The ATP Tour continues this week with two indoor hard court events. Our tennis columnist Dan Weston previews the action in Antwerp and Cologne...
"The Frenchman, Humbert, is an interesting long-shot at 21.020/1. If Ruusuvuori qualifies and is available at around 40.039/1 he could be another long-shot worth keeping an eye on, given that he has indoor data far better than some of the players at a shorter price."
Very slow conditions at the Lanxness Arena
There are two fairly low-profile tournaments on the ATP Tour this week, both at the lowest 250 level as the tour continues towards the ATP Finals, which starts in a month's time. After last week's event in Cologne, Germany, there is another event at the same venue - the Lanxness Arena. Rather imaginatively this appears to be known as 'Cologne 2' on most websites and this is the first '2' tournament I can remember seeing. You occasionally see it in Challengers but never really on the main tour.
Last week we didn't have the benefit of any knowledge about conditions in Cologne, with it being a new event on the tour. The data from last week suggests that conditions are likely to be extremely slow. Last week just 0.33 aces per game were served - a figure more akin to a clay court - while the tiebreaks per set and service points won percentages were much lower than the average ATP indoor hard court.
Zverev tournament favourite to back up last week's success
With this in mind, the venue in Cologne is unlikely to suit the more serve-orientated players. Last week's winner in 'Cologne 1' was Alexander Zverev and the German is favourite to follow that up, currently trading at around 3.8514/5 on the Exchange. Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jannik Sinner are other players in single-digit pricing, with Diego Schwartzman - who could enjoy the slow conditions - slightly behind this quartet.
Zverev has a very kind draw with a first round bye and only really Miomir Kecmanovic and Adrian Mannarino remotely likely to test him before the semi-final, where he is seeded to meet Shapovalov. The Canadian is likely to need to get past one of Sinner and Hubert Hurkacz in order to make the latter stages.
Schwartzman could enjoy the slower conditions
The other two seeds with byes are Auger-Aliassime and Schwartzman, and in these slow conditions I'd be surprised if Schwartzman didn't come through Q4. Cilic is an obvious threat but these slower conditions are likely to suit the return-orientated Argentine. Auger-Aliassime, who lost to Zverev yesterday in the final of 'Cologne 1', has a very kind quarter three as well. Jan-Lennard Struff and Kyle Edmund look the most likely to challenge him.
There's quite a reasonable discrepancy between the seeded players and the rest in the draw, and even despite fatigue concerns for several at the forefront of the market, it would be a surprise if we saw a particularly big-priced winner in Germany.
Ruusuvuori worth keeping a close eye on again
There might be more potential for an upset in Antwerp, Belgium, although we are in a frustrating situation where we don't know who the four qualifiers will be before the main draw starts. Joao 'Indoor Hard 250 King' Sousa meets the high potential Emil Ruusuvuori in a particularly interesting final round qualifier which starts at 14:00 UK time this afternoon.
Ruusuvuori switched from Cologne to Antwerp this week and the conditions should be more to his benefit after he lost to the more clay-court orientated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Germany last week. It was one of those weird matches where a player loses in straight sets despite having more break point chances. He retains strong underlying data indoors and is certainly one to watch if he qualifies. But we don't know where he will be placed in the draw.
Humbert another with long-shot potential
David Goffin, Grigor Dimitrov, Karen Khachanov and Pablo Carreno-Busta are the seeds with byes, and although he doesn't have absurdly impressive hard/indoor data, Khachanov will fancy his chances of a strong run with an absolute gift bracket in quarter three. It would be interesting to see Ruusuvuori - if he qualifies - be the qualifier in this bracket, with a first round clash against Dan Evans. The outright market is finding it tough to split Goffin, and Milos Raonic, who doesn't have a first-round bye - Raonic is in Grigor Dimitrov's quarter two.
Carreno-Busta, who has mediocre indoor data in recent years, could be pushed by Ugo Humbert in the bottom quarter, plus the winner of the Taylor Fritz versus Reilly Opelka first round clash. The Frenchman, Humbert, is an interesting long-shot at 21.020/1. If Ruusuvuori qualifies and is available at around 40.039/1, as he was last week in Cologne, he could be a another long-shot worth keeping an eye on, given that he has indoor data far better than some of the players at a shorter price.