In the light of Novak Djokovic’s stunning default in New York the loss for Roberto Bautista Agut to Vasek Pospisil looks all the more disappointing, but he came up against an opponent who was inspired on the day at times and that’s tennis.
It’s usually a thankless task taking on Djokovic and co. at majors and it took a once-in-a-lifetime incident to remove the Serb from the draw, as he looked on the way to another title at the time.
It’s a bit odd to be starting another tour level event while there’s a major still going on, but that’s where we’re at, as the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel takes place from Tuesday on the clay.
This event is usually played at the end of July and the last two years here have shown what a massive difference the weather can have on this tournament (and most clay events).
In 2018 it was boiling hot during Kitzbuhel week and fast court loving Denis Istomin, who’d only ever made tour level finals on quick hard and grass, made the final as a qualifier.
Contrast that with 2019 when it was rainy and heavy, which made conditions very favourable for Dominic Thiem, who became the first Austrian man to win Kitzbuhel in 26 years.
Indeed, until Thiem’s win last year, only Philipp Kohlschreiber in 2012 had made the final as a number one seed since Thomas Muster in 1995, so it’s usually a real top seed’s graveyard in Kitzbuhel.
The weather forecast says to expect showers and thunderstorms all week, so it’ll probably be slower than ‘usual’ but it’s still at 762m of altitude and even last year when it rained a lot over 50% of the matches still featured at least one tie break.
The draw – top half
Even without thinking about the awful record of number one seeds in Kitzbuhel we simply would have had to have taken on Fabio Fognini this week.
Fogna’s record when number one seed for main level events in his career is awful, with only one title as top seed and that was way back in 2014 in Vina Del Mar. In the 11 tournaments he’s been seeded first for since then he’s won none of them.
The Italian underwent ankle surgery a few months ago and has been training in Italy since recovering from that operation, so he’s likely to be less than match sharp, too.
A fair few of the players in this Kitzbuhel draw have come straight from the US Open, with the likes of Jordan Thompson only having played in New York on Sunday night, so it’s quite a turnaround for the likes of Thompson and co. and to a different surface at altitude, too.
Also in the top half of the draw is Kei Nishikori, who is another player to have contracted COVID-19, and that made Nishikori miss the US Open, so we’re guessing as to his fitness this week given that he hasn’t played competitively now for a year after an elbow injury.
Instead, I like two Argentines in this top half of the draw, with Guido Pella and Juan Ignacio Londero the duo I’m keen on.
Pella has endured a frustrating time of it lately, by being quarantined ahead of the US Open due to his trainer being diagnosed with COVID-19 and prior to that he was talking about maybe not playing again after being told that he has Morton’s neuroma.
He certainly looked lacking in match practice when he finally was allowed on court at the US Open and I’d probably want a bigger price than 8-1 about Pella in the circumstances.
Londero is preferred after again showing decent form on an unsuitably quick hard court at the US Open, where he was close to beating Borna Coric, so if he’s had enough time to adapt back to the clay he should go well.
His aggressive game should work well here and 25-1 is a fair price about Londero, which I don’t mind taking ahead of qualies being completed.
The other seed in this half, Nikoloz Basilashvili looks in all sorts of mental anguish, which is hardly surprising given that he’s in court next month on charges of assaulting his ex-wife.
It’s hard to fancy hard court players, Thompson, Millman, Ruusuvuori and Kecmanovic in these conditions and circumstances, but qualifiers have a fair record here and they’ll have an obvious advantage when they get to the main draw.
Four qualifiers have made at least the semis here in the last six years and given that they’ll have been practicing and playing on clay while others have been in the States they’re surely worth a look this week.
The draw – bottom half
I don’t much fancy Hubert Hurkacz, Dennis Novak and Alexander Bublik on clay (unless it was meant to be really hot this week), so of the main draw players, Joao Sousa and Dusan Lajovic look the ones in Q3.
Sousa made the final here in 2017, while Lajovic made at least the quarters each year from 2015 to 2018 at this event, so both will fancy their chances this week.
Moving on to Q4 now and this looks competitive, with last year’s finalist, Albert Ramos, an obvious contender, as are Diego Schwartzman, Jannik Sinner and Philipp Kohlschreiber, who’s twice a Kitzbuhel champion and a local resident.
Schwartzman looked out of sorts in New York in a loss to Cam Norrie first up and he’s won only two main level titles on clay (none since February 2018) while also having as yet achieved little in tournaments played at altitude.
That’s enough to put me off him at a price as short as 5-1,as I still think he’s more effective on slow or medium/slow hard courts than clay these days.
Sinner is an obvious threat, but given his injury problem in New York he’s also too short for me at just 8-1 and while Kohlschreiber has a great record in Kitzbuhel he’s getting a bit long in the tooth now at almost 37.
Ramos will probably go close, but again 12-1 doesn’t really cut it for me about him, so I don’t mind chancing the 33-1 about Sousa, who struggled a lot with a foot injury last season and has been training in Barcelona on the clay this summer.
He’s got a tough one first up on Tuesday against Hurkacz, but the Pole hasn’t had long to adjust to the clay at all and he could easily be taken out on this surface by Sousa, who beat him on grass as underdog last year.
I may well add one from the qualifying draw in Kitzbuhel this week, but as that is still going on it’ll have to wait until probably Tuesday evening before I can decide on that.
For now the best prices look to be those about Londero in the top half and Sousa in the bottom half.