- Chris Sobey
It was a frustrating week for my outright selections and a case of close but no cigar with Sugita (22/1) who lost his semi-final against Istomin at Chengdu. It was another great week for the veterans of the ATP Tour with two over 30-year-old unseeded finalists at Chengdu, Baghdatis and Istomin, who were both contesting their first ATP finals this season. However, the final was an anti-climax as Baghdatis had to retire injured at 3-2 in the first set handing Istomin his second ATP title on a plate.
At Shenzhen things went to form and ranking more so than Chengdu with second seed Goffin and fifth seed and veteran Dolgopolov contesting Sunday’s final. Goffin was attempting to win his first title of the season after losing the Sofia and Rotterdam finals at the beginning of the year and Dolgopolov was attempting to win his second title of the season after Buenos Aires at the beginning of the year.
On to this week’s ATP Tennis action and we have two ATP 500 events at Beijing, China and Tokyo, Japan. Top seed Rafa Nadal (7/4) returns to the ATP Tour at Beijing for the first time since winning a third US Open and 16th Grand Sam title in total, and given the record of the top-seed at Beijing winning six of the last ten titles including the last five the number one looks like a pretty safe bet to win this week.
The second seed has experienced some success at Beijing over the last decade winning three titles during this period (last Djokovic 2009) and they were a losing final once in this period (Nadal 2013). Alexander Zverev struggled last week at Shenzhen as the top-seed and that level of form does not justify backing him this week even though he is more than talented enough to do so.
Seeded players in general have a strong record at Beijing and a player seeded no higher than three won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist eight out of the last ten (last Nadal 2015). Finally, an unseeded player has never won the title and they were a losing finalist three times over the last decade, including last year when Dimitrov lost to Djokovic.
At Tokyo defending champion Kyrgios does not return to defend his title, instead choosing to play at Beijing. The top seed has a fairly good record at Tokyo winning four of the last ten titles (last Wawrinka 2015) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (Nadal 2011), which makes 2016 semi-finalist Cilic a potential challenger for the title, but his injury troubles make him a risk to back these days.
The second seed does not have a good record at Tokyo winning two of the last ten titles (last Murray 2011) and they were never a losing finalist during this period, which does not bode well for Thiem’s chances this week. Seeded players in general do have a good record at Tokyo and a player seeded no higher than nine won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than six was a losing finalist eight times during this period.
An unseeded player has never won the title over the last decade and they were a losing finalist twice during this period (last Paire 2015) which suggests an unseeded player wont feature in the final at the weekend. From a betting perspective fifth seed Anderson (8/1) has to be respected this week after reaching his first Grand Slam final at the US Open.
While unseeded players don’t have a great record at Tokyo it’s not an impossibility that one can win or reach the final this week and with veterans doing so well on the tour this year I like Gasquet’s (16/1) chances from the bottom half of the draw. He’s a top-class performer on his day, and while he faces a tough opener against sixth seed Querrey, he does lead their head-to-head 2-1 and if he wins that opener his chances of reaching the final will considerably easier.