The ATP Tour is back in action this week, and with several indoor hard events taking place, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, gives his thoughts on the upcoming week...
"The winners list in Metz has a rather European feel with the winners this decade coming from the home country, France, on seven occasions, as well as there being one German and one Belgian winner."
Differing conditions in this week's indoor events
Last week saw the Davis Cup take preference over regular ATP Tour action but the tour resumes this afternoon in Europe with indoor hard court tournaments in Metz and St Petersburg to look forward to, prior to the late-season Asia swing as the year draws to a conclusion.
There's markedly different anticipated conditions between the two events this week, with Metz likely to play medium-fast, and St Petersburg much slower. Across the last three years at the French event, 65.0% of service points have been won - marginally higher than the 64.5% indoor hard mean in main tour events during this time period - while in Russia, this service points won number drops to 62.6%.
In addition, there are also just 0.41 tiebreaks per match in St Petersburg compared to 0.57 in Metz, illustrating that there are more likely to be tighter sets and matches in France, which does bring in to play variance. The winner of Metz may not necessarily be the best player in the week - he may simply be the one who plays the key points the best/overperforms on key points based on service and return points won expectations.
Goffin top seed in Metz
The winners list in Metz has a rather European feel with the winners this decade coming from the home country, France, on seven occasions, as well as there being one German and one Belgian winner. Furthermore, all the runners-up this decade have also been European, and while some big-servers/players who should enjoy quick conditions have done well here, such as Lucas Pouille and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, there are also plenty of smaller names who aren't particularly noted as indoor specialists.
2014 winner David Goffin is top seed and tournament favourite at [4.3] and he looks well set to make the latter stages based on his draw. A round two clash against Pablo Carreno-Busta looks likely but the Spaniard is much worse in quicker conditions than slower, and may have been better served making the trip to Russia instead. In his bracket, perhaps Marius Copil, who is limited but does like courts to be quick, could be the main threat.
Seeded players vulnerable against the field
Joining Goffin as a seed with a first round bye are Benoit Paire, Lucas Pouille and Nikolas Basilashvili. Paire is inconsistent on hard courts, despite having a decent enough year while Pouille has a high indoor reputation but has dramatically overperformed on key points on the surface in the last couple of years. However, finding players to take them on with is quite tough - there are a lot of players around the 100% combined service/return points won mark, while Basilashvili's bottom quarter looks the most competitive by far, with only Pablo Andujar and the as yet unknown qualifier to be placed looking unlikely to threaten the remaining players in that bracket.
Medvedev potentially fatigued after US Open exertions
Over in St Petersburg, the on-fire Daniil Medvedev takes his place as top seed but even in his home country, there's surely an argument to suggest he should be resting after his exertions both at the US Open and in the preceding month beforehand. He must be absolutely shattered, although on ability, would be justified as being tournament favourite. He's currently priced at [2.80] on the Exchange.
Sinner could emerge as a contender
After the top five in the market who are all priced around the [8.0] mark or below, quality drops off rapidly. Having said this, those of you willing to have a small punt on a long-shot could do worse than having a look at Jannik Sinner, who is currently trading at [38.0] on the Exchange, but there are still a few outlets offering 50/1 on the young Italian.
I can remember at the start of the 2017 season writing that I thought that getting a similar price on Daniil Medvedev to win a 250 level event when he played in Chennai would be unlikely to happen again for a long while, and a similar situation is likely to manifest itself with Sinner in the not too distant future - you just don't see players who have just turned 18 generating the sort of numbers that he has.
Sinner opens against Mikhail Kukushkin today, and looks a little under-rated by the markets to take that, and while home player Karen Khachanov is the obvious hurdle in that bottom quarter of the draw, if he can get to the semi-finals, he's unlikely to face a particularly high level opponent, with the seed, Borna Coric, suffering with fitness issues. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Sinner had a good week, and obviously a massive future career.
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