There are two new single-year licence ATP 250 tournaments and an upgraded ATP 500 in week 43 of the tour and so there’s a lot of round one matches to look at to try and extract a spot of value from.
The only one with any history for us to look back on is St. Petersburg, which hasn’t had to move that much in the calendar this year and this is an event that back in the day used to produce a fair few eye-opening results.
It hasn’t lately though, with only 12 betting underdogs winning from it’s last 53 matches for a measly average of 22%, but the circumstances are a bit different this year, with the players coming straight from a late-season clay swing to indoor hard.
St. Petersburg is usually one of the slower indoor events, with an average of 76% holds of serve in its last four years and 37% of it’s matches over the last six stagings of the tournament have featured at least one tie break.
My shortlist of potential round one value underdogs in St. Petersburg is: Feli Lopez, Vasek Pospisil, Mikhail Kukushkin, and Cam Norrie.
Norrie takes on Taylor Fritz, whose record against lefties isn’t as good as his record against right-handers and Fritz’s form on indoor hard has been weak generally so far in his career (apart from one very good week in Memphis four years ago).
Norrie has also beaten Fritz twice from four meetings and while the Brit has no real indoor hard form to speak of it may well be slow enough in St. Petersburg for him to make a real match of this.
This pair first met in Auckland at the start of 2019 (when we had Norrie outright at 25-1 and he lost in the final) and Fritz’s price then was 1.75, followed by 2.01 in Melbourne the next week, 1.50 when Fritz beat Norrie in a decider in Atlanta in July 2019 and then 1.46 when he lost to Norrie in their last clash, which was in Delray Beach on a slow hard court in February this year.
On the stats on indoor hard there’s little in it: Fritz’s hold/break total at main level is 95.8, while Norrie’s is better at 97.7, despite Norrie having lost five of his seven matches in what’s a small sample size for his stats.
Given that Fritz also has a losing record at main level against lefties, this price of 1.35 is too short and either Norrie to win at 3.20 or +1.5 sets at 1.80 look fair options.
Borna Coric is another one with a generally weak record on indoor hard and while, yes, he made the final here a year ago he got lucky with the draw, when Marton Fucsovics ended up retiring against him after leading the match and then he got to play clay courters Casper Ruud and Joao Sousa, needing three sets to beat both of them before Daniil Medvedev dismissed Coric in the final.
Coric lost to Feli Lopez as a 1.29 shot at the China Open in October 2018 and the Croat has a losing record indoors (18-22 win/loss) and a hold/break total of 98.1 in those 40 main level matches.
He’s also coming off a poor round one loss at the French Open and he has a very poor record against big servers, losing 24 of his 30 main level matches against the ones in my database on all surfaces (0-5 on indoor hard).
Lopez is clearly in the veteran stage of his career, but he’s still held serve 85.2% of the time indoors in his last 50 main level matches and his hold/break total in those matches is similar to Coric’s at 97.7.
Mikhail Kukushkin beat Miomir Kecmanovic as a 2.35 underdog in quick conditions in Shanghai a year ago and once again the Kazakh is rated an underdog for this meeting, at more or less the same price.
Kecmanovic, rather surprisingly give his previous form on clay (although it was quick conditions at altitude) won the title in Kitzbuhel, but he’s struggled since and the hold/break stats of this pair indoors are almost identical at 101-102 each.
Kuku won this tournament 10 years ago and is always motivated playing here, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he got the better of Kecmanovic again here.
I mentioned in my outright preview that Andrey Rublev may well be a tad fatigued after a lot of clay matches in heavy conditions lately, which must give a good chance to Vasek Pospisil, who’s been playing well of late.
A Pospisil win may be very good for our outright strategy on Ugo Humbert, so I might not back the Canadian myself, but his strong form lately and longer time that he’s had to practise makes him an underdog with potential.
Over at the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne they, like St. Petersburg, play on a Rebound Ace indoor hard court and the ones I’m considering as potential value underdogs here are: Ricardas Berankis, Oscar Otte, Radu Albot, and maybe Fernando Verdasco.
Oscar Otte has been in great form since the resumption of the ATP Tour, winning the Aix En Provence Challenger and finishing runner-up in the Ostrava Challenger (both on clay) and he qualified here on home soil in Cologne by dismissing the in-form Dominic Koepfer and then beating Marc Polmans, who did well at the French Open.
Otte should present a decent challenge to Jan-Lennard Struff, who’s gone back to his old chokey ways a bit lately and Struff also has a poor record playing at home in Germany, where he’s 17-26 win/loss in his career and he’s 11-15 in round one matches in his home nation, losing five of his last eight round one matches here.
Struff has only won 14 of his 24 matches in Germany when priced up as favourite and he’s lost four of his last five matches on tour, with the only win coming in a fifth over a physically impaired Tiafoe in Paris).
Ricardas Berankis often goes well indoors at this time of year and he’ll relish the role of underdog against Marin Cilic, who can’t seem to find the form he’s shown in years gone by.
Berankis has posted some solid numbers on indoor hard courts, with a hold/break total that’s almost identical to that of Cilic in each man’s last 50 main level matches on this surface.
Berankis (26-24 win/loss) has a 101.9 total, while Cilic is on 102.3 and Berankis (who took Cilic to 7-5 in the fifth at Wimbledon in their only career clash as a 10.75 chance back in 2015) has scored some good wins in the autumn indoors.
Milos Raonic (twice), Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Filip Krajinovic have all been beaten by Berankis indoors in the autumn and he’s won as underdog in almost half of the matches he’s been priced up as underdog for on indoor hard at main level (20-21 win/loss).
If Fernando Verdasco is fit (and it’s a big ‘if’) he might well do something against Andy Murray, but we’re guessing as to the Spaniard’s condition after some time away from the main tour, while Radu Albot has been known to go well against net rushers like Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
In Sardinia, Jozef Kovalik, Gianluca Mager, Andrej Martin and Corentin Moutet look the ones for possible underdog wins in round one, but I prefer the chances of the ones on hard courts in Cologne and St. Petersburg overall.
Kovalik looked in good form in qualies and you’ve got to wonder what Pablo Andujar has left at this level now at getting on for 35 after all his injuries, but Kovalik has only broken serve 10% of the time on clay in his last 10 main level matches, which is a concern to say the least.
Marco Cecchinato is being priced at the moment as if he’s the player that made the French Open semis a few years back, but stats don’t suggest that at all and he looks short at 1.40 against Gianluca Mager, who’s capable at this level on his day, as he showed in Rio earlier this year.
It’s actually Mager that’s slightly ahead by a couple of points on their main level clay hold/break numbers in the past 12 months and Cecchinato was comfortably beaten in the end by Delbonis last week in Parma (where Mager retired) so 1.40 looks skinny.
Andrej Martin made a final in Umag in similar conditions to these on the coast a few years back and he may well test Tommy Paul, who’s decent on clay, but the American will need to play well to beat the lucky loser.
And Corentin Moutet will face an opponent in Frances Tiafoe that still hasn’t finished in Parma yet. Tiafoe plays the final there on Monday morning, so he won’t have time to practise much in the Sardinia conditions.
So, plenty to go at over the first few days in Cologne, Sardinia and St. Petersburg and I’ll try the following bets for a bit of value: