Emil Ruusuvuori
Emil Ruusuvuori

Tennis betting tips: ATP Tour previews and best bets for Chengdu and Zhuhai

Fresh from tipping both winners at the US Open, Andy Schooler returns to preview this week’s ATP tournaments in Chengdu and Zhuhai.

Tennis betting tips: ATP Tour

1pt e.w. Emil Ruusuvuori in the Chengdu Open at 16/1 (BetVictor, Unibet, BetUK)

1pt e.w. Christopher O’Connell in the Chengdu Open at 33/1 (Unibet)

0.5pt e.w. Aslan Karatsev in the Zhuhai Championships at 20/1 (Coral, Ladbrokes)

0.5pt e.w. Rinky Hijikata in the Zhuhai Championships at 33/1 (William Hill)

0.5pt e.w. Diego Schwartzman in the Zhuhai Championships at 33/1 (Unibet, BetUK)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Chengdu Open

  • Chengdu, China (outdoor hard)

The ATP Tour is back in China for first time since 2019 this week with two 250-level events.

It was good to land both winners of the recent US Open in this column but I’ve always felt these lower-level tournaments offer the greatest value.

With relatively few ranking points on offer, the motivation levels of some of the top names are often open to question, whereas some of those further down the market will consider weeks such as this a major opportunity to claim an ATP title.

Next week, there’s a 500-level event in Beijing and that’s followed by the Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai so clearly there are bigger and better prizes on offer for the likes of Alex Zverev, who is the top seed in Chengdu this week.

Alex Zverev
Alex Zverev

He played well at the US Open, beating Jannik Sinner en route to the last eight, although once there he was well beaten by Carlos Alcaraz.

We have some notable altitude at this week’s event – they are around 500m above sea level in south-west China – and that should give Zverev’s big serve even greater ‘pop’ on the outdoor hardcourts.

However, I come back to that point about motivation levels and I’m simply not convinced that Zverev will have prioritised this tournament given what’s to come.

At no bigger than 2/1, he looks worth swerving.

Instead, there’s a tasty-looking 33/1 shot as an alternative in the top half of the draw, namely CHRISTOPHER O’CONNELL.

The Australian has enjoyed a fine season, impressing on both the clay and the grass. Indeed, I remember backing him at 33/1 in Geneva only for him to lose narrowly in the quarter-finals.

He is the same price this week and that’s definitely worth an interest.

Having taken a set off eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev at the US Open, O’Connell packed his bags and headed straight to China where he’s played the last two weeks on the Challenger Tour.

Many of this field spent last week playing in the Davis Cup, several on different surfaces and/or indoors, so the 29-year-old should be among the best prepared in this field.

In the first of those Challengers, O’Connell won the title in Shanghai without losing a set and his comments afterwards were certainly encouraging for further success.

“I loved playing here,” he said.

“As soon as I arrived here, I felt pretty comfortable. It was a tough trip coming from the US Open, playing a tough match against Medvedev.

“I continued playing some really good tennis. I love the conditions here, the humidity. I’ve been training prior to the US Open in Florida with conditions similar to this, so that really helped with how I played this week.”

The humidity aspect should be in play again this week.

O’Connell climbed to a new career-high of 53 in the rankings after his Shanghai win and immediately set a goal of finishing the year inside the top 50.

Clearly, he’s motivated to the max right now and a good run here could well propel him inside that line.

An each-way play at 33s looks very much worthwhile.

In the bottom half, second seed Lorenzo Musetti is worth taking on.

He was out of sorts in Bologna last week when playing Davis Cup for Italy, who struggled through to the last eight.

Musetti was stunned by world number 161 Gabriel Diallo in Italy’s first tie and was duly dropped from singles duty after that.

There definitely look better options in this section.

Some will side with Alexander Bublik at 16/1.

He was runner-up here the last time the tournament was played in 2019 and is another with a big serve which should get some cut-through in what should be fairly quick conditions.

However, as long-term readers will know, I’ve been burned a few too many times by a player who often decides to throw in the towel when things aren’t going well.

At the same price, I prefer the chances of EMIL RUUSUVUORI.

He’s a possible second-round opponent for Bublik but the Finn leads their head-to-head 3-1, winning all three encounters played outdoors.

Ruusuvuori should arrive in great spirits having guided Finland into the last eight of the Davis Cup – a huge upset given they were widely expected to finish bottom of a group which also featured Croatia, USA and Netherlands.

He beat Tommy Paul and Borna Gojo in Split and while he hasn’t had a great deal of time to adjust to the new conditions, it’s notable that his only previous ATP final came at a similar altitude – in Pune last season.

Ruusuvuori, who also made the third round of the US Open, has had his best results on faster surfaces and he should get that this week so he gets the nod.

I also considered Brandon Nakashima in this section.

The American’s serve should be tough to break here – expect him to extend his remarkable record of playing tie-breaks – and I think he could well topple seed Dan Evans in round two, the Briton having had a tough week both physically and mentally in Davis Cup.

Still, while not playing badly, Nakashima has struggled to win matches consistently of late, often suffering narrow defeats.

His return game isn’t the best (hence the tie-breaks) and so preference would be for him to beat Evans should they meet, rather than an outright bet.

Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships

  • Zhuhai, China (outdoor hard)

The ATP Tour has only been to Zhuhai once in the past – back in 2019.

On that occasion, Alex de Minaur won on a sluggish Plexicushion surface which was widely criticised for being too slow. Roberto Bautista Agut described it as “the slowest court I played ever in my life”.

Such criticism probably has something to do with the fact that the courts this time around have been laid by Greenset; expect them to play at least a little faster.

What we do know about conditions is that it will be hot and humid – temperatures just above 30C are expected throughout the tournament in south-east China.

As for predictions, well, plenty of those towards the top of the market look vulnerable.

Top seed Karen Khachanov only returned to action at the US Open after several months out and it was no surprise he lost in straight sets to Michael Mmoh. Given his lack of matchplay, 11/2 looks too short.

Third seed Jan-Lennard Struff is also on the comeback trail – he’s not played since Halle in June so is also easily overlooked.

Several of the other seeds are also short on form.

Second seed Cam Norrie went 0-2 in the Davis Cup last week and has now lost seven of his last nine matches. He has one win over a top-50 player since May. Avoid.

Andy Murray has admitted disappointment with his own form, while Mackenzie McDonald arrives off the back of a chastening Davis Cup loss to Otto Virtanen which helped eliminate USA from the competition.

Yoshihito Nishioka is another struggling for results of late, while Tomas Etcheverry was playing on clay in Argentina on Sunday.

Of the seeds, that leaves only Sebastian Korda but he’s hardly Mr Reliable and again plenty of holes can be picked in his form – he is returning to action for the first time since losing in round one of the US Open.

In short, this looks a good opportunity for some of the lower-ranked players.

In the top half, I like a couple of long shots in the shape of RINKY HIJIKATA and DIEGO SCHWARTZMAN.

Hijikata was grown into the tour in recent months, making the semi-finals on the grass of Den Bosch in June.

More recently, he made a surprise run to the last 16 of the US Open to prove his hardcourt credentials and he’s already franked that form by reaching a Challenger Tour final in North Carolina at the weekend.

OK, the long flight and transition to new conditions is a bit of a concern but this doesn’t look the toughest section of the draw and I’m sure the Australian will be keen to continue his fine run and will consider this a chance of glory.

In the top quarter, some will be surprised I’ve gone with Schwartzman but he played well in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) exhibition in Germany at the weekend, winning all three group matches, including against eventual champion Andrey Rublev, before losing in the semis.

While it may not have been real do-or-die stuff in Frankfurt, that may just be the catalyst he needs to turn his form around after a pretty awful season, although, that said, they have been a few decent signs in the past few months with five top-70 wins posted, going back to Roland Garros.

While it’s likely going to be faster than 2019, I doubt it’s going to be properly quick and if that’s the case, conditions should suit.

Schwartzman has often delivered on a sluggish hardcourt – he won in Los Cabos in 2019 and has been a finalist in Vienna in the past.

It was at the Austrian venue where Schwartzman beat Khachanov in 2019 and the two could meet again in round two here.

That would be an awkward opener for the Russian, who trails that head-to-head 3-2 overall.

Schwartzman gets the nod over Chinese youngster Juncheng Shang, who I also considered at a similar price – he has two recent wins over top-20 star Ben Shelton and was also a semi-finalist in the recent Shanghai Challenger.

However, he’s in the same quarter as Schwartzman. I can’t back both and preference is for the more experienced Argentine – some small change at 33/1 might just reward.

Finally, in the bottom half, I’m going to take on Norrie, Struff et al with ASLAN KARATSEV.

He beat Jiri Lehecka at the US Open en route to the third round so will be bringing a bit of confidence into the Asian swing.

Admittedly, the Russian is up and down but he’s very much a contender at this level on his good weeks.

Karatsev’s best results this season have been semi-final runs in Madrid – where he beat Daniil Medvedev and Alex de Minaur – and Pune.

Going back further, he’s claimed three hardcourt titles in the past two seasons.

This is not beyond him.

Yes, a tough first-round match awaits against Matteo Arnaldi, who performed well for Italy in Davis Cup last week.

Still, he’s more of a claycourter and I’d take Karatsev’s greater power to prevail.

He could then meet Murray in round two, a player he beat in straight sets in their only previous meeting – on the hardcourts of Sydney last season.

Again, it’s not the most confident pick I’ve ever had but worth a go at 20/1.

Posted at 1145 BST on 19/09/23; updated at 1305

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