We’ve got two quite different tournaments to look at this week on the ATP Tour, with many of the big names of the men’s game in action at the ATP 500 Erste Bank Open in Austria, while the action is a little less glamorous at the ATP 250 Astana Open in Kazakhstan.
We have no stats to assist us for the new tournament in Nur-Sultan, but Vienna offers us plenty to go on.
The Erste Bank Open, since it became an ATP 500 in 2015, has produced an average of 46% tie break matches and a pretty mediocre 31% of underdog winners.
In terms of when those underdogs have tended to strike in Vienna, well, it’s a bit of a strange one because it’s actually in the quarter finals where by far and away the highest frequency of dog winners has occurred in the last four years since it became a 500.
A whopping 53% of the players priced up by the layers as underdogs have won in the quarter finals from 2015-2019 inclusive, while just 23% of the dogs have won in round two (round one is a pretty average 32%).
This year’s underdogs that may upset the odds in round one of Vienna look rather thin on the ground to me, but Jan-Lennard Struff, Aljaz Bedene, Dennis Novak and Vasek Pospisil have opportunities.
Bedene probably won’t have forgotten the comments of the outspoken Dan Evans from a few years ago when Bedene attempted to flout the rules of Davis Cup and represent Britain, having already played in the event for Slovenia.
Evans (rightly, as it happens) in his usual somewhat unsubtle manner questioned the validity of Bedene’s attempts to play for Britain and also didn’t take kindly to Bedene overtaking him in the British rankings.
They haven’t met on the match court since then and I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a bit of needle in this encounter, which could well go the way of Bedene, with Evans likely to still have in his head all those match points he blew against Ugo Humbert in Antwerp on Saturday.
Bedene cost me a perfectly good bet last week when I went for a set one tie break at 4.10 between him and Raonic and Bedene proceeded to throw his opening service game away in what was the only break of the match.
His stats show that in his last 10 matches on indoor hard at main level he’s held serve 88% of the time, hitting almost an ace per game, and winning 81% of his first serve points.
That’s a decent advantage over Evans in the first serve department and overall the hold/break totals of the pair indoors are almost identical, so if Bedene has a good serving day he may well get a modicum of sweet revenge over Evans here.
Bedene also has a good record here in Vienna, having made the quarter finals as a qualifier last year and also making the last eight on his previous appearance to that.
Overall he’s 12-3 win/loss (including qualies) at the Erste Bank Open, so he enjoys playing here by the look of his results and its close proximity to Slovenia, so I’d expect a good effort from Bedene here, all things considered.
Another clash between two (presumably) friendlier prospective Davis Cup team-mates is that between Pospisil and Felix Auger-Aliassime and while FAA has won all three of their prior encounters, they weren’t easy and Pospisil has been playing pain-free for the first time in years this season.
Last year at the Rogers Cup in Montreal on home soil for both men FAA edged it 7-6 in the third and that was when Pospisil was pretty rusty after yet another injury issue (the wrist) at that time.
On this occasion there should be no excuses for Pospisil in terms of fitness and having qualified in Vienna he’ll have the edge in terms of being attuned to the conditions, while FAA will find conditions quite different here compared to where he’s just come from in Cologne.
Indeed, playing back-to-back weeks on a court so slow it was hard to hit winners on may well have taken a fair bit out of FAA and I like Pospisil to at least win a set here, but the price perhaps is just a touch short.
Dennis Novak usually enjoys playing on the big stage at home in Vienna and I wouldn’t be surprised if he raised his game enough to go very close against Kevin Anderson.
Novak has faced four of the big servers in my database and played a set one tie break in all four of those matches and memorably he was giving a torrid time to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon 2018 before a rain break allowed the Canadian time to reset, come back the next day and win it in four.
So, he doesn’t mind facing big servers and Anderson hasn’t played since the French Open and didn’t do anything on hard courts on the resumption of the tour, so I think there could be an opportunity for Novak here.
The over 10.5 games in set one at 2.55 appeals here, as does the set one to Novak at 2.48.
Gael Monfils was a 1.249 chance the last time he faced Pablo Carreno Busta, but that was a long time ago now in 2016, and the way that Monfils has played since the tour’s resumption it’s probably right that PCB is favourite for this fifth career clash with Monfils.
Lamonf seems unable to deal with the lack of crowds and maybe the fact that there are fans in at Vienna this week (there aren’t in Nur-Sultan) will help this dedicated showman to get going again, but I’m not going to bet on it.
Another good option is Jan-Lennard Struff at around 4.35 against Jan-Lennard Struff, with his opponent Stefanos Tsitsipas having struggled with injury since the French Open and reportedly having had treatment in an oxygen chamber for a hip issue.
Struff has matched-up well to Tsitsipas lately, winning two of their three most recent clashes and he’ll enjoy the no pressure status of underdog here, so I don’t mind chancing the +1.5 sets on Struff here at odds-against.
Tsitsipas can’t have had much practise lately if he’s been hanging out in oxygen chambers and of course he hasn’t played on indoor hard since February and not anywhere since the French Open almost three weeks ago.
Struff to win set one at 3.45 isn’t a bad option either and I’m tempted by that, as the German often starts well before losing a bit of self-belief in these sort of matches.
Talking of self-belief, Filip Krajinovic isn’t overly blessed with that commodity either, but he knows the game of Novak Djokovic very well and nobody will expect him to beat his fellow Serb.
Krajinovic has seemed under a bit of a cloud just lately, with poor defeats in Paris and Cologne followed by a withdrawal from week two in Cologne and an announcement that he’d stopped working with Janko Tipsarevic.
But given all of that, Krajinovic could well keep it close early on against Djokovic and indeed he led the world number one 4-1 in the opening set tie break of their recent clay meeting in Rome, before faltering.
I like the over 10.5 games in set one here at 4.50, as I expect Krajinovic to turn up for this one and we’ll see how well Djokovic starts after a break since the French Open.
0.5 points win Bedene to beat Evans at 2.30
0.5 points win over 10.5 games in set one of Novak/Anderson at 2.70
0.5 points win over 10.5 games in set one of Djokovic/Krajinovic at 4.25
0.5 points win Struff to win set one vs Tsitsipas at 3.45