The final event of the main 2020 ATP Tour this year is in Bulgaria, where they play the Sofia Open on indoor hard, and this is a very different position in the calendar for this tournament.
It was played in February in its previous four years on the tour, right after Davis Cup week, so there were a quite a few matches here in years gone by that were affected by players arriving late/jetlagged/fatigued after national duty.
This year they’ll probably just be fatigued and/or keen for what’s been a bit of a draining season all told to end and we may get a few surprising results this week.
Despite its former position in the calendar, Sofia hasn’t been known for many underdog winners, with an average of only 29% in it’s four years so far, which puts it near the bottom on that score.
It’s usually on the quick side, with around 550m of altitude in Sofia to aid that, and there have been 80% holds of serve in the last three years here and 43% of its matches in the last four years have featured at least one tie break.
Strangely, the round with the highest frequency of dog winners in Sofia so far has been the quarter finals, with a whopping 53% of them winning in its four years on the tour.
Round two has been an underdog’s graveyard, with just 6 of 31 underdog winners (19%) and there have been only 27% in round one so far.
There could be a few more this season considering we’re in the final week for all of these players, but I’m struggling to find many underdogs that are particularly tempting in all honesty.
My outright hope Marton Fucsovics is one, but we’ve backed him already and several of the round one dogs are much happier on clay courts, so it’s slim pickings by the looks of things and we’ll have to get a bit creative here, I think.
Imagine, say, just before the tour’s hiatus, that a match on a quickish hard court between Stefano Travaglia and Nikoloz Basilashvili would be priced up with Basil as the 3.30 underdog!
I’d have assumed a palpable error on the part of the layers (Basil was a 1.4 shot when he beat Travaglia at the 2019 Australian Open), but much has happened since, with Basil showing little desire to compete lately, presumably due to his much-publicised off-court problems.
He has tended to start his matches well though and he did it again last week in Bercy when he went 3-1 up on Jan-Lennard Struff before losing 11 of the next 14 games and the match.
Backing Basil to lead 3-1 after four games is something I’ve done a few times and it was a price of 8-1 against Struff, so that’s one to bear in mind, but it seems that Basil is probably desperate for this season/year to end so I couldn’t back him to win either the match or set one.
Viktor Troicki needs lively conditions to stand much of a chance at main level these days (his last three main level quarter finals came on grass, here in Sofia and at the quick Shanghai Masters) and he held serve 92% of the time in qualies (wins over Donskoy and Ornago), winning an average of 85% of his first serve points overall.
A similar serving performance on Monday against Egor Gerasimov would likely result in a tie break, with Gerasimov having held serve 84% of the time and played 0.36 tie breaks per set in his last 10 main level matches on indoor hard.
Troicki seems in a good groove on serve and in these conditions and given that it’s Gerasimov’s opening match here I like the 4.30 about a set one tie break or the 2.25 about a tie break in the match.
Salvatore Caruso has only ever won two matches at main level on indoor hard (2-5 win/loss), but Dimitar Kuzmanov has only won one set in four appearances in the main draw here in Sofia.
Martin Klizan is miles away from the sort of form that saw him win ATP 500s and make the top-25 and he lost in straight sets to Taro Daniel in qualies on Sunday, but how fit is the lucky loser’s round one opponent, Adrian Mannarino?
Manna was undecided about coming here as he said he was struggling physically after a lot of tennis and as poor as Klizan has been in the last year or two he may get lucky with an unfit Mannarino and on his best form could win this anyway.
Wild card Jonas Forejtek is 5-9 win/loss at Challenger level and has a best senior level win (according to ranking) of number 173 when he beat Botic Van De Zandschulp at the Prague Challenger a few months back.
He’s played 12 career matches on indoor hard – one at Challenger level (lost), two in Davis Cup and the rest at ITF level – but he is the 2019 US Open Junior champion and former top-ranked junior, so we’ll see what he can do against Marin Cilic, but I suspect it won’t be a great deal.
Roberto Carballes Baena has beaten Klizan and Ricardas Berankis on indoor hard, but both were in slower conditions in Moscow and St. Petersburg and it’s hard to fancy him to beat Richard Gasquet unless he can really drag the rallies out and get Gasquet tired.
Andrej Martin, another of those clay courters I mentioned earlier, has only played one match at this level indoors and it was that long ago that it was against Juan Ignacio Chela, who beat Martin in Vienna in 2010.
The last time that Martin won a match indoors at any level was back in 2017 when he beat Sergiy Stakhovsky at the Bratislava Challenger as a 3.43 chance – and he’s only played four matches on this surface since then.
So, it’s hard to see him beating Gilles Simon, who’s had to qualify to reach the first round and surely (unless he’s injured) Gillou won’t be losing this one.
Taro Daniel is playing well at the moment, having won the Hamburg Challenger indoors last week, and he takes on the player ranked one place above him in the rankings, Aslan Karatsev.
Both men qualified here in Sofia and have never faced each other before, but Daniel is tempting at 2.30 considering his confidence must be high right now and I don’t think it will be too quick for him here.
He’s played well on quick hard courts before and he’s very much a streaky sort of player who goes on good runs on all surfaces when he’s feeling good and Karatsev doesn’t have that much power in his game.
I watched him against Andreas Seppi in Nur-Sultan and wasn’t impressed and he was down a break in both sets to Marc-Andrea Huesler in qualies yesterday and was a tad fortunate to escape that one in straights, so I don’t mind taking Daniel as underdog in his current form at this price.
As far as the outright is concerned, now that the qualifiers are in the draw the only one that could be viable is Gilles Simon and he’s a possibility at around 23-1, but what would he have left in the tank after what seems likely to be a battle against John Millman in round two?
Probably not a lot and I’ll stick with my original two in Sofia this week.
0.5 points win over 12.5 games in set one of Troicki/Gerasimov at 4.30
0.5 points win Daniel to beat Karatsev at 2.30