The ATP Tour resumes very swiftly after the Australian Open this year, with no break, due to the more densely packed calendar in 2020, and we have three ATP 250 events on three different surfaces and time zones to contend with in week five.
I talked about the playing conditions at this week’s three tournaments in my outright preview and in terms of historical frequency of underdog winners it’s Cordoba that leads the way, with 37%.
That’s from only one year on the tour though, but it may well prove to be one of the tournaments where underdogs prosper, with Cordoba being the first clay event of the year and the first at main level since last summer.
The Open Sud de France has produced 31% underdog winners in its last seven years on tour and the last three years have seen an average of 80% service holds, with 43% of it’s matches featuring at least one tie break between 2013 and 2019.
The two years that Pune has been on the tour have also produced 31% underdog winners and a whopping 56% of its matches have featured at least one tie break.
And last year’s inaugural Cordoba Open also had a lot of tie breaks (for a clay event) at 44%, as well as those 37% underdog winners.
Starting with Pune, then, and it’s set to still be 30C in the shade when they start their day’s play on Monday at 15:30 local time (10:00 UK) and I’d have to fancy the chances of Ivo Karlovic against Cedrik Marcel Stebe.
Karlovic held serve 98.6% of the time here in Pune last year and almost took the title; while Stebe is 0-7 against the big servers in my database and has held serve only 61.6% of the time in those matches.
The 40-year-old veteran, Karlovic, played pretty well in Melbourne, beating Vasek Pospisil in straight sets and wasn’t far off a two-set lead over Gael Monfils either.
Indeed, Karlovic actually won more second serve points in that match than Monfils (47% compared to 42%) and surely Stebe will find the conditions here too fast for him on a hot day in Pune.
Yuichi Sugita made the final of the Noumea Challenger a few weeks back on outdoor hard, but statistically there’s barely anything to separate him from Thomas Fabbiano on this surface at main level.
Sugita’s last 50 main level matches on this surface have seen him chalk up a service hold/break total of 93.1, while Fabbiano is on 92.3 from his 35 career matches on outdoor hard at main level.
This price seems based on Sugita having started the season the better and Fabbiano has been in a poor spell, but 1.36 seems mighty short on Sugita, who has lost 10 of his last 11 on outdoor hard at main level now.
Indeed, he hasn’t won a set in seven of his last eight main level matches on outdoor hard and I don’t mind chancing Fabbiano at this price, despite the Italian having lost five of his last six on this surface at main level.
The one he won was against a certain Dominic Thiem at the US Open only five months ago and he also took down Reilly Opelka at the Australian Open (when it was quick) 12 months ago, so he can do it on his day.
The sensible bet here is the +1.5 sets on Fabbiano at 1.80, but I’m expecting a few upsets this week, with the close proximity to the Australian Open in mind and I’ll chance Fabbiano at 3.20.
I’m not totally convinced about Viktor Troicki either, but I’m yet to see any prices for his clash with Sumit Nagal.
The Serb has won only six of his last 19 matches on the tour and those he did win weren’t exactly inspiring: a retirement win over Guillermo Garcia Lopez; a win over Bernard Tomic on clay; Roberto Carballes Baena (fifth set on hard); Jozef Kovalik on grass; Jason Jung on grass and a tanking Benoit Paire in extreme heat in Antalya.
Perhaps teaming up with his mate Novak Djokovic to win the ATP Cup might have reminded him of former glories and conditions do suit his game here (held serve 100% of the time in qualies), but he’s 34 in a week and ranked 159 now and Nagal on home soil may want it more.
Nagal has played some solid stuff lately, especially on clay, where he won the Buenos Aires Challenger and made the final of the Banja Luka Challenger, plus he took a set off Roger Federer at the US Open.
He perhaps lacks the weapons on serve in these quick conditions, but if he can turn it into a grind he has a fair chance.
Over at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier, the one that interests me here is Aljaz Bedene as underdog against Vasek Pospisil, with Bedene having been in excellent form on indoor hard lately.
The Slovenian has held serve 91.5% of the time in his last 10 main level matches on indoor hard (6-4 win/loss) and broken his opponents 16.2% of the time, for a very impressive hold/break total of 107.7.
He’s also beaten Pospisil in two of their three career clashes and the Canadian’s short term and long term stats on indoor hard at main level are less than inspiring: a hold/break total of 100 in his last 10 and 99.7 all-time (46 matches).
He’s made only two semi finals in his career (no further) on indoor hard from 24 tournaments and he’s lost three of his last four when priced up as favourite on this surface at main level.
Bedene has won three of his last five when priced up as underdog on indoor hard and I don’t mind taking a chance on him at this price.