he’s won eight of his last 11 matches at main level against top-five ranked opposition.

Not even Djokovic and Nadal can match that (both won six of their last 11 such matches) so the Austrian’s status as only joint-fourth favourite this week suggests he’s perhaps the value choice.

The worry is that foot injury and he has said that indoor tennis doesn’t do his feet any favours when it comes to blisters, but the matches here are usually short (64% of them on average have ended in two sets in the last eight years) and there’s plenty of rest/available treatment time in-between.

I can’t see Nadal winning this on this sort of surface with his rather average (by his standards) 18-14 win/loss record at the Tour Finals and his displays in similar conditions in Bercy recently showed the massive difference between his level on clay compared to indoor hard.

He had a fair opportunity in Bercy this year with Federer and Djokovic not there, but he wasn’t close, really, and was severely tested by the likes of Lopez, Thompson and Carreno Busta before losing in straights to Zverev.

Thiem overcame Nadal on hard earlier this year at the Australian Open and he can certainly do it again in conditions that Nadal struggles in to the degree that he’s regularly encouraged the ATP to switch the surface of this event to clay.

Rafa’s hold/break total at the Tour Finals on indoor hard is just 100 and while he’ll most likely give it his all I’d expect him to come up short once again at this tournament.

That price of 6.50 looks short based on his indoor record and I prefer Stefanos Tsitsipas at twice the price, although the Greek may not be fully fit at the moment, which puts me off him.

Tsitsipas was clearly struggling in Vienna after a hip ligament problem and he said after losing to Ugo Humbert in Bercy that he’d aggravated that same area again in that match.

Now (Friday, 13th) he’s saying: “I was in Paris for 1 week getting treatments. I’m very close to 100 percent. I can move more freely and I don’t have to be that conscious anymore. I’m feeling way better. I hope that my leg stays the same.”

Doesn’t sound to me like he’s in the best of shape and it would be some effort to repeat last year’s title run here given how he’s appeared in his last few matches.

 

Conclusion

 

I could make a case for most of these players winning this week, as it does look quite open, but I like Medvedev’s chances in Group Tokyo 1970 and Thiem looks the value in Group London 2020.

Medvedev is a bit short for me at 5.50 though, so at 8.0 Thiem looks the only sliver of possible value and he’s my selection at the prices. 

 

Best Bets

 

0.5 points win Thiem to win at 8.0
1 point win Sinner to beat Pospisil in Sofia (only if backed Pospisil outright at 16.0 and if Sinner’s in-play price reaches 3.0 or bigger)