Tsonga set for winning return
Tim Clement looks at who is armed with the weapons to prevail in this week's indoor ATP World Tour 250 events in Metz and St. Petersburg.
- Related Content
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga makes his greatly anticipated return to the ATP World Tour as a strong favourite in the Moselle Open.
The Frenchman will be looking to land a third successive title in Metz and it is very difficult to construct an argument against himself doing so, with fitness the solitary doubt.
Having missed the American hard-court swing with a knee problem and parted company with coach Roger Rasheed, it would be brave to go in big before seeing a second-round clash with either Federico Delbonis or Edouard Roger-Vasselin safely negotiated.
However, his ability to dominate and dictate indoors means physical expenditure is likely to be minimal.
The French Open semi-finalist has racked up seven titles in his favoured environment, a tally only bettered by two active players - Roger Federer and Andy Murray - while he was denied an eighth earlier in the year with a three-set loss to Tomas Berdych.
Such high-quality opposition are not apparent in Metz, with the out-of-sorts Gilles Simon the second highest ranked player in the draw.
Simon is also returning from a spell on the sidelines, having missed the US Open due to illness following five successive defeats since reaching the final in Eastbourne, so he is certainly worth avoiding at 7/1.
Philipp Kohlschreiber is the second favourite at 6/1 but has never won a title indoors, coming closest with a final defeat here in 2009.
Andreas Seppi can boast such a success, having won indoors in Moscow last year, while he was the losing finalist to Tsonga here last year.
A favourable draw, which sees him avoid Tsonga and Kohlschreiber until the final, leads me towards an each-way bet at 10/1 with Stan James and BetVictor.
Sam Querrey and Benoit Paire (both 16/1) are the danger men but played below their abilities during the American hard-court swing.
In conclusion, Tsonga stands tall at the top of the market and would perhaps even be odds-on were it not for his time on the sidelines.
With rankings points to defend as he sits on the brink of dropping out of the top eight, qualifying for the World Tour Finals will be a big aim for the 28-year-old, so expect him to make a winning return this week.
A top price of 11/8 with Ladbrokes will look generous if he is able to rediscover anything close to top form.
Over in St. Petersburg there is no such worthy favourite and, with full respect to the entrants, it feels like picking a winner from a race full of three-legged horses.
Home hope Mikhail Youzhny is the 10/3 favourite but has only won the title once in 13 consecutive appearances, way back in 2004.
Perennial underachiever Ernests Gulbis is next in the betting at 5/1 having lost three successive matches since his victory over Andy Murray in Montreal.
Janko Tipsarevic (also 5/1) has had no such scalps, failing to beat any player ranked higher than 29th during a wretched year, but has racked up four 250 titles during the last four campaigns.
Fernando Verdasco is next up on the dismiss list having failed to win a single title since 2010, losing six successive finals since then.
Some might be tempted by Fabio Fognini following his 13-match winning streak on the clay in July, but the Italian has lost his last three matches of hard courts and boasts a solitary title on the surface.
Defending champion Martin Klizan returns on the back of a four-match losing run, leaving us with very few options other than dropping a pin into the line-up.