With the Asian hard court swing concluding with the victory of Roger Federer over Rafa Nadal, the late-season European indoor hard events - starting today - bring the 2017 season to a close. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns to check out this week's tournaments...
"Alexander Dolgopolov looks Tsonga's main threat and the Ukrainian should have solid motivation given that he isn't far from an Australian Open seeding berth. Certainly, Dolgopolov is in decent recent touch, making the final in Shenzhen and the last 16 in Shanghai - losing to Federer - although his record indoors isn't entirely convincing."
Conditions in Moscow expected to be slow as Indoor Hard swing commences
We have three ATP 250 level Indoor Hard events in Moscow, Stockholm and Antwerp beginning on Monday, and with all three events of fairly mediocre quality, the tournaments are wide open.
In Moscow, conditions are anticipated to be on the slow side for indoor hard. In the last three years on the surface across the ATP Tour, 80.3% of service games were held, but this fell to 76.7% in Moscow during this time period, and a mere 0.43 aces per game - a figure more equivalent to clay data - were served in the Russian capital.
Carreno-Busta the favourite in conditions that should suit
With this in mind, I'm anticipating rallies to be longer than average for indoor hard and this plays into the hands of the players who don't tend to favour indoor conditions generally. Pablo Carreno-Busta is the 7/2 favourite, and statistically he definitely looks like a major contender - he should also be rather happy with the expected conditions.
The Spaniard is one of four players to receive a first-round bye, with Philipp Kohlschreiber, Adrian Mannarino and Albert Ramos joining him in round two. The German, Kohlschreiber, hasn't played since giving a walkover in St. Petersburg last month, so has questionable fitness, while perhaps the best option is the in-form Mannarino. However, at just 6/1, the Frenchman, who frequently exhibits variable levels of ability, looks a little short to consider.
Unseeded players not without a chance in the Russian capital
Of the unseeded players, many are out of form or lack ability. Damir Dzumhur, who has played the best tennis of his career in recent months, will definitely have his supporters, while young prospects Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev, and Borna Coric may view this as an opportunity to go deep in a relatively weak tournament.
Dimitrov and Del Potro favourites in serve-orientated Stockholm event
However, there aren't any bets that I particularly like in Moscow, so I'll move on to Stockholm, with Grigor Dimitrov the top seed - accompanied by Jack Sock, Juan Martin Del Potro and Kevin Anderson as the quartet with first-round byes.
The field is much more serve-orientated than that in Moscow, and that's entirely understandable given that the mean hold is much higher in Sweden, 81.4%, so I expect conditions to be somewhat pacier, and benefit servers, compared to those in Moscow.
The Bulgarian top seed Dimitrov is the 13/5 second favourite with the Sportsbook, and statistically, he does look like the player to beat, with Anderson's hard/indoor hard hold/break percentages not too far behind. However, solely indoors, Anderson is 6-6 in the last two years, and thus hasn't entirely convinced indoors in those matches.
Slightly in front of Dimitrov in the betting, at 11/5, is the Argentine, Del Potro, and his indoor record, at 7-1, in the last two years, is very strong - albeit from a limited sample size. However, adding in his hard court data makes his data less impressive and he looks short in the outright market to me, while the other seed, Sock, has now lost six matches in a row and retired last week in Shanghai. Conditions may be a little quick for Fabio Fognini's liking but he could be considered in Sock's weak-looking second quarter.
Kyrgios impossible to side with given last week's Shanghai antics
Over in Antwerp, David Goffin is top seed in his home event, while Diego Schwartzman, Nick Kyrgios and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also receive first-round byes as the top four seeds.
Starting off with Kyrgios, it's virtually impossible to know which version of this Jekyll and Hyde character will turn up, having retired after the first set last week in Shanghai, and only his most ardent supporters can consider him at a skinny-looking 9/4.
Antwerp conditions expected to be similar to Moscow
The event started last year, with Richard Gasquet taking the title in what appeared to be very slow conditions indeed - just 74.1% of service games were held, while the aces per game count was also low at 0.44. Given this, I expect conditions to be quite similar to those anticipated in Moscow - very unusual for indoor hard indeed.
Goffin and Tsonga are both 7/2, and I'd prefer the Belgian, Goffin, at prices, in his home event, given Tsonga's mediocre recent level - he hasn't won consecutive matches at an event since Wimbledon - while the fourth seed, Schwartzman is a bigger 9/1.
The Argentine should enjoy conditions but faces an interesting quarter with Denis Shapovalov and David Ferrer looking potentially tough opponents, although I still feel that the Canadian youngster, Shapovalov, is over-rated currently and likely to mean-revert in the relatively near future.
Opposing Kyrgios and Tsonga in the bottom half of the draw an option
Taking on either Kyrgios or Tsonga could be considered as an option, although Kyrgios has a gift quarter - either Benoit Paire or the out of form indoor hard 250 king Joao Sousa look his main threats - while Tsonga can ease into the event with a guaranteed meeting with a qualifier in round two.
Alexander Dolgopolov looks Tsonga's main threat and the Ukrainian should have solid motivation given that he isn't far from an Australian Open seeding berth. Certainly, Dolgopolov is in decent recent touch, making the final in Shenzhen and the last 16 in Shanghai - losing to Federer - although his record indoors isn't entirely convincing.
However, with options far from plentiful this week, I want to take a small chance on him each-way at 12/1 to progress through what looks a very weak half of the draw.
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