We were on the right lines in Pune and Cordoba last week with the idea that Benoit Paire and Guido Pella were opposable and so it proved, but we had no luck at all at the quarter final stage of both tournaments.
In Pune, our man Ilya Ivashka traded far lower than the 25-1 that we got him at, but the Belarusian was beaten 13-11 in a final set tie break that he’d led 5-3 and had two match points in by Jiri Vesely in the last eight.
I said that Egor Gerasimov and Peter Gojowczyk looked the likeliest in the top half of the Pune draw, but I preferred the 25s about Ivashka and in hindsight that was a fair decision, but yet again unlucky.
Over in Cordoba, Corentin Moutet did as I’d hoped by disposing of Guido Pella, but he was woeful in his last eight clash against Andrej Martin as a 1.50 favourite and was eased aside in an immature performance from the Frenchman.
I was right about one of the market leaders being likely to take the title in Montpellier, with the number one seed ending up with the trophy.
Conditions and trends
Tournament director, Richard Krajicek, loves to change things up in Rotterdam and after plentiful fairly substantial changes in court surface and speed over the last few years he’s gone for a new black court for the 2020 event.
Of the pace of this year’s Proflex surface, Krajicek said: “…our surface is not super fast and that is in favour of Fognini.”
Thanks for the tip, Richard, but I’m not sure I’ll be backing Fabio this week, with the Italian having withdrawn from Montpellier last week and having made only three finals in his 35 career events on this surface at main level (no titles).
The last qualifier to make the Rotterdam final was as long ago as 2001, but a qualifier has made the semis in three of the last four years at this tournament.
Number one seeds don’t have a great record in Rotterdam lately, with only Roger Federer winning it in 2018 seeded first since 2011.
Over at the New York Open in Long Island they play on a similar black surface to the one now used in Rotterdam (a Laykold) and in 2019 it was the tournament that had the most holds of serve all year (87%).
That may have had something to do with the field that assembled last year: Opelka, Isner and Querrey all in the semis and we had Querrey here 12 months ago as an 11-1 shot, who lost as a 1.25 chance in the last four to Brayden Schnur.
Of this year’s conditions, the tournament director said: “It’s a surface that supports different styles of play. We had Brayden [Schnur] in the final last year and he isn’t a big server.”
This would be the same Brayden Schnur that held serve 92.1% of the time here last year and broke 11.8% of the time, playing 0.43 tie breaks per set.
Looking at the field for 2020’s New York Open I’d suggest that the figure of 87% holds may well go up.
In Buenos Aires on the clay it’s weather-dependent, but usually on the slow side, with barely any tie breaks and a low service hold percentage.
It’s been a poor tournament for qualifiers, with none past the quarter finals since 2002 and there has been only one unseeded champion in Buenos Aires since 2007, which was Alexander Dolgopolov in 2017, who won here as a 33-1 chance.
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
I’m going to be slightly brief about Rotterdam as frankly not a lot appeals in this tournament, with the exception of a big-priced punt on Hubert Hurkacz in the bottom half of the draw at around 66-1.
Hurkacz has started the year well and we had him in Auckland when he disappointed in the semis against Benoit Paire, but at this price I’m happy to give him another chance.
The Pole beat his much more fancied round one opponent Stefanos Tsitsipas on outdoor hard in Montreal last summer as a 3.17 underdog and came mightily close to doing it again in Shanghai four months ago.
As a 3.02 underdog that day on quick outdoor hard in China Hurkacz lost 7-5 in a final set tie break and given how poorly Tsitsipas played this time last year in Sofia and Rotterdam I’m happy to take a punt on an upset leading to an opportunity for the Pole.
There’s nothing in it in the stats of their last three clashes, with Hurkacz holding 87.4% of the time and Tsitsipas 89.5% of the time and with identical numbers on second serve points won.
There was probably an element of post-Melbourne blues about Tsitsipas a year ago after he lost heavily in the semis to Nadal, but he hasn’t started this year well and often seems to struggle for motivation in the less prestigious tournaments.
If Hurkacz wins that he may get a rematch with Paire and then it doesn’t look too daunting a route, with the out of form Grigor Dimitrov and Felix Auger Aliassime or perhaps Denis Shapovalov a quarter final opponent.
Roberto Bautista Agut or David Goffin may be tough in the semis, but I’m not sure it’s quick enough here for RBA, while Goffin produced yet another of his chokes in Montpellier in the semis and can’t be trusted at a price like 9-1 for me.
The one that was interesting is qualifier Marton Fucsovics, who’s playing very well at the moment and would probably have been a worth at a decent price, but an opening round draw against Roberto Bautista Agut isn’t ideal and the price will need to be big now.
As far as the top half of the draw goes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Daniil Medvedev fail to live up to his top seed and market favourite status, with the Russian possibly struggling to back up his superb last four or five months of 2019.
We’ve seen many times (Khachanov last year and Jack Sock in 2018 to now) that players find it hard to get that intensity and level back the next year and it remains to be seen if Medvedev will be able to back it up or not.
He has a tough draw against the now in-form Vasek Pospisil in round one and if he does lose early it would open up the draw for the likes of Andrey Rublev, Gael Monfils, Karen Khachanov, Filip Krajinovic or Fabio Fognini.
Monfils has a very good record here, but he’s never made back-to-back finals at main level the week after a title/final the previous calendar week.
It would be very open if Medvedev were to fall early and I wouldn’t rule out any of those in the top half, but none really appeal strongly enough to me to back them at the prices.
The bottom half of the Buenos Aires draw looks the place to take a chance on one or two for me, with Diego Schwartzman and Cristian Garin likely to dominate the top of the draw, assuming both are fit after their exertions in Cordoba.
The one I’m looking at here is Casper Ruud, who looks to have a fair draw, with Pablo Andujar first up and Andujar struggles here, with a 3-8 win/loss mark in the Buenos Aires main draw.
It’s probably too slow for Andujar, but Ruud has the power that Andujar lacks and he’ll also get time to dance around his backhand here, as he likes to do to get that forehand in play.
There are plenty of good clay courters throughout this Buenos Aires draw, but Dusan Lajovic is 12-17 win/loss on clay in South America at main level, with six round one losses from his last seven appearances.
He may go better this time after playing well for Serbia in the ATP Cup, but Ruud looks the man to beat in Q3 of this Buenos Aires draw ahead of Marco Cecchinato, Fernando Verdasco and Roberto Carballes Baena (and Lajovic).
The Norwegian started the season well on unsuitable hard courts and has the ability to cause damage this week, which makes 25-1 an interesting price.
Laslo Djere, Juan Ignacio Londero and Guido Pella look to have Q4 between them and it wouldn’t take much for Londero to reverse the Cordoba result over Djere, but Pella is an obvious threat in this half of the draw.
Pella doesn’t have a particularly inspiring record here though and none of the current crop of Argentine players have been able to handle the nerves here, with no home winner since David Nalbandian in 2008.
No Argentine has won a set in the Buenos Aires final since 2011 and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pella and/or Londero got a bit nervy again this week.
New York Open
The top half of this draw looks like a serving contest, with John Isner, Ivo Karlovic, Reilly Opelka, Kevin Anderson and Steve Johnson all in it, along with Tennys Sandgren, who can serve a bit, too.
The likes of Damir Dzumhur, Cam Norrie, and Yoshihito Nishioka must be less than impressed with their draw in the same half as these huge servers on indoor hard and it looks likely top be a case of whoever serves the best makes the final in this section of the draw.
The bottom half looks a very nice place to be for another big server, Milos Raonic, who played his best tennis for a very long time in Melbourne, but is he fit?
He looked fit enough in Melbourne, but he hasn’t completed an ATP Tour event (as in winning the tournament) for four years now and not on indoor hard since the autumn of 2015.
If we take Raonic out of the equation it looks very open in the bottom half, with Ugo Humbert an obvious threat on his best form, but perhaps the value lies with Tommy Paul on home soil.
The American has been playing some good stuff this season so far and while he’s another one with a tough-looking round one draw the rest of the quarter (Humbert aside) doesn’t look that tricky to negotiate if he stays at the level we’ve seen from him in 2020.
Miomir Kecmanovic is rather inexperienced on indoor hard at this level and was beaten by Daniel Elahi Galan in Newport Beach last time out, having had the doctor and physio out in his preview match.
I’d suggest that Paul may be the more motivated of that pair this week playing in New York and given Raonic’s regular fitness problems I don’t mind taking a chance on Paul.
Kyle Edmund still seems out of sorts and as such he’s too short in price for me, while Humbert was poor last week in a bad loss to Feli Lopez and again he’s too short for me at the prices.
Just a small punt at a big-price for me in Rotterdam on Hubert Hurkacz then and I’ll take Casper Ruud in Buenos Aires and Tommy Paul in New York.
0.5 points each-way Ruud in Buenos Aires at 26.0
0.5 points win Paul in New York at 19.0
0.5 points each-way Hurkacz in Rotterdam at 67.0