ATP Tour Week Two: Tournament favourites at risk in Adelaide
With the Australian Open a week away, Dan Weston previews this week's coming tournaments in Adelaide and Auckland...
Kecmanovic close to a big-priced start to the season
We were very close to an excellent start on the weekly tournament previews in Doha with our 50/1 each-way shot, Miomir Kecmanovic, reaching the semi-finals before being defeated by eventual winner Andrey Rublev. The Russian defeated fellow young prospect, Corentin Moutet, in Saturday's final.
Conditions likely to be quick in Auckland
Action got underway in the last week of warm-up events last night in Adelaide with three opening round matches and there were wins for Alexander Bublik, Pablo Cuevas and Laslo Djere, while Auckland begins at 23:00 UK time Sunday night. Adelaide is a new event on the ATP Tour, so we must assume that conditions are completely unknown, although the service points won count in both the men's and women's qualifiers were below the relevant hard court tour mean - so we could conceivably see quite slow conditions there.
This is unlikely to be the case in Auckland, where over the last few years both the service points won percentages as well as the aces per game figures illustrate that the tournament is likely to be on the quicker side of medium-paced.
Sandgren likely to struggle to defend his title
However, this hasn't particularly manifested itself into serve-orientated players reaching the final, with there being a complete mixed bag between those types of players, and return-orientated players. In what was a rather surprise result, Tennys Sandgren won the event last year, and failure to defend those points will lead to a marked drop in rankings for the American.
At least Sandgren can count on a gift opening round against the local wild card, Michael Venus, but John Isner in round two looks a considerable hurdle to overcome, particularly in these conditions. The big-serving Isner joins Fabio Fognini, Karen Khachanov and Denis Shapovalov as seeds with byes into round two.
Shapovalov the slight market favourite
On the Exchange, Shapovalov is the slight favourite for the event at4.70, with fellow seeds Khachanov, Isner and Fognini further back. Hubert Hurkacz, at [9.2], is the shortest-priced unseeded player. The Italian, Fognini, looks the seeded player to take on - his hard court numbers aren't great over the last year or so - but the market has adjusted to that already in the top quarter, with Hurkacz the threat in that bracket to progress. As for long-shots, Ugo Humbert has good hard court numbers but faces a tough draw - he's at30.00 while the task facing defending champion Sandgren is illustrated also by his similar price.
De Minaur favourite despite tough week
Over in Adelaide, the seeds with byes - only needing to win four matches to lift the trophy - are Alex De Minaur, Pablo Carreno-Busta, Andrey Rublev and Felix Auger-Aliassime, and it's the home favourite, De Minaur, who has the tournament favourite status at around the4.30 mark after a tough week in the ATP Cup, where all four of his matches went to three sets.
Rublev facing tough travel schedule
It's also going to require back-up from a long week if the second favourite, Andrey Rublev, is to succeed. As mentioned earlier, he won in Doha last week although he faced less on-court exertions, winning the title without dropping a set. However, it's hardly a straightforward journey from there to Adelaide - a direct flight looks to be around the 13 hour mark - and it's a big ask for Rublev to overcome this, in my view.
The question is, how to take advantage of this, and the answer isn't easy. There's a lot of competent but unspectacular opponents of a fairly similar level and the event looks extremely open to me, without an abundance of pre-tournament value.
I'll be returning throughout the coming week with pre-draw and post-draw previews of the upcoming Australian Open, and giving a statistical discussion on all the main contenders for the opening Grand Slam of 2020.