The ATP Tour moves to Asia this week with two low-profile 250 events taking place. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the upcoming tournaments...
"Condensing the hard court data to this year in isolation, it is Carreno-Busta with the better numbers, which shows Verdasco's hard court success mostly came towards the end of last season."
Laver Cup players with quick turnaround
Action actually got under way early this morning with several day one matches in Chengdu and Zhuhai, with the likes of Kyle Edmund (Chengdu) and Yoshihito Nishioka (Zhuhai) exiting early in the opening matches. The vast majority of round one matches will take place on Tuesday, with the seeded players getting their campaigns off and underway on either Wednesday or Thursday.
This would give some of the Laver Cup participants some time to recover from travelling from Geneva after that tournament ended last night, but I'd still imagine it's far from ideal preparation - particularly for those players who play their opening match on Wednesday.
Conditions likely to be medium-paced in Chengdu
The event in Chengdu started in 2016, with Karen Khachanov, Denis Istomin and Bernard Tomic comprising the winners list so far, and conditions look pretty medium-paced, with 63.7% of service points won and 0.58 aces per game served at the venue across the last three years - numbers which are almost identical to the ATP Tour hard court mean figures during this time period.
With this in mind, it's difficult to give much thought to conditions favouring either big servers or return-orientated players, and it's probably wise simply to treat players on their individual merits in the coming week in Chengdu.
Isner has a slight statistical edge over the field
John Isner is the top seed and 4.94/1 tournament favourite, with only Denis Shapovalov looking a threat in his top quarter of the draw. Interestingly, there's not much between them statistically on hard court in the last 12 months, as evidenced by the table below, which summarises the main contenders for the title:-
Here we can see that there really is no outstanding player in the draw - certainly no-one close to the elite 110%+ level - and the tournament looks very open indeed.
Carreno-Busta can compete in quarter two
Benoit Paire's second quarter looks extremely weak - the Frenchman has been seeded to get a first round bye - and with Kyle Edmund already out, either Fernando Verdasco or Pablo Carreno-Busta have an excellent chance of reaching the latter stages.
Condensing the hard court data to this year in isolation, it is Carreno-Busta with the better numbers, which shows Verdasco's hard court success mostly came towards the end of last season. Given this, it's Carreno-Busta who looks better suited to making the latter stages, with general market prices around the 20/1 mark making him a potential long-shot option.
In the bottom half of the draw, a number of players will fancy their chances but perhaps it could be a good week for Grigor Dimitrov, whose hard court numbers rate reasonably well compared to the field. The Bulgarian did well in reaching the semi-final at the US Open after a pretty poor year so far prior to that, and he'll be keen to build on that with another good showing.
Tsitsipas uneasy market favourite in Zhuhai
Over in Zhuhai, the tournament is new so we have very little idea of how conditions are likely to play. Data from a small sample of qualifying matches indicates it's likely to be on the slower side of medium-paced, although I'm not hugely keen to draw firm conclusions from those numbers.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is the top seed and current 4.94/1 market favourite, but I don't consider him to be tournament favourite based on data. He's one of those travelling from Geneva, and as the table below indicates, he's not the best hard-courter in the field:-
Having said that, the Greek man has a gift top quarter with no player capable of boasting 100%+ combined service/return points won numbers in his bracket, although as I've mentioned several times in recent previews, qualifier Soon Woo Kwon has impressive Challenger numbers and I think it will be a matter of time before he starts getting some decent wins on the main tour.
Murray with much to prove ahead of Sandgren rematch
Quarter two shouldn't be a huge stretch for Gael Monfils if fit and motivated, at a slightly bigger price than Tsitsipas, although young prospect Miomir Kecmanovic might be able to have an impact in that part of the draw as well. The bottom half of the draw has more quality and even nature. Quarter three also features Andy Murray, who continues his comeback to the main tour against Tennys Sandgren.
Funnily enough, Murray's last main tour match - last month in Winston Salem - was also against Sandgren, and he lost 7-6 7-5 as a slight favourite, priced around the 1.758/11 mark. Murray's return numbers aren't great since his return to tour, and the 35% return points won against a tour journeyman in that match will need improvement. The Scotsman is a similar price tonight to get revenge for that loss.
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