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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis


Last weeks ATP Tennis Tour action at the Shanghai 1000 Masters Series proved to be another excellent week of top-class tennis with the battle between the experienced veterans and NextGen players producing some excellent matches. The final was between second seed and now officially world number two Djokovic, and the improving thirteenth seed NextGen star Coric. Thirteen was certainly not an unlucky number for Coric as he reached his first Masters 1000 Series final after coming very close earlier in the year when he reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells, just losing a pulsating high quality three set encounter against Federer. However, he gained revenge for that heart breaking defeat on Saturday when he swept aside the reigning champion in straight sets.

In yesterday’s final Coric was not surprisingly able to match Saturday’s form as a right leg injury clearly hampered his movement and serving, but even if he had played as well as he did against Federer, Djokovic would still have beaten him as since winning Wimbledon his form has been imperious and he really does look unbeatable at present. Winning a fourth Shanghai title moved Djokovic level with Nadal on 33 total career Masters 1000 Series titles and if he can maintain this level for another 2-3 years he’s more than capable of surpassing Nadal in the Masters 1000 Series titles race as he tends to dominate the hard court ones, which there are more of, while Nadal wins more of his on clay.

An even greater achievement would be surpassing Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles. He’s on fourteen at present and if he continues to dominate most of the hard court Slams for the next few seasons it’s not out of the question, but this is dependent on Federer not extending his record further of course. If Djokovic does end his career holding both records I think its fair to put him up there as the greatest player of all-time, mainly because he’s achieved it competing against some of the greatest players of all-time like Federer and the King of Clay Nadal, who is currently sitting on sixteen Grand Slams.

With Nadal recovering from injury and the latter months of the season being played indoors in Europe, which is not usually his best period of the season historically, it’s no wonder Djokovic is favourite to end the year as the World number one, especially he’s now only 500 points behind Nadal. While its unlikely Djokovic is unlikely to enter any of the 250 tournaments, he will give everything I imagine to winning the last Masters 1000 Series of the season in Paris, which he has won four times, and the year-end World Tour Finals in London where he has an excellent record. Unlike Nadal, who has only won one indoor title during his illustrious career back in 2005 and his best result at the Paris Masters was reaching the final once back in 2007 and he’s also made five other indoor finals during his career but was beaten on each occasion.

On to this week action and there are two well established ATP 250 Tour tournaments at Stockholm, Sweden and Moscow, Russia, and there’s a new event in Antwerp, Belgium which started in 2016. I will start with the Stockholm event and defending champion and fourth seed Del Potro will unfortunately defend his title due to injury. The top-seed has a good record at Stockholm winning five of the last ten titles (last Del Potro 2017) and they were a losing finalist three times during this period (last Ferrer 2013), which bodes well for Isners chances this week, but as his overall career record indoors is average and at the price he doesn’t appeal from a betting perspective.

The second seed has not performed well at Stockholm over the last decade winning one of the last ten titles (last Berdych 2012) and they were a losing finalist once during this period, which does not bode well for Fognini’s chances this week. Seeded players in general have a strong record at Stockholm; a player seeded no higher than seven won eight of the last ten titles (last Del Potro 2017) and a player seeded no higher than seven was a losing finalist seven times during this period (last Dimitrov 2017). Unseeded players have performed quite well at Stockholm over the last decade winning two of the last ten (Del Potro 2016) and they were a losing finalist three times during this period (last 2011).

Moving on and I’ll analyse Moscow from a betting perspective first and defending champion Dzhumur lines up for a shot of winning back-to-back titles for the first time in his career and judging by past statistics he has a reasonable chance of defending his title as the top-seed has won three of the last ten titles (last Cilic 2015) and they were never a losing finalist during this period. The second seed has an average record winning two of the last ten titles (last Cilic 2014) and they were a losing finalist twice during this period (last 2015 Bautista Agut). Seeded players in general have a strong record at Moscow; a player seeded no higher than eight of the last ten titles (last Dzhumur 2017) and a player seeded no higher than seven was a losing finalist seven times during this period. Unseeded players have experienced some success at Moscow having won two of the last ten titles (last 2010 Troicki) and they were a losing finalist three times during this period (last 2016 Berankis).

Finally, the tournament at Antwerp is a new event that started in 2016 and reigning champion Tsonga makes his return after an injury lay-off, which makes him no appeal from a betting perspective. Inaugural winner and compatriot fourth seed Gasquet, who is usually a world class performer indoors at this level on his day does line up and he should be a contender if he’s close to full fitness. The top-seed does not have a great record at the last two renewals at Antwerp winning none of the last two titles and they were never a losing finalist during this period, which does not bode well for Edmund’s chances this week. The second seed won one of the last two titles (last Tsonga 2017) but they were never a losing finalist during this period, which does not bode well for Schwartzman’s chances this week. Seeded players in general have a good record winning the last two titles and they were a losing finalist once during this period. Only one unseeded player reached the last two finals, which was qualifier Berankis last year.

Starting With Moscow from an outright tournament betting perspective past statistics suggest siding with a seeded player no higher than six as they won eight of the last ten titles and a player seeded no higher than seven as they were a losing finalist on seven occasions over the last decade. As an unseeded player has won two of the last ten titles and were a losing finalist three times, including the last two seasons, it’s worth including one or two in the betting strategy. Sixth seed and Defending champion Dzhumur obviously must be respected this week from the top-half of the draw but at the prices and judging by his recent form I’m happy to avoid him this week.

Seeded players who could go well this week are fourth seed Krajinovic (12/1), who reached the Paris Masters 1000 Series final from qualifying last year, fifth seed Kyrgios would be a hot favourite but his form and attitude has not been great this year and there good enough reasons for me not back him on this occasion even though he has the talent to cruise to the title. Unseeded players who have form indoors and the quality and experience to challenge for the title this week are Paire, Basic and veteran Istomin. Of the four Paire (20/1), the unpredictable and naturally talented Frenchman has been in decent form this year, and if he he’s fit and can produce his best form this week he has a decent chance of reaching the final at least.

Moving on to Stockholm and past statistics suggest siding with the top-seed as they’ve won five of the last ten titles and were a losing finalist three times over the last decade, as well as seeded players in general for reasons mentioned above in the tournament analysis. Isner is top-seed this week and while his record indoors is surprisingly below average for a player with his attributes, he is experiencing one of the best seasons of his career and with what looks like on paper to be winnable top-half of the draw he must be respected this week, especially if his serves on fire. However, with an overall average career record at indoor hard court tournaments and semi-finals points to defend at the Paris at the end of the month, he may use the build up tournaments to hone his skills for a shot at winning that title, where he has a good record and came within a whisker of making the final last year losing on a third set tiebreak.

Its been a long time since an unseeded player won the title or reached the final with only Wild Card Del Potro recently breaking that trend when he won in 2016 and as there are no unseeded players of his quality in the 2018 draw that trend is likely to continue. It’s unlikely second seed Fognini will win given the record of the second seed over the last decade being disappointing. Third seed and NextGen star Tsitsipas (7/1) must be respected given all the attributes he has, he reached the semi-finals at Antwerp from qualifying last season and if he can produce his best tennis, serve well and play consistently he should prove very difficult to beat this week. The unseeded players who have the game and are playing well enough this year who could spring a surprise are players like the experienced Aussie Millman and German Gojowzcyk, who won his one and only ATP Tour title at Metz indoors from qualifying back in 2016. Of the two, Aussie Millman appeals the most from a betting perspective as he leads the head-to-head 3-1 but he’s unfortunately drawn to face Tsitsipas in the second round who is the main selection, so I don’t want to risk extra stakes advising both.

Millman is experiencing his best year on the ATP Tour, if he’s injury free this week he could cause a few upsets as he’s very experienced and he’s more than comfortable on quicker surfaces. Also, other unseeded players who have had good seasons and are in good form are players like experienced pro Copil (66/1) from the top-half of the draw and from the bottom half, Aussie Ebden, young NextGen star Aussie De Minaur, veteran Lacko and American NextGen star Fritz all have the potential to win or reach the final this week if they can serve well and produce their best tennis.

Finally, as Antwerp has little historical data to go on having only started two years ago I’ll just give a quick run-down of some of the potential challengers this week. Past statistics suggest the top-two seeds don’t have a good chance of winning or reaching the final this week but seeded players four or below do have a good chance statistically of winning or reaching this year’s final. Fourth seed Gasquet is a proven winner indoors and as always must be respected at this level. Experienced veteran and fifth seed Simon (18/1) also must to be respect indoors at this level having won six ATP titles during his career. Finally, Belgian veteran and Davis Cup hero Bemelmans (80/1) received a wild card this week due to his ranking being too low to make the main draw, but that could be a good omen, as he usually plays better as an underdog. He can perform well under pressure indoors in front of his own fans in the Davis Cup proves and that makes him a contender if he’s fit.

Selections:

Tournament

Stockholm

Tsitsipas Win (7/1)

Copil Win (66/1)

Moscow

Paire EW (20/1)

Krajinovic Win (12/1)

Antwerp

Simon Win (18/1)

Bemelmans EW (80/1)

Match-betting

Double (2.24)

Millman Win vs. Gojowoczyk

Jaziri Win vs. Basic

Lacko Win vs. Daniel (Evens)

Bemelmans Win vs. Monfils (12/5)


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