Last Updated: 2019-02-11
Week two, of three concurrent tournaments, gets underway on Monday. Indoor tournaments in Rotterdam and New York, as well as, the Golden Swing stop in Buenes Aires. That means the clay guys are all in South America, the big-name players are in Rotterdam, because it is a 500 level event and that leaves the rest of the tour to meet up in New York, which has, hmmm, a lackluster field would be the polite way to say it.
This space has now hit outrights in all four weeks of the season, so let’s dig in and see if we can’t find a fifth.
The big event of this week is the Rotterdam 500 level tournament in the Netherlands. Nine of the top thirty players, and a whole bunch of former or soon to be again top thirty players are in attendance. It is an impressive field considering it has suffered withdrawals from Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Alex Zverev, Kyle Edmund and Richard Gasquet.
This tournament usually plays fast, given that it is indoor hard courts but, this year it could be playing even faster. So far, in the qualifying draw, there have been twelve tiebreaks in twenty-seven sets.
This tournament has been around forever and is usually won, being a 500 level event, by the top talent in the bracket. Only Martin Klizan in the last ten years has won the title while being outside the top ten (and Klizan is a bit of a special case being that he has a career 0.630 winning percentage on indoors and three indoor hard court finals to his name).
So, this week it’s best to look to look for guys that have a high success rate on indoor hards, hold serve more than 85% of the time, do well historically in tiebreaks and are in or close to the top ten.
Weirdly enough, the second quarter and the fourth quarter turned out to have the most landmines and are the quarters best avoided. Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, and Denis Shapovalov all landed in the second quarter. Berdych and Wawrinka are both former champs here, Raonic is the best server in the field and has five indoor hardcourt titles to his name, while Shapo is one of the fastest rising stars on tour. Here’s the thing though, there is an issue with each. Berdych has shown at three tournaments in a row this year that he may be running out of gas late in the week, getting trucked by Nadal and Herbert and losing to Bautista Agut in three. Raonic has indoor titles but none since 2016. In fact, he has a record of 8–7 in the last three years on indoor hards. His collapse at the Aussie to Lucas Pouille is also worrisome. Stan Wawrinka has always been a threat but he looked worn down in a loss to Marius Copil last week, he couldn’t break down Raonic at the Aussie and he got routined by Bautista Agut in Doha. That’s zero deep runs, dating back to St. Pete’s last year. None of this is to mention that these guys have to get through each other to get out of the quarter. Just too many threats.
The same is true for the fourth quarter. Two of last weeks winners landed here, with Tsonga and Meds both in this quarter. That is in addition to Karen Khachanov. That is a lot of landmines for a group of guys who’s highest outright price is 10/1. Floaters in this quarter are also scary and Jeremy Chardy and Fernando Verdasco are no slouches on indoor hards and could provide an early shock. There just isn’t enough value here to risk someone in the fourth quarter.
The first quarter looks the weakest and contains the draws number one seed in Kei Nishikori. He should really cruise through this quarter. The issue is three-fold. Kei doesn’t have the requisite indoor game to be a threat late in the week. He has some success in smaller indoor tourneys but not with fields like this. He struggled mightily at the Aussie with three players, Majchrzak, Karlovic and Carreno Busta, that he should have mauled and then he retired versus Djokovic. So, is he healthy? Lastly, his price is 5/1. That’s lousy. Especially if you get nervous in the semis against, like Raonic or Berdych and then again in the finals. It’s not possible to hedge that price twice.
The best option here is to attack the third quarter. There are actually two players who fit the bill here. Gael Monfils has a decent tough draw, having to face David Goffin in the first round. That’s tough, for sure but, he has beaten him on hard courts before. And Monfils is playing really solid tennis to start the year. His hold/break stats are incredible in 2019. He’s rocking a combined 115% and holding serve almost 90% of the time. Monfils wins tiebreaks 58% of the time (impressive) and he has been to the finals here before. Monfils wins on indoor hards 67% of the time and he has four indoor hard courts titles to go along with another NINE indoor finals. At 16/1 he is worth a shot.
The other guy in the third quarter who is worthy of an outright is possibly the seed with the easiest path. Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Damir Dzumhur in the first round followed by Robin Haase or Mikail Kukushkin. That’s an appetizing set-up. Tsitsipas also fits a lot of boxes. He is holding serve a whopping 89% of the time this year, he is already winning over 60% of indoor matches at 20 years of age, he has already gotten his tiebreak record to 50% (something that is not easy for a 20 year old — go look at Khachanov, Chung, Tiafoe, or Cameron Norrie, just to name a few). Tsitty’s one title on tour came on an indoor course as well, so this feels right. At 8/1 it’s not a great price but, as long as he doesn’t have to face Medvedev in the semis his path is do-able.
What to do with this mess. So many withdrawals that there are multiple ‘alt’ entries in the qualifying draw. Like, tournament organizers had to go out and find some “local talent” to fill this sucker out. There is ONE, count ’em, one top thirty guy in the draw. And there is a guy who flew from South America because the draw became so depleted he gained direct entry.
The top seed is John Isner. He is outright price is just over 2/1. How can someone recommend that? Isner is winless on the year and in 2018 he attended this event and lost in the first round to #91 Radu Albot. In fact, in 2018 Isner went winless in his first four matches and lost seven of his first eight before breaking out in style at the Miami Open. Does he care? It’s hard to tell and +275 is not a price to gamble with.
Last year’s finalists were Kevin Anderson and Sam Querrey. Two guys whose game is not far off from Isner’s. They both played tiebreaks in three of their four matches and both are serve heavy guys who rely on holding that serve close to 90% of the time. So, if it’s not Isner, who in the draw has similarities to that game but, has a better price?
Riley Opelka went 9–0 on indoor hard courts last year, ending 2018 with two Challenger titles in the United States. Opelka holds serve 93% of the time!!! He went to the fourth round at the Dallas Challenger last week, losing a tight three set semi-final against Mackenzie McDonald. So, we know he is in decent form and already acclimatized to the indoor game — contrast that with the other six players priced below him who are coming off about a rest period that dates back to the Aussie Open. At 14/1 Opelka is the best of a bad lot and worth a small bet here.
The bottom half of the bracket is filled with guys like Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe, Ivo Karlovic and Querrey. Johnson wins on indoor hards less just over 40% of the time and hasn’t made a deep run at one of these tournaments since 2015… Tiafoe has no history of success on indoors yet and has a terrible tiebreak record (24–33)… Querrey made the final here last year but, has literally done nothing since (he has made it past the third round of a tournament exactly one time since last February). That leaves Karlovic. He obviously has the game to work this but, he is one of only five players making the trek from Europe to be here, after playing in Montpellier last week, and at 40 years old that doesn’t seem ideal. Opelka it is.
The Golden Swing is a truly unique animal. There are only eight players in the draw that were not in Cordoba last week, so we may see a few re-matches. The outright prices are not that dissimilar either — they have basically just all been pumped up a bit because there is one significant addition to the field — Dominic Thiem. Thiem has won this event both times he has attended, last year and in 2016. His outright price is silly, at +137. But, it is hard to recommend him considering he hasn’t played since the Aussie where he came up lame and had to retire against Alex Popyrin. Is he healthy? If he is, does he power through this field?
Thiem’s presence probably means it is best to avoid the top half of the bracket in its entirety. The fourth quarter is filled with landmines and truly is hard to judge. Fognini is the big seed down there and he showed last week that he may not be taking this trip through South America very seriously. Pella made the final in Cordoba showing he is a force to be reckoned with. Delbonis, Munar and Leo Mayer are guys who are not to be under-estimated on clay. It’s too hard to pick a winner here.
The third quarter would, therefore, seem the most attackable. Cecchinato is the “big” seed in that quarter and he showed last week he is still unable to muster a win in South America — he is now 0-fer for his ATP career. With Challenger level guys in FAA, Christian Garin and Lorenzo Sonego in the quarter, the guy with the best path may be Nicolas Jarry. He suffered from some travel fatigue last week but, he is now coming in fully rested. He holds serve over 80% of the time on clay, he is approaching 50% in tiebreaks at 23 years old and he manages to break serve almost 20% of the time. He should be able to get out of this quarter and at 25/1 his price is worth a flyer.
Tsitsipas +800, x0.5
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Monfils +1600, x0.5
Opelka +1400, x0.5
Jarry +2500, x0.25