ATP Tour Week Eight: Cuevas able to succeed in weak event in Santiago

The ATP Tour continues into week eight with three more tournaments taking place, on hard and clay courts. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the week ahead...

Big name players in action in advance of Davis Cup

In advance of a week off main tour action next week, due to the Davis Cup taking place, many of the big name players on the ATP Tour will be taking to the courts this coming week with both Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal headlining events in Dubai and Acapulco, respectively. Those are both 500 level hard court tournaments, with a further 250 level event taking place on the red clay in Santiago.

Djokovic a strong outright favourite in Dubai

Matches start at 10am UK time on Monday in the first tournament to start, Dubai, so that seems like a logical place to start with my look at the week ahead. Djokovic is an odds-on 1.70 market favourite to lift the trophy on Sunday, and I'm anticipating conditions to be pretty medium-paced for a hard court event - perhaps very slightly on the slower side, but nothing particularly noteworthy.
From 2009 onwards, only two players of the traditional four elite players of this era have won the title - Stan Wawrinka in 2016 and Roberto Bautista-Agut in 2018 - and Djokovic has won four of those 11 events, with Federer also victorious on four occasions. With Federer unlikely to return to competitive action until the grass court season in the summer, and Nadal over in Acapulco, it's not a huge surprise to see Djokovic at this price in the outright market.
This is also illustrated by the 12 month combined hard court points won difference between Djokovic and the field in the table below:-
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Big statistical gap between Djokovic and the field

Here we can see that the Serb - back at world number one - has a large statistical lead over the remainder of the players in this competition when looking at this metric with the likes of Andrey Rublev and the aforementioned Roberto Bautista-Agut a little further back. Gael Monfils, who has had back to back success in Montpellier and Rotterdam in February before a week off last week, also looks likely to be among the 'next best'.
Rublev has a pretty kind quarter three with the Italian prospect, Lorenzo Musetti, first up - he's making his main tour debut several weeks before his 18th birthday - before either Joao Sousa or Filip Krajinovic. He'll likely need to beat either Dan Evans or Fabio Fognini to reach the semi-finals, which is a pretty reasonable potential proposition for a 500 level event. The Russian is 15.50 and looks likely to reach the last four at least.

Nadal also a strong favourite in Acapulco

Similarly to Djokovic, top seed Rafa Nadal is a heavy favourite in Acapulco although he's odds-against, at a current 2.56 on the Exchange with Alexander Zverev out at [6.0] as second favourite. I'm anticipating the court speed here to be similar to Dubai, although four of the six winners here since the tournament changed to hard court in 2014 have been big-servers.
The table below, which shows the 12 month hard court stats for the main contenders, shows Nadal has a sizeable gap to the field - not quite as much as Djokovic, but still considerable:-
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Injury doubts over De Minaur and Kyrgios

Interestingly, Alex De Minaur rates well via these metrics but the Australian is returning to tour after missing the Australian Open with an abdominal injury. The outright market is sceptical of his chances here, currently pricing him up at a long-shot 38.00 on the Exchange. If he's fit, that price would be very big indeed.
Countryman and defending champion Nick Kyrgios is another player with fitness doubts after pulling out of Delray Beach last week and he's currently trading at 12.00 on the Exchange at the time of writing. The outright market usually appears short for Kyrgios and this is no exception given his fitness doubts and relatively unspectacular stats, plus tricky opener against the rapidly improving Ugo Humbert.
Other contenders to make the final from the bottom half of the draw (they can't meet Nadal until the final) include Felix Auger-Aliassime, John Isner and Alexander Zverev, and the German, Zverev looks the most likely given stats and a relatively kind opening couple of matches. Should Isner somehow not make the quarter-finals, Zverev will have three very short-priced matches against opponents often playing on the Challenger Tour to negotiate to make the semi-finals.

Weaker 250 level event on clay in Santiago

Finally, there's a lower-profile 250 clay court tournament in Santiago, Chile, with no top 20 players in the field. Home favourite, Christian Garin, is the outright market favourite around the 5.00 mark with our hero from several weeks ago, Casper Ruud, slightly behind in the outright market.
The table below shows that the combined service/return points won percentage metric is more in favour of Ruud than Garin, with Pablo Cuevas, Albert Ramos and Juan Ignacio Londero also viable contenders towards the top of the market - largely aligned with market pricing:-
Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 09.04.41.png

Veteran Cuevas likely to make the latter stages

In the top quarter of the draw, Garin and Londero look the most likely to fight it out for a semi-final berth, while in quarter two, it's surely the Uruguayan, Cuevas, who has the best chances. He has an opening round bye before facing one of two Challenger players in round two - Renzo Olivo or Pedro Sousa - with the declining Marco Cecchinato or Hugo Dellien looking most likely quarter-final opposition.
Cuevas should be a solid favourite against all of the players he's likely to face before the semi-finals at least and we should be able to get around or in excess of 11.00 on the Exchange for him to win this, in line with general market pricing. Although his win-loss record isn't superb so far on clay this year, his stats are fine (around 103% combined service/return points won) and I like his chances here against a pretty mediocre field.
In the bottom half of the draw, Albert Ramos looks the man to beat in Q3 - he's 14.00 on the Exchange with Ruud the obvious favourite to progress from the final quarter. Despite these two threats in the bottom half of the draw, it's Cuevas for me in the coming week in Santiago.

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