After a week off from main tour action, the ATP Tour continues this week with indoor hard events in France and Kazakhstan. Dan Weston returns to preview the week ahead...
"Musetti has struggled of late but has clear future upside and let's not forget, took Novak Djokovic to five sets in the French Open fourth round."
Big names absent as ATP Tour resumes
Following the world's top players competing in New York for the US Open title, there's no top-ten players in action during the coming week in the indoor hard events on the schedule in Metz (France) and Nur Sultan (Kazakhstan).
Action gets underway today with several first round matches before getting the majority of that round completed tomorrow, and there are four seeds with first round byes in both events who will be getting their tournaments underway on Wednesday or Thursday.
French players traditionally dominate in Metz
In Metz, there has been a French winner in nine of the last 11 events with three runners-up as well, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon being particularly dominant. From the seeds, Gael Monfils is the only Frenchman, joined by Hubert Hurkacz, Alex De Minaur and Pablo Carreno-Busta, while the likes of Lucas Pouille and Ugo Humbert represent the home country among the unseeded players.
Monfils is the third favourite in what are expected to be pretty quick conditions, with Hurkacz the marginal favourite on the Exchange at around 7.06/1. I'm expecting some high-variance matches with a high aces per game count, and probably a fair few tiebreaks as well throughout the event. Across the last three years in Metz, around 1% more service points have been won as opposed to the average indoor hard venue on the ATP Tour.
Hurkacz an unsurprising favourite
This should suit strong servers, and I'm not at all surprised Hubert Hurkacz is the tournament favourite. He's held almost 87% of the time on hard/indoor hard in the last year, although Ugo Humbert could be a decent test, or wild card Lucas Pouille should he be back at his pre-injury level. The top quarter though, isn't the trickiest he could have had.
I think Karen Khachanov should get through Q2, with seed Alex De Minaur not being at a particularly high level of late, while quarter three looks wide open with Monfils the seed. Could the inconsistent Nikoloz Basilashvili make the latter stages? He faces Gianluca Mager today in round one. Quarter four looks wide open as well, with Lorenzo Sonego versus Marton Fucsovics looking like the match of the round, and the winner of that has a solid chance of getting to the semi-finals at least. Jan-Lennard Struff, and seeded Pablo Carreno-Busta, look the main threats.
Slower conditions anticipated in Nur Sultan
Conditions should be slower in Nur Sultan, based on historical evidence, and there's a pretty open field. The Exchange market is still forming but there's some general market lines to go on, at least.
There's a rather Eastern European feel to the four seeds with byes, with Aslan Karatsev, Filip Krajinovic, Dusan Lajovic and Alexander Bublik going directly into round two. Of these four, Karatsev and Krajinovic have the better numbers on the surface, although it is the Belarussian, Ilya Ivashka, who is the pre-tournament favourite.
Ivaskha looking short-priced as favourite
Ivashka is still to break into the top 50 in the world rankings but comes into the event with good form having won in Winston Salem before the US Open, and then pushing sixth seed, Matteo Berrettini, to five sets in New York. He's in top seed Aslan Karatsev's first quarter, and with Emil Ruusuvuori also featuring, this bracket isn't particularly easy. I'm not sure I'm a big fan of Ivaska's pricing around the 6.05/1 mark.
Q2 should be pretty straightforward for Krajinovic assuming he is in decent shape, which isn't necessarily a given considering he's lost four of his last five matches, with three of those losses coming as favourite. A loss to Guido Pella in the first round at the US Open was particularly disastrous.
Musetti with potential in low quality bottom half of the draw
In the bottom half of the draw, there looks to be a slightly weaker quality of player and it wouldn't surprise me at all if Lorenzo Musetti progressed. The Italian faces an as yet unknown qualifier, and has a number of clay-courters in quarter three, and with a number of veterans and journeymen in the bottom quarter, Musetti could potentially come through the bottom half of the draw.
Musetti has struggled of late but has clear future upside and let's not forget, took Novak Djokovic to five sets in the French Open fourth round. He's yet to show that level so much away from clay but it wouldn't surprise me if he got through some fairly weak opposition to make the latter stages. He's around 17.016/1 based on general market pricing and looks the best long-shot, to me.
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