We’ve got 11 main draw matches on the card on Monday at the ASB Classic in Auckland and the Adelaide International and I talked about the playing conditions in my outright preview.
There are no prior stats to go on for the new Adelaide tournament, while I wonder how the new Green Set surface will affect play in Auckland, which has produced plenty of underdog winners in the past.
In the past seven years, Auckland has produced a healthy 37% of underdog winners, which puts it in the top-10 of all the tournaments on the calendar, with the rustiness of the players at this early stage of the year probably having a bit of an impact on the number of unfancied winners.
As far as tie breaks are concerned 42% of the Auckland matches in the last seven years have featured at least one, while the service hold average over the last three years is 81%.
After day one in Adelaide when three main draw matches were played Pablo Cuevas’ win over Reilly Opelka may be significant when it comes to working out the conditions.
He survived 36 aces and three match points and said of the conditions: “Of course I play better on clay; every year the start of the season is tough for me. But this year I think the court is a little bit slow; it’s better for me.”
Lorenzo Sonego vs Hubert Hurkacz
While I like the chances of Hurkacz this week in Auckland this opening match against Sonego may not be that straightforward for the Pole, who’s played a whopping 0.56 tie breaks per set against Sonego in their three career clashes – and two of those were on clay.
Both men have games based largely around their serves, with each holding serve around 83% of the time in the past 12 months at main level and winning 73-74% of their first serve points.
Neither impresses much on return, with Sonego breaking serve only 14.7% of the time in the last 12 months at main level and Hurkacz 17.7% of the time.
Sonego knows he has to do better in that department and said a few days ago: “I worked so hard on the preparation, and the return, because I'm too far back.”
We’ll see how he gets on this year away from the clay, but if he can find the sort of form that saw him win the title on grass in Antalya last summer Hurkacz may find this one tougher than odds of 1.23 on the Pole suggest.
There’s barely anything between these two on their main level stats on all surfaces in the last year and this is priced on Sonego’s struggles on hard courts and Hurkacz’s good recent form and some of his hard court showings last season.
Hurkacz should win it, but a price of 4.60 on a tie break in set one looks decent.
Elsewhere, underdogs who could well find success on Monday include Gilles Simon, Mikael Ymer, Benoit Paire, and Ugo Humbert.
Gilles Simon has lost his last two against Jeremy Chardy heavily, but he won the previous four against his fellow countryman and Simon had a neck injury when he was beaten by Chardy in Miami last year.
And the previous Chardy win over Simon on came right at the end of the 2017 season in Paris when Simon said: "I had a bad feeling; the impression of being slow, of not being able to do much. I was hoping it would come at some point in the match but it was getting worse and worse.”
Chardy actually has a surprisingly good record on outdoor hard courts when priced up between 1.60 and 1.79, with an 11-4 win/loss mark in his career, but he’s lost five of his last seven on all surfaces in that price range.
Mikael Ymer tried to play a style that wasn’t at all natural to him when he faced Frances Tiafoe on indoor hard at the Milan Next-Gen knockabout in November and paid the price.
There’s a chance he could get revenge this time when he faces an out of form Tiafoe, who made only five quarter finals (no better) all season in 2019 at main level.
Ymer has shown definite improvement lately, which explains why the Swede is not a big underdog against the much more powerful American, but his stats still aren’t up to scratch at main level, holding serve only 69.7% of the time in his five main level matches on outdoor hard.
On all surfaces he’s only held serve 68.8% of the time in his last 10 main level matches (including Milan), so I’d want a bigger price about Ymer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he went close, with Tiafoe struggling for form.
Ugo Humbert had the trainer out for a left foot injury during a loss to Denis Kudla last week in Bendigo in which Humbert totally blew the opening set, but he’s still slightly tempting as underdog against Casper Ruud.
Ruud played well in the ATP Cup, but both men are still rather unproven to say the least on outdoor hard (Humbert 4-9 win/loss and Ruud 4-13) so I’ll probably pass on this one.
Cam Norrie has won four of his five main level matches played on outdoor hard courts so far against fellow left-handers such as Thiago Monteiro and at home in Auckland he should be too strong for Monteiro in these conditions.
Benoit Paire, surprisingly, has a very good recent record as slight underdog, having won 11 of his last 14 (last six in a row) main level matches when priced up between 2.0 and 2.19.
Therefore, he has to come into the thinking at that sort of price against Jannik Sinner, who may be being priced a little too short now that the layers have witnessed his ability on several occasions at this level.
So, just a small wager to start off the season for me on Monday.
0.5 points win over 12.5 games in set one of Sonego/Humbert at 4.60