With the ATP Tour resuming and the Western & Southern Open starting this afternoon in New York, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns to preview the event...
"With regards to Djokovic's chances, it's a really difficult one to call. Statistically, he's the best hard courter in the tournament by some distance and he's no stranger to being priced around this level in big events, but with him - like the rest of the players - not having played a main tour match for around six months, will it level the field? "
Court speed implications from venue change
It's fantastic to have main tour ATP Tennis resume today after a few weeks of WTA and Challenger Tour events, and we are now getting back up to speed after the Coronavirus-enforced suspension of the Tennis tours.
Live scores and general websites have this tournament down as ATP Cincinnati, when actually the event is being played in New York at the US Open venue. Confused? I don't blame you - it's probably better if we call it the Western & Southern Open moving forward in the coming week!
In all seriousness though, there are some implications with regards to court speed. Conditions in Cincinnati tend to be quite quick for a hard court, but on the ATP Tour, the US Open venue is below average for service hold percentage compared to the average hard court, so I'm anticipating conditions to play more medium-slow in the coming week. This is unlikely to suit defending champion from Cincinnati last year Daniil Medvedev, who tends to do his best work in quicker conditions.
Djokovic longer-term stats dictating market pricing
The talented Russian is third in the outright market behind Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem, with the top of the outright market rather mirroring the advance US Open prices. Djokovic is hovering around even money, at a current 2.021/1, with both Thiem and Medvedev priced around the 7.06/1 mark.
With regards to Djokovic's chances, it's a really difficult one to call. Statistically, he's the best hard courter in the tournament by some distance and he's no stranger to being priced around this level in big events, but with him - like the rest of the players - not having played a main tour match for around six months, will it level the field?
This really is the main problem with regards to ascertaining the chances of any player in advance. We are going on older data which may or may not be relevant at this current time. It gives us insight into what a player's level was pre-lockdown, and in theory, a better player should still be better now than a player who had worse data six months ago, but we don't know anything much about each player's preparation for the resumption of the tour.
If other sports - notably football - are anything to go by, the resumption of activity could potentially see a number of young players make an impact with some of the older players struggling more. However, we aren't going to know about this for a week or two, at least.
Easy to like Thiem's chances in bottom half of draw
Looking at the draw, it's quite easy to have some liking for Dominic Thiem's chances in the bottom half of the draw, to make the final. My view is that this bottom half of the draw (without Djokovic or Medvedev) is the easier bracket and, given his previous preference to play numerous events, almost week-in/week-out, should have a decent level of fitness compared to many other players.
After receiving a first-round bye, the Austrian faces Filip Krajinovic or qualifier Salvatore Caruso in round two before a potential third round clash with Grigor Dimitrov. Thiem should enjoy the medium-slow conditions here and, assuming he faces Dimitrov, would also face an opponent who would prefer the court speed to be quicker.
However, it's very difficult to assess any value in the outright market before this tournament, so I think a watching brief in advance of the US Open, which is nine days away, is prudent at this point in time.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings