Following the Australian Open, the ATP Tour continues during the coming week with a further three tournaments, all at ATP 250 level. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, discusses the events...
"The Korean, who turned 22 in December, accumulated an excellent record in hard court Challenger events last season (109% combined service/return points won) from a big sample size and these numbers translate pretty well to main tour success"
Top players avoiding action after the Australian Open
It is often the case that the tournament following a Grand Slam tends to be bereft of the biggest names on tour, and the three events in the coming week are certainly no exception. With only one top ten player in action during the coming week, this is particularly the case in Pune with two players ranked in the 80s being seeded and getting first round byes.
Mediocre field anticipated in Pune
Pune actually seems a good place to start, with an early start on Monday morning for European viewers getting the week off and underway. The court conditions across the last two years (when the Maharashtra Open switched from Chennai) are likely to be around medium-paced for a hard court, with similar aces per game and service points won court to the ATP mean figures. In theory, this shouldn't really suit any particular dynamic, and the tournament is quite fascinating given that we have extreme big servers (Ivo Karlovic, notably) as well as more return-orientated players in the field.
Benoit Paire takes the top seed billing and joins Ricardas Berankis, and the outside the top 80 ranked duo of Soon Woo Kwon and Stefano Travaglia as getting first round byes. The table below which shows the main contenders for the title accurately illustrates the mediocre field quality in Pune with no player in the draw able to boast combined service/return points won percentages:-
Seeded Kwon capable of lifting the trophy
Soon Woo Kwon leads the table and he's one that I've profiled over the last few months as a player who is capable of generating a decent record on the main tour, suggesting that he might be able to go deep in a weak event already at this stage of his career. The Korean, who turned 22 in December, accumulated an excellent record in hard court Challenger events last season (109% combined service/return points won) from a big sample size and these numbers translate pretty well to main tour success - they would also give him a bigger edge over the field.
In quarter two, Kwon faces either Prajnesh Gunneswaran or Yannick Maden in round two, before a potential quarter-final against Egor Gerasimov. Benoit Paire awaits possibly in the semi-final. These are not players Kwon should particularly fear, and I like his chances of performing well in this event. In the run-up to the event when the Exchange market gains liquidity, we should be able to get around the 13.012/1 mark on Kwon based on early general market pricing.
Goffin marginal favourite in Montpellier
Field quality in Montpellier is markedly higher with a number of talented non-top 10 players entering, and there's not a great deal between a lot of them, as illustrated by the table below. Gael Monfils is top seed and gets an opening round bye along with Grigor Dimitrov, Denis Shapovalov and David Goffin, who edges the early market favouritism at 4.3100/30 on the Exchange:-
I anticipate conditions to be pretty medium-paced for an indoor hard court (which should be noted, is quicker than outdoor hard courts) and as is often the case indoors, big servers should derive a little benefit. It's interesting to note that French players have performed particularly well in this home tournament for them, with seven tournaments of the nine held from 2010-2019 going the way of local players. In fact, 14 of the 18 finalists during this time period were French.
Ruusuvuori a tough proposition if he qualifies
There are several reasons as to why I'm not keen to look at outright positions here. Firstly, the tournament should be highly competitive with many players capable of beating each other - and we have no recent indoor hard levels to assess - plus also there's a potential qualifier yet to be placed in the main draw, and I'd be keen to swerve any player in his bracket.
Some readers may not be well aware of Emil Ruusuvuori's qualities but the Finnish talent has absolutely steamrollered opposition indoors on the Challenger Tour and his numbers should translate to a strong level on the main tour as well. We won't know if he qualifies for the main draw until around lunchtime on Monday - he faces the veteran Frenchman, Nicolas Mahut, for a place in round one.
Competitive event expected as clay returns to tour
Finally, we also see the start of the clay season with a 250 in Cordoba, Argentina, an event which started in 2019. In the inaugural year, there was an all-Argentine final with Juan Ignacio Londero getting the better of Guido Pella in three sets. The outright market likes the chances of another Argentine, Diego Schwartzman, with him chalked up already at 3.3512/5 on the Exchange to win the event - despite his relatively mediocre record on clay last season.
With few players having played a competitive match on clay in recent months, this will be tough to call and conditions are anticipated to be very slightly on the slower side to medium-paced for clay courts. The clay court specialists should enjoy themselves here, and there are plenty of them lining up to participate, as can be seen below:-
The tournament should be pretty competitive, with Laslo Djere's second quarter looking perhaps the weakest. Could Londero get through that quarter and pick up some useful ranking points to help him defend the ones from last season - it's certainly possible. Marco Cecchinato, who has had a big ranking drop, looks a tricky first round opponent, however.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
Back Soon Woo Kwon at around 13.012/1 to win ATP Pune (based on general early market prices)