Last Updated: 2019-01-06
Week two of the ATP tennis season gets underway Sunday afternoon in Auckland, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia. You can read the Sydney International preview here.
Auckland is much more the star-studded tournament, usually, and it has seen numerous players win multiple titles (David Ferrer has won four times, including three straight). Being before a Slam though, Auckland is also not immune to crazy happenings. Auckland is home to one of the major upset runs in recent memory, as Jiri Vesely authored a title victory as a qualifier in 2015. So, be prepared for anything to happen this week.
Auckland has some big names and some short prices — five of the top 25 players in the world are here and eleven of the top 50. That also means that we have five guys with single digit outright prices. That’s no fun.
Two-time defending champion Roberto Bautista Agut has pulled out after winning the title in Doha, in shocking fashion. This leaves American John Isner as the favorite, at +333 (or 3.33/1), and the big seed in the first quarter. Isner has won here twice before and attended the event seven times since 2009. He should be uber-comfortable here. But, while his quarter looks to lack any serious threat to him, the draw as a whole does present some landmines. JL Struff, Marius Copil, Steve Johnson, Denis Shapovalov and Gael Monfils all hold serve well into the 80 percentile and Monfils, Chung, Pablo Carrena Busta and Fabio Fognini are all elite top 20 type players. Isner’s first match may be a lengthy one if he faces off with Copil (could be three tiebreaks there) but, he should be able to dispatch of either Fritz or Copil and in the bottom section of his quarter it’s doubtful Joao Sousa, Benoit Paire or Cameron Norrie would cause much issue.
Denis Shapovalov may be a tough out but, he has never been past the second round of a tournament ‘down under’ in his short career so, the best bet here may be to not worry about the tournament at large and take Isner to win the quarter. It’s a small price and it’s certainly not available at every book but, if you have access to “Wins Quarter” bets, put some money on Isner to win quarter one at +137.
Carreno-Busta is the big seed in the second quarter and while he may be the outlier in Spanish tennis, in that he is better on hards than on clay, he certainly did not have a good end to 2018. PCB lost his last four matches of the year on the Asian Swing and comes in cold to 2019. In doing some research it also appears that PCB has only two wins outside of Melbourne in Australia and New Zealand. The other big threat in the second quarter is Hyeon Chung but, it should be easy to avoid throwing money at the Korean. He experienced serious foot and ankle injuries throughout 2018 and was routined in the first round last week by Ernests Gulbis. He’s probably just going to stay on the watch list for a few more weeks. If you are looking for a long-shot, one guy in the second quarter to consider is Jan Lennard Struff. As mentioned above he has a big serve and his draw, if Chung is not healthy, is pretty sweet, as he has been given lucky loser Laslo Djere in the first round. 33/1 is not a bad price considering he could be in a quarter-final against a floundering PCB.
The fourth quarter should be a total avoid. It is packed with big names — Fabio Fognini, Gael Monfils, Philipp Kohlschreiber and even Peter Gojowczyk, who won a tournament in 2017 and made two finals in 2018. With single digit numbers offered for Fog and Monfils and Kohl only at 12/1 it’s best to avoid this pothole-filled path.
The third quarter may be the weakest, with Marco Cecchinato as the big seed. Cecchinato is joined by Matteo Berrettini and Leo Mayer, all of whom would consider clay their preferred surface. There is also two qualifiers, Max Marterer and Mackenzie McDonald, placed in this quarter. That may mean this is the easiest path. The man who can take advantage of that path? Steve Johnson. Johnson has the big serve, holding at 85%, and his combined hold/break number in 2018 was 101%, which is very competitive with everyone in Auckland (PCB is the highest at 108%). Johnson has been to Auckland six times, making multiple quarter-finals, so he is comfortable here. Johnson also has a remarkable record against the big dog in the draw. SJ is 5–4 head-to-head with Isner and has won the last four straight (four of his five wins over Isner have been on hards too). At 22/1 Johnson seems like the best bet in the draw and a comfortable portion of your full bet is probably worth the risk.
Steve Johnson outright 22/1, x0.25
John Isner to win 1st quarter, +137, x1
For additional questions or recommendations for individual matches, feel free to reach out on Twitter, where you can find me @BigTenWatto.
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