Our tennis man Andy Schooler previews this week’s ATP Tournaments in Cologne and Antwerp, offering up 13/2, 20/1 and 80/1 selections.
- Cologne, Germany (indoor hard)
DENIS SHAPOVALOV impressed in St Petersburg last week and can go close again in Cologne.
The left-handed Canadian made the semi-finals in Russia, losing only in three sets to the in-form Andrey Rublev, who went on to claim the title.
He dropped serve just three times in four matches, a run which included a win over Stan Wawrinka, and while he now has to move to a different venue, this event is played on the same surface (Rebound Ace).
Importantly, Shapovalov should have plenty of motivation this week.
He’s one of several players chasing the last two spots in the ATP Finals field – and Shapovalov is yet to play in the season-ending finale.
In short, he looks sure to be giving his all this week.
It’s also significant that this period of last season – the end-of-year European indoor swing – was the best of the 21-year-old’s career so far.
Shapovalov captured his maiden ATP title in Stockholm last October before going on to reach the final of the Paris Masters. He also played a big part in Canada’s run to the final of the Davis Cup, another event played indoors at the end of 2019.
Those finals remain the only two of Shapovalov’s career but he was close to changing that last week and can certainly challenge here.
He’s the third seed so gets a first-round bye. Hs first opponent will be either Gilles Simon or Jordan Thompson. Both played here last week but neither made it past round two.
Hubert Hurkacz will be his quarter-final foe is the seedings play out – he beat Shapovalov twice in 2019. However, neither contest was indoors and the Pole is far from guaranteed to make it through with Jannik Sinner his first-round opponent. The latter has the potential to go well but whereas he was available at 100/1 to win this week last year, some bookies now have him at single figures. That’s not for me.
Shapovalov’s biggest threat in the top half of the draw will likely be top seed Alex Zverev.
This tournament is the second in a successive weeks to be held at the LANXESS Arena and Zverev won the first of them.
The German has already qualified for those ATP Finals so he’s not desperate for points this week. He should be rested enough – another Thursday start seems likely – but Shapovalov has won their last two meetings, including one indoors in Paris last season. They are level at 1-1 on indoor hard.
Zverev is the 10/3 favourite but with Shapovalov almost twice the price at 13/2, I feel the value lies with the Canadian.
Given the unusual nature of back-to-back events at the same venue, those who played in week one should have some sort of advantage.
The bottom half features runner-up Felix Auger-Aliassime and semi-finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Diego Schwartzman, making his first appearance since his run to the semi-finals of the French Open, is also here. So too is Marin Cilic.
But Andy Murray and Roberto Bautista Agut were among the big names to withdraw late on so a rejig of the draw has been necessary.
That appears to have worked well for Auger-Aliassime. He now has a first-round bye and has also moved into the weaker third quarter.
Jan-Lennard Struff, Kyle Edmund and Daniel Altmaier are all in this section – between them the trio went 0-3 last week – while Marco Cecchinato arrives straight off the clay. He made the final in Sardinia at the weekend but this isn’t his surface and I very much doubt he’ll adapt well.
The one I can consider at a big price here is qualifier EGOR GERASIMOV.
He made the quarter-finals indoors in Marseille back in February, beating David Goffin along the way.
Gerasimov also made the semis in St Petersburg around this time last season – another top-20 star, Matteo Berrettini, among his victims there.
The Belarusian, who sent down 17 aces in his two qualifying matches, hasn’t exactly set the world alight since the tour’s resumption but in conditions which favour his decent serve, he may be worth a small play.
The likelihood is he’ll lose in round two to Auger-Aliassime – as he did in the last eight in Marseille – but at 80/1 I’m still tempted by an each-way punt.
- Antwerp, Belgium (indoor hard)
This will be the fifth staging of the European Open in Antwerp and once again local hero David Goffin will be its poster boy – yes, they are actually letting some fans in to watch.
However, this year’s top seed has yet to go beyond the semis of his home tournament and I find it hard to justify his position as the 11/2 joint favourite.
Milos Raonic is the man alongside him at the top of the market.
The Canadian left us frustrated in St Petersburg last week when he lost his semi-final from 6-1 up. Frankly it would be typical were he to win seven days ‘late’ and he does have another strong chance.
I pointed out how he has prioritised the current indoor swing in last week’s preview and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him come through the top half of the draw.
The bottom half is led by Pablo Carreno Busta, the Spaniard who has been in fine form since the tour’s resumption, reaching the semi-finals of the US Open and making the last eight at the French Open.
As another player still hopeful of making those ATP Finals, he’ll now look to transfer that form onto the indoor hardcourts – they play on a fairly sluggish Greenset court here - but that’s easier said than done and while I’m certainly wary of taking him on this week, I feel it’s probably worthwhile.
PCB can be backed at 11/1 – tempting – but he’s also as short as 7/2 elsewhere. It’s a big difference of opinion but certainly I wouldn’t be going near the latter price.
My big concern for the Spaniard is his draw, one which looks set to pit him against UGO HUMBERT in his opening match.
Humbert, who must first defeat local wild card Kimmer Copperjans, is both very able in these indoor conditions and also has shown some good form of late.
The young Frenchman made the semis here 12 months ago when he beat Goffin and Guido Pella before losing to eventual champion Andy Murray in three sets.
He was also a semi-finalist in Marseille indoors last season and during last week’s defeat to Andrey Rublev in St Petersburg showed enough signs to suggest he can contend again this week.
Eventual champion Rublev eventually won 7-5 in the final set with the Russian full of praise for his opponent afterwards.
“He is a very young, a player with great potential. I’m sure he will have an unreal career,” he said.
Already a champion on the ATP Tour this year in Auckland, Humbert went into that match on the back of a strong clay campaign. He beat Daniil Medvedev in Hamburg and Fabio Fognini in Rome, before losing in three sets to Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov respectively.
He’s clearly playing well, although that’s perhaps not reflected by the number of wins on his recent record.
Beating Carreno Busta will obviously be key to his hopes but they’ve never met before and Humbert certainly looks an awkward opponent for the Spaniard first up.
I’m therefore prepared to take a punt on him at 20/1.
Progress from that clash and the rest of the bottom half looks weak in comparison.
Karen Khachanov, Dusan Lajovic and Taylor Fritz are the other seeds but none is in particularly good form right now.
I did consider Dan Evans in the Khachanov-Lajovic quarter but felt he was a tad short at 20/1 to become the third British winner here in as many years.
Another long shot who could make waves is Richard Gasquet in the top half.
He took a set off Medvedev in St Petersburg last week and would have been happy to have a roof over his head again - six of Gasquet’s last nine ATP titles have come on an indoor hardcourt. He’s also made four other such finals in that period.
Gasquet won the inaugural title here in 2016 and made the semis two years later.
Again, he’s a player whose biggest challenge may come first up.
Eighth seed Alex de Minaur is Gasquet’s opponent in round one and the Australian triumphed in their recent US Open meeting, winning a tight contest in four sets.
With De Minaur also having enjoyed a strong indoor campaign at the end of last season, I’m going to resist backing the French veteran at 40/1, a decision I hopefully won’t regret.
Posted at 1925 BST on 18/10/20
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