2022 ATP season gets underway in Australia
The new 2022 ATP main tour season kicked off with a few low profile matches in round one, but prior to previewing the opening week's tournaments I wanted to wait until the qualifiers were all placed in the main draw. Qualies were completed this morning, so we are now good to go.
Both main tour events take place in Australia on hard court, and are 250 level competitions, the lowest rung of tournaments on the ATP Tour. However, for players, as important as winning the title this week are the preparations for the Australian Open, which gets underway in a couple of weeks time.
Big-servers should be suited in Adelaide
Over in Adelaide, we are now at the last 16 stage. The tournament was last played in 2020, won by Andrey Rublev, but prior to this, wasn't a main tour event since the 2008 season. The data that I do have suggests that conditions are likely to be pretty quick, which is rather in line with general expectations for these Australian Open warm-up events. Looking at the data from 2020 and the handful of opening round matches so far, service points won and aces per game figures are in excess of the ATP hard court means.
In theory at least, this should suit the bigger servers in the draw, and the likes of Marin Cilic and Karen Khachanov in the bottom half should be feeling pretty confident about their chances. Khachanov is the 5.24/1 favourite on the Exchange, with Cilic further back as third favourite at 6.411/2. This leaves Gael Monfils 5.79/2 as the obvious threat from the top half of the draw, with player quality dropping markedly from this point onwards in the outright market.
Monfils and Kokkinakis competing in top half of the draw
The Frenchman faces the Argentinian clay-courter Juan Manuel Cerundolo in his opener as a seeded player in round two, and should face Tommy Paul in the quarter-finals. Perhaps the best long-shot selection in the top half is the wild card, Thanasi Kokkinakis, who performed pretty well in Challengers towards the back end of 2021 in the process of recovering his lost ranking following long-term injury lay-offs. Kokkinakis has already got the better of countryman John Millman this week, and is priced at 18.017/1 if you fancy a bigger-priced option.
Nadal's fitness, not ability, in doubt
Over in Melbourne, the tournament is graced by the presence of Rafa Nadal, who if fit should steamroller the pretty weak field.
The trouble is, he hasn't played a main tour match since the start of August due to a foot injury, and was worryingly beaten in several matches at the Abu Dhabi exhibition event several weeks ago - on that basis, Nadal's fitness levels are far from a given.
If you think that the Spaniard should ease to win, you can pick up the 4.1 on the Exchange at the time of writing, with Grigor Dimitrov the second favourite slightly further back. There are some competent players in the next tier of the outright market, with the likes of Reilly Opelka, Ilya Ivashka, David Goffin, Botic van de Zandschulp and Kevin Anderson all capable of making the latter stages. Only Goffin, of these next tier players, is in Nadal's half of the draw, and the King of Clay could barely have hand-picked a better draw for himself.
Big-servers the main threat in the bottom half of the draw
With Nadal the number one seed and therefore in quarter one of the draw, looking at outright options in the bottom half is worth a quick discussion as well. The bottom quarter looks very weak indeed, with the big-serving duo of Anderson and Opelka headlining the bracket, and should they meet in the quarter-final, tiebreaks look pretty likely. Opelka performed pretty well in tiebreaks last year, although there's clear potential for that likely over performance to mean-revert in the future.
Following Andy Murray's surprise defeat to the clay-courter Facundo Bagnis in one of the early round one matches, Grigor Dimitrov will now benefit from an easier run to the latter stages. He now faces Bagnis as opposed to Murray, and looks the major threat in quarter three although van de Zandschulp, who finished 2021 pretty strongly, could also provide some strong competition.
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