- Chris Sobey
The eagerly anticipated 2018 ATP season commenced in the early hours of this morning at Brisbane, but some of the shine has been taken off the start of the new season with the announcement of Djokovic and Nadal withdrawing from their exhibition events and ATP tournaments due to their respective troublesome elbow and knee injuries. Andy Murray is also a doubt for the start of the season after he announced his pre-season training was hampered due to his hip still causing him trouble, but at the time of writing he was still in the Brisbane draw seeded number two. This week’s other two ATP tournaments are the Qatar Open in Doha and a new one at Pune, Indian which replaces Chennai.
I will focus on analysing the Brisbane draw first as it gets underway before Doha and Chennai. The top seed has won five of the last ten renewals (last Federer 2015) and they were a losing finalist twice in this period (last Federer 2016), which bodes well for defending champ Dimitrov’s chances this week. The second seed has a poor record at Brisbane winning none of the last ten titles and has only been a losing finalist twice in this period (last Roddick 2011), which does not bode well for Murray’s chances this week if he takes part. Seeded players, in general, have a strong record at Brisbane over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than eight won eight of the last ten titles (last Dimitrov 2017) and a player seeded no higher than three was a losing finalist nine times in this period (last Nishikori 2017). Unseeded players don’t have the best of records over the last decade winning the title once (2008) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (2013).
So, from a betting perspective it looks like it will pay dividends to focus on the top seeds as at least one has reached the last ten finals. Defending champion and top-seed this week Dimitrov (7/2) is the outright tournament favourite and he clearly loves playing in Australia having won Brisbane last year and he went on to reach the Australian Open semi-finals losing an epic five setter against Nadal. He will be difficult to beat this week if he repeats his 2017 Australian form and continues where he left off in 2017. His main danger maybe Aussie third seed Kyrgios, but Dimitrov leads the head-to-head 2-0 and with Kyrgios being so unpredictable and having not performed that well in his home nation tournaments overall, he can’t be advised with any confidence this week even though he does have the talent and ability to mount a serious challenge.
Second seed Murray and fourth seed Raonic reside in the bottom half of the draw, but with doubts surrounding both players fitness and injury concerns they cannot be advised with any confidence, even though they are past winners of the title and obviously talented enough to win this week. Seventh seed Dzumhur (20/1) also resides in the bottom half of the draw and he emerged as a top-player in 2017 winning two ATP titles at Moscow and St Petersburg. If Murray and Raonic are not at their best this week he is definitely capable of capitalising and reaching the final.
Moving on to Doha and the Qatar tournament has been dominated by top-10 players over the last decade who have won the last ten titles. Defending champion Djokovic has withdrawn and with Murray and Nadal not playing there could be a new winner with only 2013 winner Gasquet taking part this week. The top-seed does not have the greatest record over the last decade winning the title twice (last Djokovic 2016) and they were a losing finalist once in this period (Murray 2017), which does not bode well for top-seed Thiem’s chances this week. The second seed performed better over the last decade winning four of the last ten titles (last Djokovic 2017) and they were a losing finalist twice during this period (last Nadal 2016), which suggests second-seed Carreno-Busta could do well this week. However, he lost both of his matches in straight sets at the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament so it may pay to watch and see how he performs this week before betting on him.
Seeded players in general have a strong record and a player seeded no higher than four won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than six was a losing finalist seven times during this period. Unseeded players don’t have a good record at Doha over the last decade winning none of the last ten titles and an unseeded player was a losing finalist three times in this period (last Monfils 2014). From a betting perspective top-seed Thiem does not appeal given the record of the top-seed over the last decade and because he has a losing head-to-head record against third seed Berdych (2-0) and fifth seed Gasquet (2-0).
Third seed Berdych (15/2) is worth siding with this week as he’s got a good record at Doha having reached the final back in 2015 and semi-finals in 2016 and 2017. He leads the head-to-head against 2013 winner Gasquet 9-7 and 7-5 on hard courts, including the last three, and 6-1 against Monfils. If he can go close to repeating his best form at Doha he has a good chance of at least reaching Sunday’s final. From the bottom half of the draw second-seed Carreno-Busta would have been of interest had he played better at Abu Dhabi so instead I will side with seventh seed veteran Verdasco (12/1) who reached the semi-finals here last year when he lost an agonisingly close semi-final against eventual winner Djokovic.
Verdasco is nearing the end of his career at 34, but he’s still been playing very well as a veteran having won one ATP title and reached two ATP finals over the last two seasons and if he can reproduce that level of form this week he has a great chance of reaching Sunday’s final. There are only a few players in the bottom of the draw who look capable of stopping him; second seed Carreno-Busta, eighth seed and compatriot Lopez and NextGen star Rublev and he has beaten them all in the past so facing them again should hold no fear for him.
Pune in India is a new ATP Tournament replacing Chennai and with the conditions and players being similar to Chennai I will use that tournaments 10-year statistics to help analyse the draw. Top seed and two-time winner (2009 and 2010) Marin Cilic is the only top-10 player taking part this week, but 2017 US Open finalist and second seed Anderson and defending champion and third seed Bautista Agut (Anderson defeated Bautista Agut at Abu Dhabi at the weekend) take part this week and will help to insure we have a competitive event. The top-seed has won three of the last ten titles (last Wawrinka (2016) and they were a losing finalist twice during this period (last Tipsarevic 2012). The second seed has also won three of the last ten titles (last Bautista Agut 2017), but they were never a losing finalist during this period.
Seeded players in general have a great record and a player seeded no higher than four won the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist six times during this period (last Wawrinka 2016). Unseeded players don’t have a good record in terms of winning the title over the last decade having never won the title however, there have been five losing finalists during this period (last Medvedev 2017).
From a betting perspective it’s hard to look past the top-two seeds Cilic and Anderson (7/2), as Cilic has a 4-1 winning head-to-head record against main danger and defending champion Bautista Agut, and apart from fourth seed Paire the opposition Anderson faces in the bottom half of the draw is pretty average so it looks like the top-two will be tough to beat this week. As Anderson won the Abu Dhabi event at the weekend, looks back to his best and has a first-round bye he is my idea of the winner this week. He should benefit from having played a few competitive matches at the weekend and he won’t get many easier chances than this to add to his tally of three ATP hard court tournaments.
From a second-round match betting perspective it should pay dividends to oppose both Murray and Raonic at Brisbane either on the exchanges or by backing the opposing player on the handicap, given their long absence from the tour due to injury as both will be rusty and are short of top-level competitive match play. Just a reminder if you are backing all of my tournament and match betting selections I advise a 50 Point betting bank to level stakes.