ATP Tennis Betting: Berrettini offers value as tour returns in New York

August 21, 2020

Tennis is back! For how long, I’m not sure, but for now at least after a six month hiatus, the ATP Tour resumes at the Western and Southern Open – held this year in New York at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.

Usually at this point I’d be talking about the playing conditions and trends of the tournament, but much of that is out of the window now, with this being the first (and probably last) ever staging of the Cincy Masters away from Ohio.

What we do know is that they’re playing on a newly-laid Laykold surface this year after the USTA switched to the same surface as at the Miami Open after years of utilising Decoturf courts.

It’s usually on the slow side in Miami, but much of that is to do with the often-sweltering heat and humidity in Florida, so we’ll have to wait and see how it plays in New York this week when it’s set to also be hot and humid.

This time last year we were all talking about Daniil Medvedev’s fabulous run of form during the North American hard court summer, but this year it’s anyone’s guess as to how the field will shape up after 175 days away from competitive tennis.

In this unique situation, the best we can reasonably do is to take a look at what the key contenders have been up to during the hiatus and also see which players have decent records after a break and who could be capable of an eye-catching return to form.

Novak Djokovic, who’s certainly been embroiled in his share of controversy over the last few months, heads this year’s Cincy field and he travelled to New York on Saturday (15th) with Goran Ivanisevic and his manager and physio.

Since contracting and recovering from the virus after his ill-advised Adria Tour scheme, Djokovic has been training on hard courts in Belgrade with Filip Krajinovic and we should probably assume he’s as fit as possible for the resumption.

His record in New York isn’t that great though, with only two titles at the US Open since 2011 and it seems rather dangerous to back him this week as a short-priced favourite with so much of this week being guesswork regarding form and fitness.

Dominic Thiem has been pretty active during the break, winning 25 of his 28 exhibition matches and his coach, Nicolas Massu, reckons the Austrian is in good shape: “It was a good thing for Dominic, because he wanted to play matches and loves the competition. I think that will help him in New York. He’s playing well, looks strong and is really focused.”

Thiem is yet to commit to playing the US Open due to the possibility of quarantine being imposed ahead of the Rome Masters and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he pitched up in Kitzbuhel instead, as odd as that would have sounded six months ago.

Lately he’s been training with Diego Schwartzman and given his improvements on hard courts prior to the tour’s hiatus Thiem has to be a strong contender, although he usually needs matches to play his best stuff.

Defending champ Daniil Medvedev travelled to New York on the 16th and has been practicing since Wednesday (19th) and prior to that he was hitting with Joao Sousa at the end of July.

The Russian might have appreciated the break in the sense that he looked to be struggling a bit to back up his fabulous 2019 season at the beginning of 2020 and he showed in his run to the US Open final last year that he can go well in these conditions.

He made the Brisbane final in his opening week of the 2019 campaign (and won Sydney in 2018), so he’s gone well straight off the bat in the past and he’s won two of his last three against Djokovic (including in Cincy last season), so with a probably much-needed rest in his legs as well he looks a very strong contender.

Stefanos Tsitsipas has been doing a fair bit of tweeting but not a lot else during lockdown and it’s anyone’s guess as to his fitness for this comeback week in New York.

He hasn’t found New York to his liking yet as far as tennis is concerned, with just one win in his three main draw matches at the US Open so far and if it does get very hot and humid here I’m not sure I fancy the Greek player to cope as well as others.

Alexander Zverev has been working with David Ferrer lately and reportedly that coaching arrangement will continue until at least the end of 2020 after a successful trial period last month.

Zverev has said he will play both New York events, however Ferrer won’t join him at either of the tournaments and the German doesn’t sounds too enthused to be in the States (he arrived there on Saturday the 15th).

“It is a little crazy to play the US Open now,” Zverev said a few weeks back. “I would prefer it if the US Open didn't take place and we start in Europe,” he continued. “If the US Open takes place, what should we players do? Especially if everyone is playing… it's also about ranking points.”

He’s another one that’s yet to fire in New York, with a 7-5 win/loss record at the Open and a best finish of the last-16, so he’s not one I fancy that strongly, although much is possible this opening week.

It’s set to be hot and humid at the start of the week at least in New York and it’s not forecast to dip much below 30C in the shade all week, so I’m not sure that David Goffin is a likely winner.

Goffin has never been past the last-16 here and has regularly struggled in really steamy conditions, while also tending to be a player that needs matches to find his best form, so he’s overlooked for me.

Matteo Berrettini, on the other hand, made the semis at the US Open last year and he’s another one whose body may have appreciated the break after the injury issues the Italian had at the start of this year.

He played a few exhibitions impressivley this summer and has the game for these hard courts, so Berrettini is one to consider.

Roberto Bautista Agut is one player who has decent form early in the season, having won Auckland, Doha and at the ATP Cup in the last few years and he sounds like he can’t wait to be back playing competitively again.

“I can’t wait to return to competition,” he said on August 7th. “After so much training, I feel that the wait is getting a little long for me. In the end, what you want is to get back to the courts as soon as possible.”

His record in New York isn’t great though, with an 11-7 win/loss mark (lost in round one the last two seasons at the US Open).

Kevin Anderson is another one for whom the break has probably done his body some good and the South African, who made the final of the US Open in 2017, says he’s in good shape.

“My body is feeling good,” he said on August 14th. “Some of the issues that held me back last year and the beginning of this year have resolved themselves, so that’s a positive for me.”

I’ve always thought of Anderson as one of those players that needs matches to find his best form, but he did win Pune at the start of 2019, however this is obviously much tougher.

Milos Raonic is similar to Anderson in that his body almost certainly needed some downtime and he may be in much better shape physically (despite the photos of him and Schwartzman a while ago) than we’ve become accustomed to seeing him in the last couple of years.

He said back in June: “One thing that I have been fortunate over the last couple of months, even before coronavirus, was I was healthy. I wasn’t rehabbing any issues. I was able to train, spend as much time as I can on court and do the things that I can best to prepare myself.”

Then a couple of weeks ago he went into detail about his current training regime and while Raonic has never bettered the last-16 at the US Open I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go well this week.


Early-season winners


Looking now at players who’ve gone well at the start of the season after a break and we find that Andrey Rublev won two events in the opening weeks of 2020, along with Ugo Humbert, who won one.

I’ve mentioned Anderson and RBA as early-year winners and Alex De Minaur is another, although he does have the advantage of playing at home at the start of the year.

Many of the other recent early-season winners won’t be in the States, including Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios, Gael Monfils and Stan Wawrinka and the only other ones to have lifted titles early on in the last five years are Gilles Simon, Grigor Dimitrov, Jack Sock and Raonic.


The draw


Djokovic’s top half of the draw sees the Serb paired with Medvedev and while I do fancy Medvedev’s chances perhaps it’s best to also take a long look at the bottom half, where Berrettini, Tsitsipas, Zverev and Thiem are the high seeds.

And for me, Berrettini, John Isner, Andrey Rublev and maybe Diego Schwartzman look to have fair chances, but Rublev is a tad short for me at 25-1. I’d want at least 40s really on Rublev before taking an interest.

Schwartzman has the class on hard courts, but he’s in a section alongside huge servers, Reilly Opelka, Isner, Raonic, Anderson and Berrettini (as well as Tsitsipas), so that looks a tough ask.

Isner has gone very well in Miami on a Laykold the last two times he’s played there and while his record in New York at the US Open is iffy he’ll only be playing best-of-three this week, so he comes into the thinking, despite information about what he’s been doing in lockdown being scarce to say the least and some slow starts to his seasons recently are a worry, too.

At the prices it’s Berrettini and Isner for me in that section of the draw, with Anderson also a possible big-priced option.

The Zverev/Thiem quarter looks tough, too, with Andy Murray, Raonic, Sam Querrey, Rublev, Dan Evans, Dimitrov, Filip Krajinovic and Humbert all in with a chance of going deep.

Again, the price of 40-1 puts me off a punt on Raonic, as I’d be after double that to take a chance on the Canadian having put his fitness issues behind him.

Rublev’s awful record (0-9 in sets) against Zverev as well as his too-short price puts me off him, so in the bottom half it’ll be Berrettini and Isner that make the cut.

In the top half, while I like the chances of Medvedev I’m not sure he’s much value at 8-1 and if Karen Khachanov is back in the mood the 66-1 about him looks reasonable.

Khachanov struggled to back up his excellent end to 2018 in the following campaign, however I’m happy this week to take a chance on players like Khachanov who have the level in the locker, but just haven’t shown it lately.

That six months off was a great opportunity for the players to work on physical or technical weaknesses or simply take a break from the rigours of the tour and I’m expecting some surprises this week.




So, with the level of this entire field a largely unknown quantity I’ll take chances on a few at tempting prices in this unique situation.

Djokovic and Medvedev look the ones to beat, but will those two (in particular Djokovic) really be busting a gut to win a M1000 this close to a major? So Berrettini, Isner and Khachanov seem the pick of the outright prices this week instead.


Best Bets


0.5 points each-way Berrettini at 31.0
0.5 points each-way Isner at 76.0
0.5 points each-way Khachanov at 67.0