Last week’s outright bets produced two good-priced finalists, with Alex De Minaur making the Antwerp title match as an 11-1 chance and starting the final as a 1.65 favourite, while Diego Schwartzman reached the final in Cologne as a 14-1 shot.
Of course, as is now customary in ‘for the money’ matches, they both lost, with De Minaur putting in a weak performance as favourite against Ugo Humbert, who we backed last week at 33-1 and who I opted against this week, as I felt that the 14-1 on offer was too short about the Frenchman.
Schwartzman was abysmal against Alexander Zverev in a peculiar match that saw Zverev drift in the betting from 1.45 or so in the morning to 1.72 after about two points of the match, yet Schwartzman offered nothing other than double faults.
Those two latest losses in ‘for the money’ matches makes it a dismal seven wins from the last 22 of these decisive matches for our bets (32% win rate).
That explains the need to tweet out a covering bet of Humbert/Zverev at 3.50 for two points, which yet again came in.
Conditions and trends
We head to Vienna and Nur-Sultan this week on the tour and the Erste Bank Open has a stellar field this year, headed by Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem and they play there on a medium paced Rebound Ace indoor hard court.
There are usually a fair few tie breaks and over 80% holds of serve in Vienna and rarely is at a place to look for a value outright winner, with the top seed having won here six times in the last 10 years.
Indeed, the last number one seed to have failed to make at least the quarter finals in Vienna was Stan Wawrinka back in 2008.
Qualifiers rarely go that well in Vienna either, with the last title winner from the qualies draw being Philipp Petzschner in 2008, while the last finalist from the qualifiers came in 2012.
With the look of the draw this year that weak run from the qualifiers looks set to continue and I’ll be focusing only on Nur-Sultan this week.
The Astana Open is another of those new tournaments that were granted single-year licenses for 2020 and it’s being played on a GreenSet indoor hard surface, with HEAD balls.
Astana Open, Nur-Sultan – draw
The Astana Open’s draw looks one of the most open on the tour in recent times, with the favourite rated a 10-1 shot to win it and a slew of others priced between 10-1 and 14-1, indicating that the layers have no idea who’s going to win this one.
Benoit Paire is our number one seed this week and the last time he was given such an honour he lost as a 1.27 chance to Roberto Marcora in his opening match of Pune 2020.
Paire has offered the minimum of effort since the resumption of the tour and had to deal with all sorts of issue relating to Covid-19 and a lack of motivation.
He may decide to put an effort in this week, but I prefer the claims of any of Mikhail Kukushkin, Cam Norrie, Adrian Mannarino or Alexander Bublik in Paire’s top half of the draw.
Bublik and Kukushkin both have fairly clear claims based on motivation playing at home and we’ve seen on numerous occasions how much Kuku in particular can raise his game playing at home in Davis Cup.
I think we have to take Kuku at odds of around 28-1 here, given his ability on what will hopefully be a decent paced indoor hard court and his motivation playing a tour event at home, even without a crowd.
Bublik, similarly, may also raise his game and go well, but at 10-1 I’m less keen on him given his propensity to lose focus often and is he the same player without a crowd to play for? I’m not sure.
Mannarino played very well last week on an unsuitably slow surface in Cologne where he wasn’t far away from Alexander Zverev and you have to catch the Frenchman when he looks to be showing some form and as long as it’s not too slow here he should go well.
Similarly, Cam Norrie has shown flashes of form and confidence lately and could come through, but at the prices the value seems to lie with Kukushkin in the top half, however the qualifiers could well have a part to play here.
All four of the qualifiers will go into the top half of the draw and I’d like to see that (qualies don’t complete until Monday) new draw before I take anyone other than Kuku in the top half.
The bottom half looks like anyone’s as well, with the prices on Radu Albot and Egor Gerasimov at 33-1 or so each perhaps the best of the bunch.
Albot had injury problems before the tour’s hiatus, but started to look a bit more like his old self in Cologne on a surface that was too slow for him. This GreenSet might be more to his liking and there aren’t too many power players likely to blast him off the court in this draw.
Fernando Verdasco has done it to Albot before, but Nando looks like he needs more matches at the moment and I can see a way to the semis here for Albot if he plays his best tennis this week.
Seeds Tommy Paul and John Millman are hardly unbeatable on indoor hard and it wouldn’t shock me at all if Albot were to sneak through to the last four. Who he’d face there is anyone’s guess.
I’m not sure about Corentin Moutet on indoor hard, but any of the other six players in Q4 of this Nur-Sultan draw could make it to the semis, with Lloyd Harris and Gerasimov the form picks, but they face each other in round one.
Both are possible winners, but Harris has had injury niggles the last couple of weeks and that, as well as the tough round one match, puts me off him, but 33-1 about Gerasimov, who I talked about last week, is fair value.
He should have beaten Felix Auger-Aliassime last week and that slight mental weakness is a little off-putting, so I’d just do half a point on Gerasimov, as he may go well if he beats Harris in round one.
Tennys Sandgren and Jiri Vesely are also capable at this level, but neither has much of a record on indoor hard, while Miomir Kecmanovic is a bit short in price based on how poor he was last week against Mannarino.
Frances Tiafoe is another possibility, but again, too short for me, so in the bottom half Albot and Gerasimov look the value choices.
I may well add another one after qualifying if the price is right, so that’ll be on Monday evening.
Erste Bank Open, Vienna – draw
I’ll be a little bit brief about Vienna because it doesn’t appear to hold any value outright betting opportunities of any note, due to the presence of Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem in the field.
Those two will probably contest the final, with Thiem always highly motivated here playing at home and Djokovic looking to boost his ranking in a way that he’s unable to do at the Paris Masters, hence the Serb’s non-appearance in Bercy this year.
In Djokovic’s top half of the draw he may have to face one of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Karen Khachanov or Grigor Dimitrov, but the first two of those four are under injury clouds.
Tsitsipas was reportedly undergoing treatment in an oxygen chamber around 10 days ago to deal with a hip issue, so who knows if he’s fit or how much practise he’s had since the French Open.
Shapovalov had a clear left arm/shoulder issue in St. Petersburg and given that he coughed up 13 double faults in defeat to Gilles Simon in Cologne I’m far from convinced of the Canadian’s fitness at the moment.
Khachanov is some way off the form that saw him beat Djokovic at this stage of the season back in 2018, while Dimitrov probably isn’t up to the task of winning in this quality of field these days.
Diego Schwartzman and Borna Coric don’t look to have the firepower to derail Djokovic on indoor hard, while Filip Krajinovic, Djokovic’s round one opponent has looked well out of sorts lately.
Krajinovic was poor at the French Open, lost badly to Steve Johnson in Cologne 1, then withdrew from Cologne 2 and announced he’d finished working with Janko Tipsarevic after a year.
All doesn’t appear to be well with him and I expect Djokovic will come through the top half of the draw.
In the bottom half, Thiem’s title run here a year ago has dispelled the doubts surrounding him at this tournament and he’s had a fair while to practice and rest after a draining US Open run and French Open campaign.
Andrey Rublev looks the one best placed to challenge on current form, with Daniil Medvedev appearing some way down on last season’s great form since the restart of the tour.
Gael Monfils has been even more out of sorts since the tour’s resumption and would need an off-the-scale improvement to win a tournament like this based on what we’ve seen from him lately.
Felix Auger-Aliassime may be a bit jaded after back-to-back long weeks in Cologne, while Stan Wawrinka’s best days are surely behind him now, but Jannik Sinner may pose a challenge or two in this half of the draw.
I’m not sure he’s quite up to winning in this quality of field just yet, so nothing really grabs my attention for a bet in Vienna, with Thiem and Djokovic likely to hold sway there.
Nothing in Vienna then, as that offers very little to my mind in the way of value, but I’ll take a trio of big-priced ones in Nur-Sultan, with maybe another as and when qualifying completes.
0.5 points win Kukushkin to win Nur-Sultan at 29.0
0.5 points win Albot to win Nur-Sultan at 34.0
0.5 points win Gerasimov to win Nur-Sultan at 34.0