Day One of the Western & Southern Open takes place in New York this afternoon, and returning with his thoughts on today's schedule, is our tennis columnist, Dan Weston...
"Stats-wise, the 1.748/11 about Raonic looks absurd, with the 32 year old Querrey having struggled a little over the last year or two. "
Strange market pricing on tricky opening day
I'm very much looking forward to day one's play at the Western & Southern Open this afternoon, with it being the first ATP event to take place for almost six months as the Tennis tour continues its comeback from lockdown and tour suspension. Matches get underway at 1600 UK time, with 12 first-round men's singles matches taking place, and there's some weird lines on the opening day.
Some of the prices are so strange that there has to be some 'market knows' element to them, with stats struggling to justify some of the lines. Regular readers will be fully aware that the opening round, with player fitness and motivation often a little more questionable, is more tricky to statistically profile compared to later rounds in tournaments, and to me, this week's tournament with no understanding of player levels for six months, is even more so.
Therefore, when looking at potential value, this must be at the forefront of any discussion, and I'm of a mind to just have a watching brief for day one. My view is that these unique circumstances dictate such an approach. Despite this, I'll give some thoughts on some of the matches which the market had a different point of view to my model, just for some discussion on the opening day.
Lockdown events potentially influencing Basilashvili price
The opening match on the schedule sees Nikoloz Basilashvili face Felix Auger-Aliassime, with the young Canadian, Auger-Aliassime, a 1.3130/100 favourite to take this. Stats-wise, that price looks short - despite a lot of potential, Auger-Aliassime still doesn't have great hard court data, and even though Basilashvili will probably want conditions to be a little quicker than he's likely to find here, when I saw this price I had to wonder whether he'd told the market that he was voluntarily playing with one arm tied behind his back.
Perhaps Basilashvili's mediocre performances in some of the German lockdown exhibition events has some influence here, although it's also worth pointing out that the duo met twice last year with Auger-Aliassime priced more around the 1.804/5 mark.
Worth keeping an eye on Anderson fitness levels
In one of the more big-serving matches on the schedule, Kevin Anderson, if at all fit, looks a little generously priced at 2.6813/8 to beat Kyle Edmund. Anderson has had some tough injury issues which have seen him drop out of the top 100, but Edmund has hardly been the epitome of consistency in the last 12-18 months himself. Could his performances in the British lockdown events be influencing the market - he won eight of ten matches in these but a fair chunk of his opposition was pretty limited.
Moving on to other matches, we see George Harris take on Taylor Fritz, and despite some inconsistent transition from Challengers to the main tour, I think there's a player somewhere in Harris. Players initally struggling to convert lower tour levels into more consistent wins at the higher tour is not a new thing - I can remember Roberto Bautista-Agut having similar issues a number of years ago - and Harris, as a 2.767/4 underdog against Taylor Fritz, looked a little out of line. I have this as a pretty even match.
Injury-hit duo of Murray and Raonic also in action
I'm also looking forward to seeing Andy Murray in action, with the former world number one having a mixed bag of performances in the Battle of the Brits exhibition in June. If he's in half-decent shape, then the 1.748/11 price against Frances Tiafoe, who in my view has struggled to kick on in the last year or so, looks pretty decent.
Finally, another player who has had injury issues is Milos Raonic and the Canadian gets back into action with a first-round encounter with home player Sam Querrey. Stats-wise, the 1.748/11 about Raonic looks generous, with the 32 year old Querrey having struggled a little over the last year or two. Numbers-wise, Querrey is now running at below 100% combined service/return points won on hard courts, and assuming decent fitness levels, there looks quite a reasonable ability differential between him and Raonic here.
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