As the French Open ends, three new ATP tournaments begin. Andy Schooler brings you his best outright bets in St Petersburg, Cologne and Sardinia.
St Petersburg Open
- St Petersburg, Russia (indoor hard)
The end-of-season, European indoor swing begins this week with two such tournaments taking place, the biggest of which is staged in St Petersburg.
Usually a 250-level event (250 ranking points to the winner), this year it has been upgraded to 500 level – another knock-on effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has subsequently attracted a strong field, one led by home star and world number five Daniil Medvedev.
He won here in 2019 during a superb run of form which saw him reach six successive ATP finals.
However, it’s now a full year since his last title, while his indoor record since victory at the Sibur Arena is a woeful 1-7.
The recent claycourt campaign brought two first-round losses.
We know he has the talent to win here again but in a better-quality field than 13 months ago, I’m not interested in the 3/1 on offer, particularly given a potentially-awkward start which sees Richard Gasquet up in round one followed by a meeting with either Jannik Sinner, a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, or the big-serving Reilly Opelka, always a threat indoors.
In Medvedev’s top half of the draw, I prefer MILOS RAONIC at 15/2.
He’s another with a big serve and while conditions here aren’t the fastest seen indoors – they play on a relatively slow Rebound Ace court – the Canadian has shown he can hit through the surface in the past, winning the title here in 2015 (the year it moved to the Sibur Arena and onto Rebound Ace).
He looks firmly-focused on this part of the season having opted out of the French Open, which is worth noting.
“I haven’t played on clay for the last few years and it’s a combination between making the right decision regarding my body and also just a lack of time for the surface change,” he said, when explaining the reasons for that move.
Given five of his eight ATP titles have been won indoors, you can understand why he is targeting the next month.
Prior to the clay swing (during which he did actually play OK in Rome), Raonic made the final of the Masters event in New York on a hardcourt so he’s been in decent nick recently.
The higher-ranked seed is his quarter is Karen Khachanov, who has hardly been pulling up trees of late.
All things considered, 13/2 looks a decent price.
The bottom half looks slightly weaker.
It is led by Denis Shapovalov and Andrey Rublev, both good players but also two who can be taken on.
Shapovalov did play well on clay in Rome but disappointed at Roland Garros, losing in the second round to Roberto Carballes Baena.
He won indoors in Stockholm last autumn but that remains his only ATP title and here he must face the big serve of Sam Querrey in round one.
15/2 will tempt some but I’ll look elsewhere for value.
That comes in quarter three where Rublev resides.
He makes a quick turnaround off the clay having made the last eight at Roland Garros, where he produced a somewhat disappointing display against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
He’s another with a very tricky first-round draw, meeting VASEK POSPISIL, who has strong indoor form over the past year.
The Canadian made the final in Montpellier at the start of the year, as well as the quarter-finals in Marseille. That all came off the back of a strong performance at last season’s Davis Cup Finals.
He has claimed seven top-20 scalps in the past 12 months, four of them indoors, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him add another in the form of Rublev.
Pospisil made the last 16 of the US Open, where he beat Raonic and Roberto Bautista Agut, and his first-round loss at the French Open is not a concern – he’s long been woeful on clay.
Happy to be back on hardcourts and with a roof over his head, Pospisil looks worth a punt at 33/1.
I’m also taken by MIKHAIL KUKUSHKIN in this section and while it’s not ideal to back two in the same quarter, I can’t resist the 66/1 on offer.
He’s regularly performed well in the country of his birth, winning in St Petersburg in 2010 and finishing runner-up in Moscow in 2013.
Yes, both were a long time ago but last year he was a quarter-finalist here, while he also made the Marseille final indoors in 2019.
His recent form has caught the eye a little, suggesting he can go well this week.
‘Kuku’ beat Cristian Garin at the US Open and Fabio Fognini at Roland Garros.
His draw is decent – Miomir Kecmanovic followed by either Taylor Fritz or Cameron Norrie – and so a small play at the price is warranted.
- Cologne, Germany (indoor hard)
This is a new tournament, quickly created to expand the pandemic-affected ATP calendar.
It’s hard to be sure of how fast the court will play in the LANXESS Arena but they’ve laid Rebound Ace so it’s probably fair to assume it will be similar to the conditions in St Petersburg, ie not too fast.
Given the uncertainties, it’s probably wise to tread carefully from a betting perspective.
The draw is headed up by home hope Alex Zverev, back on a hardcourt for the first time since the US Open final.
It was just a week ago he told the media about how he’d felt ill during his French Open defeat to Jannik Sinner and while he later tested negative for COVID-19, clearly that’s far from ideal and you wonder how much meaningful practice he’s had on the different surface over the past seven days.
He could meet Andy Murray in his first match with Filip Krajinovic a potential quarter-final opponent.
I considered the Serb, a strong player indoors, at 10/1 but if my assumption about the conditions is correct, it might be a little slow for him.
Instead I’m going to put my small bank for this event on an in-form player in the shape of MARTON FUCSOVICS.
The Hungarian has played some excellent tennis since the tour resumed in August.
He beat Girgor Dimitrov en route to the last 16 of the New York Masters Series event before repeating the trick at the US Open.
The length of that rematch left him empty for his third-round encounter but his good run continued once he moved onto the clay, beating Daniil Medvedev at the French Open before a last-16 loss to Andrey Rublev.
He’s an all-court player so I believe he can adapt to the conditions he’ll find in Cologne.
In 2019 Fucsovics showed what he is capable of indoors when finishing runner-up in Sofia and I believe he can go well here.
He’ll open against Gilles Simon, the French veteran who is struggling for form.
The winner of that will face second seed Roberto Bautista Agut but he’s still settling into the routine of being a new father and I wonder how strong his motivation is right now.
RBA lost to Pablo Carreno Busta in the last 32 of the French Open and with just one indoor title in his career so far, I think he’s worth opposing.
Fucsovics looks the man to do it with and at 20/1 he gets the nod.
Forte Village Sardegna Open
- Santa Margherita di Pula, Sardinia, Italy (outdoor clay)
This week also sees the final claycourt tournament of the season take place on the Italian island of Sardinia.
Again, it’s a specially-arranged event to counter the pandemic and so there’s no ‘course form’ to go on.
At least we do have a few weeks of clay form to fallback upon though and when you look at that, it’s no surprise to see Casper Ruud as the favourite.
He was a semi-finalist in Rome and Hamburg, while losing to Dominic Thiem in Paris was far from a disgrace.
Yes, I can see him winning here but a price of 3/1 isn’t setting the juices flowing for someone who is far from unbeatable.
I’m happy to take my usual position and seek out value alternatives and the pair I like the look of from that perspective are ROBERTO CARBALLES BAENA and LORENZO SONEGO.
Carballes Baena can blow hot and cold but, fresh from an upset win over Denis Shapovalov at the French Open, he looks to have a decent draw and is maybe a tad big at 33/1.
Facing a qualifier first, the Spaniard meets top seed Fabio Fognini if he wins.
I’ve mentioned many times in the past how Fognini is far from Mr Reliable and this certainly isn’t a week to side with the enigmatic Italian.
He doesn’t have a strong record in his homeland and he’s only playing here as an ‘emergency replacement’ – he had no plans to compete until the withdrawal of Gael Monfils a few days ago.
Fognini had actually hinted at ending his year – one affected by ankle problems which required surgery – after the French Open so I’m far from convinced he’s ready to challenge for the title.
Carballes Baena could take advantage and with the other seeds in this half being American Tommy Paul and the out-of-sorts Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Pablo Andujar, he’s worth siding with.
Ruud is in the bottom half with second seed Dusan Lajovic, who disappointed when losing in the second round of the French Open.
The player I’m going to take a punt on here is Sonego, an Italian who arrives off the back of a run to the last 16 at Roland Garros.
He beat Taylor Fritz and Alexander Bublik, both players who had been in decent form, in Paris before losing to Diego Schwartzman but there’s no-one in the Argentine’s class here.
Facing a local wild card first and then either Jiri Vesely or Kamil Majchrzak, Sonego has the opportunity to play himself into the tournament.
He could meet Lajovic in the quarter-finals but would draw confidence from a win over the Serb on clay in Rio earlier this year.
Sonego hasn’t had too many wins this season but buoyed by his Paris effort, a small play at 20/1 is advised.
Posted at 1610 BST on 11/10/20
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