Three of the four underdogs that I highlighted in Monday’s column were winners, with the other losing in a final set, so it was a nice start to the week for us.
Headline pick Tennys Sandgren was a straight sets winner over Max Marterer and as I said last week these pre-Australian Open weeks are much more valuable to me than next week’s major.
Sydney and Auckland rank just outside the top-10 on the tour in their percentages of underdog winners, while Melbourne is in the bottom three, so it’s a better week for value by far.
Tuesday’s play in Sydney and Auckland has 12 matches to choose from and from a value perspective I like the look of Reilly Opelka and Lucas Pouille as underdogs, with Frances Tiafoe, Andreas Seppi, and Robin Haase others to consider.
Alex De Minaur vs Reilly Opelka
I’m still unconvinced about De Minaur on quick surfaces against big servers like Opelka and if the latter has a good day from the service line this could turn out to be a tough day indeed for the young Aussie.
Opelka has been in rare form lately, winning 12 of his last 13 matches at all levels, holding serve 95.2% of the time in those matches and also breaking 15.7% of the time.
Most of those matches have been at Challenger level and qualies, but even at main level in his 19 matches played on outdoor hard Opelka has held serve 90% of the time.
De Minaur has struggled against that sort of power, losing six of his last seven matches against the big servers in my database (4-8 overall) and even a rusty Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was able to beat De Minaur in straight sets mainly by a serve and a forehand.
The young Aussie relies on breaking serve, as he holds his own deal around 80% of the time and he’s no longer the new kid on the block playing with no pressure after last season’s exploits.
Another factor is that this’ll be a night match: the same slower conditions that saw De Minaur struggle to get the ball through the court against Tsonga, allowing Tsonga to nip round his backhand and blast forehands.
Opelka’s confidence will be high after the run he’s been on and he hasn’t been broken at all yet this week in Sydney by three players who are very good off the ground in Andujar, Daniel and Ramos (and he won his only career clash with De Minaur at Wimbledon juniors).
Ramos has a decent record against big servers and he was unable to even create a break point, so this for me is a dangerous one for De Minaur and I’m happy to have a point on the American at 3.30.
Andrey Rublev vs Lucas Pouille
And a point on the out of form Pouille at a decent price of around 2.35 will be my second wager of the day, in a similar sort of situation to the one we profited from last week when Nikoloz Basilashvili beat Rublev as underdog.
Granted, Pouille’s form lately has been poor, but it’s unlikely to stay that way and his one-year outdoor hard court stats are better than Rublev’s, with the Russian often stung at this level by his weak serving.
At main level the Russian has only held serve 72.4% of the time this past 12 months on outdoor hard and won 43.3% of the points on that weak second serve.
If we look at matches played in the last 12 months (all surfaces and levels) versus the current top-25 we find that Rublev is 0-8 win/loss, and in those matches he held serve only 69.5% of the time, winning 41.5% of the points on second serve.
Pouille has had a rough nine months, but now with new coach Amelie Mauresmo in his corner and with a lot to like about his game the Frenchman’s form will turn soon.
His stats are still better than Rublev’s and he went 4-9 versus the same group of players and held serve 78.2% of the time that Rublev went 0-8 against.
Their one career clash came in Rotterdam when Pouille had won Montpellier a few days prior, so I’m not reading much into that match, and Pouille seems fair value today.
Briefly on Auckland’s card for Tuesday, Leonardo Mayer has a bit of an issue with big servers, losing 10 of his last 11 matches against the ones in my database and on outdoor hard only he’s 1-6 win/loss in matches with stats available and in those seven matches he’s broken serve 3.6% of the time.
So, Steve Johnson, who has a decent record in Auckland, holding 88.2% of the time in his 13 matches here (8-5 win/loss) , should fancy this one in a first career meeting between the pair.
Robin Haase also has a good record in Auckland and so does his opponent David Ferrer, who’s playing his last few months on the tour before retiring.
Ferrer has started this final season of his career in good style, but fitness is his major issue these days and a lot will depend on how fit he is on the day.
Jose Statham has a very weak record at main level, with a 0-4 mark (all matches here in Auckland) holding serve 61.6% of the time and breaking 8.2% of the time, so it would be a major shock if he were to defeat Hyeon Chung.