We’re back at the Rothenbaum for the Hamburg European Open in week 40 of the ATP Tour and with the French Open just a week away it seems pretty likely that there’ll be a few upsets around in the next few days.
Hamburg is usually played in July just after Wimbledon, so this change of position in the calendar to the week before a major will likely affect the number of ‘unexpected’ results, but for the record here are the Hamburg stats from the last seven years.
There have been a healthy 39% on average of underdog winners between 2013 and 2019 in Hamburg’s main draw and an average of 75% service holds (puts in in the bottom five of all main level tournaments) in the last four years here.
Tie breaks are few, with only 31% of Hamburg’s main draw matches featuring at least one in the last seven years – all of which suggests that conditions are usually slow.
There are only four matches to look at on day one in Hamburg on Monday and all are scheduled for the centre court, but it looks like the roof won’t be needed, with a nice, sunny day expected of 22C in the shade.
And cases could be made for most of the underdogs, with Jiri Vesely and Tommy Paul the two most likely ones for a bit of value on day one.
Vesely’s power often serves him well in slow conditions and he takes on the struggling Gilles Simon, who lost to Pablo Cuevas in qualies and gets his chance again as a lucky loser.
Cuevas, as is often the case with the Uruguayan, didn’t take many of his break chances against Simon and if he had the result would have been more convincing than the 6-4, 7-6 it was.
Cuevas took only two of the 11 break chances he created in just 11 Simon service games and Gillou seems to still be struggling with injury – or at least the thought of it.
“I wasn't happy to be able to play hard, to hold my position in the rallies because I didn't have the shots, because I was physically afraid to push or stretch out,” Simon said after losing to Fritz at the US Open. “I had an old pain in training two days before leaving for the States and since then I have spent my time trying to get better.”
It hasn’t worked, as since then he lost to Federico Gaio in round one of the Aix En Provence Challenger, then to Dominik Koepfer in Rome and he’s now only won two of his last 10 matches at all levels on clay.
The two he did win were against fast court exponent Sergiy Stakhovsky at the French last year and versus world number 669 Mats Rosenkranz in qualies here in Hamburg.
Slow clay doesn’t look a good surface for this 35-year-old Simon these days and he hasn’t won back-to-back matches in any of the nine tournaments he’s played in Germany since winning Hamburg nine years ago.
I’m not a massive fan of Vesely, it has to be said, and he had a shoulder problem at the Prostejov Challenger a few weeks ago, after which his coach said he’d rest that shoulder for a few days.
That was a fortnight ago, so assuming he’s fit Vesely’s movement is unlikely to be exposed by Simon in these slow conditions, so the Czech can be backed for small stakes in this one.
Kevin Anderson looks like he needs plenty more matches to find his form again after playing only four matches since mid-February and having tennis elbow earlier in the year.
He wasn’t able to hit through the court on a sunny day in Rome last week and lost in two to Ugo Humbert, whose own clay level isn’t particularly great, so in slow conditions again (maybe even slower) I can’t back him at odds-on to beat qualifier Tommy Paul.
Paul has qualified nicely, beating Joao Sousa and Alexander Bublik in straight sets and looks well-placed to challenge Anderson here, but the prices now have Paul as very slight favourite, so I’ll pass on that one now.
Paul’s fellow American, Tennys Sandgren, has come up with some good results on clay of late and he might well cause Andrey Rublev some problems in the last singles match of the day.
Sandgren has won four of his five clay matches since the resumption and the one he lost was very close indeed against Salvatore Caruso in Rome, so having qualified well in Hamburg this week Sandgren should fancy his chances of going close to Rublev.
It’s a first career meeting and Rublev has been unreliable as a short priced favourite lately, losing three of his last four matches when prices between 1.21 and 1.39, but prior to that run he won 13 of his previous main level matches in that price range.
Hubert Hurkacz isn’t known for his clay game, but he took Rublev down last week on the dirt, so while Rublev is a relatively strong favourite set one to Sandgren is one option to perhaps consider at around 3.0.
But it looks a day to have a look at conditions and just have a small interest in one of the dogs and Vesely seems the one that appeals the most, with Pablo Cuevas another pretty decent optoin against Taylor Fritz, but we already have Cuevas outright at a big price and to back him again in the first main draw match of the week is just tempting fate.
0.5 points win Vesely to beat Simon at 2.0