Week two of the tennis calendar gets underway tonight, Down Under. This week also serves as the run-up to the first Slam of the season, the Aussie Open.
These are tough weeks to handicap, as motivation is always questionable when the crown jewels of the season loom. Additionally, this is Adelaide’s first year in the mix, so there is no history or data to rely on. We’re really walking into the fire this week.
Let’s work east to west and start in Auckland.
Auckland, unlike Adelaide, has been around forever, played each year since the Open Era began. So, there is lots of data to go on. One noticeable thing that pops out right away is that every champion in the last ten years, outside of John Isner twice, who is pretty unusual to handicap, and last years 80/1 surprise Tenny Sandgren, has had an ability to break serve on a hard court over 20% of the time. These courts are meant to mimic the quick pace at the Aussie Open but it would appear the weather and wind may help slow things down which will mean the ability to break serve will be paramount.
Another thing that stands out is that 22 of the 24 players in the main draw played somewhere last week. So, no super fresh guys and no rusty guys. How to handicap that? Well, Doha is a 16 hour flight to Auckland, so that doesn’t seem like a solid travel choice. It may be choice #1 to fade Doha entrants in round one. The ATP Cup was played across three separate venues in three separate cities and while Sydney and Brisbane are not terribly far from Auckland… Perth is clear across the continent. Players in this draw from Spain, Russia, Italy, Norway and the USA all had to play in Perth. It might mean nothing, as this is the first edition of the ATP Cup, but we have no data so, it’s great to be careful.
Let’s move to the actual draw. The second quarter looks the toughest and best to avoid. Khachanov, Sinner, Paire, Millman, Norrie. That’s a minefield.
So, where else to look? The bottom half of the draw looks very top heavy, with seeded players John Isner and Denis Shapovalov having what appears to be very easy paths. Of course, that means they might have to face off in the semis. Isner has not had much success Down Under in the last few years (he has two wins in the last three years) and Shapo’s price is only +350.
That leaves the first quarter to dissect for an outright. Fog is the big seed but he is part of the Perth contingent from the ATP Cup and Fog has been known to ‘take the paycheque’ in these kinds of tournaments. The best person positioned to take advantage of this draw is possibly Hubert Hurkacz. Hurkacz is a kid on the rise, winning his first title last year in Winston-Salem in what should be relatively similar conditions. He has the requisite hold/break numbers to qualify as one of the best in the field, he is motivated, he played great at the ATP, going 3–0 against stiff competition, and hard courts are his best surface (he already is at 0.500 for his career, at 22 years of age).
At 9/1 Hurkacz is the guy in New Zealand.
This is the first year of the Adelaide tennis tournament. So, data is of course limited. Through qualies and with three main draw matches played on Sunday (Saturday night for North Americans) it is apparent that conditions may also be a tad slower than the Aussie Open and there could be chaos in the draw — all three main draw matches so far went the way of the dog (Cuevas and Djere were almost +300 to win). That could be due to motivation… players would certainly have had to been coerced to show up here, as there would be no existing loyalty to the tournament. So, conditions and stats aside, who is motivated to be here? Who cares about this event? Aussie’s and mid-carders (25–50 ranked players) looking for a title and paycheque where they don’t have to go through the tippy top players on tour.
Last year in this week of the season Alex DeMinaur won Sydney. That Sydney tournament was absorbed into the ATP Cup, so he has to get those points back somewhere. He is an Aussie, loves playing in front of the home crowd (3rd rd in Brisbane last year, title in Sydney, 3rd rd loss to Nadal at the Aussie last year, semi finals in Brisbane in 2018 and finals in Sydney in 2018), he played well last week at the ATP Cup, he got to play his ATP Cup matches in Brisbane and Sydney (so, avoided Perth) and, if we do check the stats, he is top of the heap in 2019 hold/break numbers on hard courts.
The number is not great at +350 but, it is reflective of his competition, which is not stiff. PCB played ATP Cup in Perth and Sydney for Spain and was in the doubles final late on Sunday. Rublev won Doha last week (and wouldn’t surprise anyone if he withdrew) and has to fly to Australia. FAA is the last big seed and was abysmal at the ATP Cup.
ADM rolls. +350 in Adelaide. (editor’s note: De Minaur withdrew from the event; be sure to follow @BigTenWatto on Twitter for more tournament updates and match-by-match betting picks)
Hurkacz 9/1 x1 – ASB Classic
De Minaur +350, x1 – Adelaide International