It was one win and one loss for us on Wednesday in Moscow, as we benefitted from a classic mental collapse from Philipp Kohlschreiber in a match that summed his career up pretty well.
Losing having had five match points (several on his own serve) is not unusual for Kohli, but for us to collect on the ‘tie break played’ in his clash with Karen Khachanov we had to watch him fail to serve it out from 40-15, with the Russian a 50-1 shot in-play at the time.
That came after Lukas Rosol decided that it was a good idea against an opponent that struggles to break big servers to donate his serve in the opening game of the first two sets with double faults.
There are 14 matches on the card on Thursday in Moscow, Rotterdam and Antwerp and the underdogs that look like they may well have possibilities are: Marius Copil, Jannik Sinner, Ugo Humbert, Alexei Popyrin, Egor Gerasimov, Janko Tipsarevic and Ivo Karlovic.
So, quite a few, then.
Marius Copil has had a poor season, but he’s a dangerous opponent on indoor hard when he’s on form, as he is just now after winning six consecutive sets in qualies and main draw in Antwerp.
He did something similar this time last year as well, losing six of eight matches and then making the final in Basel indoors by winning six matches as a qualifier, having taken down the likes of Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev en route.
Now he faces the classic match-up of the big server against the great returner in Diego Schwartzman, who does have a very good record in Antwerp (9-3) but the Argentine is as yet unproven for me against big servers indoors.
In those 12 matches in Antwerp he’s faced only Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with the sort of power that Copil has – and he lost that match in straight sets.
Indeed, in his career on indoor hard Schwartzman has only played three matches indoors versus the big servers in my database and lost two of them, with a tight (two points between them in total) over Feli Lopez last October the one win.
The master returner has only broken serve 11.5% of the time in those three indoor matches against Isner, Tsonga and Lopez and the way he struggled against Sam Querrey and Vasek Pospisil suggest that if Copil can bring his best serving to the court on Thursday he has a shot as a 3.20 underdog.
An opening match indoors against a prepared Copil doesn’t look the easiest of tasks for Schwartzman, who has to play near his best against these big guys, whose serving power is a pretty big advantage indoors.
Gael Monfils has been struggling since the US Open, with a shoulder problem that may or may not have contributed to a weak Asian swing in which Monfils’ only two wins came in final sets against Cam Norrie and Lorenzo Sonego.
He did make the final in Antwerp last year, losing in a final set breaker to Kyle Edmund, but Monfils doesn’t look right at the moment and young starlet Jannik Sinner should fancy his chances a bit here.
The Italian has shown he can already play at this level and he’ll be more attuned to the indoor conditions in a match situation than Monfils, having made the semis of Mouilleron-Le-Captif last week and he started well here in Antwerp, beating Kamil Majchrzak.
Sinner’s aggressive game will be an interesting match-up against a defender as good as Monfils, but Lamonf will need to improve from his Asian displays to be a comfortable winner here and I’ll chance Sinner at 3.25.
David Goffin hasn’t quite dealt with the pressure of playing at home with expectation on him in Antwerp yet and while he should be too strong on current form for Ugo Humbert the young Frenchman at his best level can’t be discounted.
In Stockholm, we’ll see what sort of mood Fabio Fognini is in after an Asian swing in which he played quite a bit of tennis and I wouldn’t rule out a defeat for the Italian against a motivated Janko Tipsarevic in his last tour event before retirement next month.
Denis Shapovalov doesn’t have the best of records on indoor hard, with a losing 11-14 mark at main level and a hold/break total of 99, so against a decent opponent who’s come through qualies in Alexei Popyrin the price of 1.37 on Shapo is not for me.
In Moscow it was a disappointing day for the underdogs on Wednesday, with all six losing, but Egor Gerasimov and Ivo Karlovic look the two that may provide some value on Thursday.
Gerasimov has been in good form at main level lately, winning seven of his last 10 matches and testing Daniil Medvedev more than most have been able to do in one of those three losses.
He’s actually won all three priors against Andrey Rublev, whose record in Moscow is poor (breaking serve only 11.4% of the time in the main draw here) but they were a few years ago now and not that relevant.
Gerasimov has held serve 87.7% of the time in those last 10 matches at this level and Rublev will need to be at his best to justify a price like 1.46 in what could be a dangerous match.
Karlovic takes on compatriot Marin Cilic, whose season so far has seen him produce a very mediocre hold/break total of just 100.4 and whose form hasn’t really improved all year.
He didn’t even create a break point against Albert Ramos in Shanghai last time out and he’s lost three of his last four against Karlovic, too, and that’s despite holding serve 96% of the time versus Ivo.
Karlovic rode his luck a bit to get past Aljaz Bedene in round one and what puts me off him a bit is his 3-10 win/loss record against big servers on indoor hard and the fact that he’s lost 12 of 15 tie breaks in those 13 matches.
That said, I couldn’t back Cilic at 1.34, with the former US Open champ having lost 13 times as favourite this season already and miles away from his level of old just now.
So, a few possible underdog options today and I’ll take Copil and Sinner as my two.