Ace Tennis Previews: Expert Tennis Tips

Ace has been providing Tennis Tips to the public for years, educating on how to find value in both the ATP and WTA Tour. Ace is now providing his expert analysis on the Betfair Hub.

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Djokovic v Tsitsipas

Approx 2:00am AEDST

I think the only player in Dubai capable of beating Novak Djokovic on current form was unable to convert triple match point yesterday.

This looks to be a very favourable line for Djokovic in comparison, considering he got his big scare out of the way yesterday against Gael Monfils. Djokovic found a way, grinding and covering the court so well on his way to a 2-6 7-6 6-1 victory over the in-form Frenchman, after trailing 3-6* in that second set tiebreak.

Stefanos Tsitsipas has done a fantastic job of making his way through to the final here, coming off a title in Marseille last week. In each of his first two rounds against Carreno-Busta and Bublk, Tsitsipas needed first set tiebreaks on each occasion to help overcome his opponent.

He came from a set and a tricky second set position down against Jan-Lennard Struff, winning 4-6 6-4 6-4. Dan Evans was a little overawed in the semi final, with Tsitsipas winning his way through that match relatively comfortably.

Today is a different challenge.

You look at the two wins Tsitsipas has gained over Djokovic in the last 6 months and you can make a case for why it happened on each occasion. Djokovic wasn’t near his best after his US Open, and looked to be well and truly out of sorts in that third set against Tsitsipas in Shanghai, and the Mubadala match was an exhibition.

As a result of those matches (moreso Shanghai), and the wins on paper last week in Marseille, this has presented Djokovic at the very appealing -3.5 game handicap against Tsitsipas.

If Tsitsipas had played a lighter schedule, this would be a 1-1.5 unit selection on circumstances. Instead, I like Djokovic to up the ante and pressure now he is in the final. Tsitsipas plays mentally right on the edge, and with a touch of cumulative fatigue over the last fortnight, it becomes a danger spot for him and his situational composure.

Unless he can remain engaged completely throughout this match, which would surprise me on recent circumstances and form in Dubai across the week, this is Novak’s to lose.

Novak made it through the rough patch yesterday, and I feel like it will be smooth sailing for the Serbian on finals day in Dubai.

Selection

BACK – Djokovic -3.5 for 2.5 units

Welcome to the preview for the 2020 ATP tournament from Dubai. The women’s event last week was run and won by Simona Halep, with the Romanian running winning a third set tiebreak to claim the title.

We do not have the 2019 Dubai champion participating this year, with Roger Federer undergoing surgery that will see him out of action until the grass season. This time last year we saw him defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in a high-quality final.

With Tsitsipas coming off a title in Marseille on Sunday night, will we see someone else step up and reach the final in 2020?

Let’s split the draw up into quarters before coming back to discuss outright and trading options.


Quarter 1

Novak Djokovic is clearly the player to beat, as it looked like a period of dehydration in the Australian Open final was the biggest obstacle for the Serbian in January. If he brings a level close to his best tennis, then he wins. This is not Djokovic’s grand finale, as he is largely dealing in a number of grand slams now; That is about the only negative you can find regarding Djokovic at the moment.

He is very short in the betting; however, it is justified. Whilst I won’t be backing him at that price, I also would only be considering opposing him head to head at very big odds this week.

Karen Khachanov is one of the trickier players to get a read on in this draw. In what should have been suitable conditions in Rotterdam and Marseille, the Russian managed to drop matches against Evans and Bedene after winning the first set on each occasion.

The fact he ends up in Djokovic’s quarter takes away any value here in my opinion. Would like to see him improve his form, however it is difficult to justify his current price in the outright market.

Of the unseeded, Philipp Kohlschreiber stands out on form to start 2020, however he was poor in his last outing in Rotterdam against Dan Evans on return from injury. The rest of this quarter is filled with qualifiers, wildcards and Kukushkin. If Djokovic didn’t feature, then we could look at some potential trading options, however nothing entices me in this top quarter.


Quarter 2

Gael Monfils is coming into this week with some very impressive form. We have never had to write about Monfils coming into a tournament off the back of consecutive titles before, so he needs to be respected in the market. I would have Monfils as the primary, and nearly the only, threat to Djokovic in this top half. If he maintains his recent form, he should win this quarter at the very least.

There will be tournaments this year where I may look to make a play on Benoit Paire, however I don’t believe this is the week. Had a strong hardcourt run in Auckland prior to the Australian Open, however the form through that tournament (as a pre-Slam tournament), hasn’t held up entirely. Would need to improve on form over the last couple of weeks.

Of the unseeded, the name that stands out most is Marin Cilic, however looking at his loss to Shapovalov in Marseille, he does still look to be struggling a touch with that knee issue. Can he get through a full week unscathed? This draw looks a little tough at first glance. Of the rest, Marton Fucsovics and Richard Gasquet could spring a surprise on their day, however I do not have them in the outright discussion.


Quarter 3

Andrey Rublev is one of the form players on tour, and I think his chances this week have improved thanks to his earlier loss in the daw in Rotterdam, as well as the week off last week. We have seen over the last 12 months that his best tennis can match it with most on tour, and in what looks to be the weakest quarter in the draw, look for the Russian to make a very solid run this week. Should be winning this quarter barring a change in form.

Fabio Fognini is coming off an injury issue and may not take place in the draw. Wouldn’t have considered in this draw if 100% fit, so the injury issues don’t help his cause today. Prefer others.

You can make a case that the best of the unseeded bunch in this quarter is Yoshihito Nishioka, however I wouldn’t be particularly keen to be taking him in any capacity this week considering he participated in the Delray Beach final, and needs to very quickly make his way to Dubai. I wouldn’t be surprised if he withdrew from the event between now and the start time.

Dan Evans could be one to watch – he has a first round match against Fognini who has had some injury struggles of late, and he could make a little run with the draw of the 4th seed. Filip Krajinovic is another that could cause some trouble in this section, however it does all look to be set up for Rublev to perform well.


Quarter 4

Roberto Bautista-Agut didn’t have the best hardcourt swing, however, is comfortable in the conditions in Dubai given he is a former title winner here. He looks well placed in this section, and on recent form should be able to reach the quarter final at worst. Given the fatigue potentially associated with the biggest name in the quarter, I do find his current price to be quite appealing given the draw.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is up against it this week, as he will be travelling from Marseille to take part in the draw. Things won’t get off to an easy start for him either, with Carreno-Busta first, followed by the winner of Hurkacz/Bublik. Normally after a title a player of Tsitsipas’ ranking would benefit from a first round bye as a top seed; however, this is not the case in the Dubai draw.

Given the schedule, travel and overall form of others in the section, I think I would rather play around with others at longer trading options in the bottom half. A player that can live on the edge at times in terms of emotion, it will be interesting to see how he handles the draw and situation this week in Dubai.

Of the unseeded, Hubert Hurkacz and Alexander Bublik are two that can spring a surprise on their day, meaning a tough start for Tsitsipas. Jan-Lennard Struff is another, however he has a tough draw against Bautista-Agut to start. I will be siding with the Spaniard in this section at his price.


Betting Strategy

I think the most suitable play in this sort of draw is make a move around the bottom half of the draw. I mentioned above that Monfils is the best chance to knock off Novak Djokovic, however I would rather wait for that potential semi-final to look to make a play there.

With Djokovic the one to beat from the top half, one selection comes from each of the third and fourth quarters. It is hard to fault the form of Andrey Rublev to start the year, and he looks well placed in what looks to be a relatively weak quarter in comparison. I have Evans as his greatest threat, and on best form Rublev should be able to progress.

From the bottom quarter, I like Roberto Bautista-Agut to take advantage of a section that involves a potentially tired Tsitsipas. RBA won the title here in 2018 and is comfortable with both the court and conditions. Even if they were to meet in a quarter final, I would like RBA’s chances against Tsitsipas situationally.

Whilst the tournament does look to be Djokovic’s to lose, there is some value in that bottom half that is worth considering.

Selections

BACK – Novak Djokovic (no value in price – Monfils only threat in top half)

BACK – Andrey Rublev (Trading Selection)

BACK – Roberto Bautista-Agut (Trading Selection)

Halep v Rybakina

Approx 2:00am AEDST

This certainly isn’t the easiest match-up for Elena Rybakina, who continues her dominant run to start the 2020 season. I think she would have preferred to have seen Ons Jabeur defeat Simona Halep the other day when she had the chance.

Instead, Rybakina comes up against the pre-tournament favourite in Halep, who was absolutely dominant in her win over Jo Brady in the semi-final. It will be a fascinating match-up of styles in the final and will give us a bit of an indication of where Rybakina stands against the top players in the game.

The biggest struggles for the year for Rybakina have been against retrievers, players with variety and counterpunchers on the tour. She scraped by Martic in tiebreaks in the semi-final, lost to Barty at the Australian Open, and took 3 sets over the likes of Sakkari/Cabrera/Watson to start the year.

You know you are talking about a solid player when you are discussing 3-set wins as some of the tougher tennis played by them to start the year, however her opponent today is one of the most tactically strong players on tour.

Halep overcame an early scare with her match against Jabeur to open her campaign in round 2 and has looked exceptional since trailing a set to Sabalenka in the quarter-final. After struggling for rhythm earlier in the week, she is certainly peaking as she moves into the final, dropping only 6 games through her last 4 sets against Sabalenka/Brady.

With Halep the fresher player, the only way Rybakina is going to claim the title here is by simply blowing Halep off the court. The less impressive performances from Rybakina this year have come against players with strong court coverage and variety, or in finals, so a player such as Halep in a final looks to be a tough ask.

Selection

BACK – Halep -4.5 for 2 units

Welcome to the preview for the 2020 WTA event from Dubai. With a couple of big names withdrawing from the tournament, and a big former grand slam champion returning to the tour, this looks to be an incredibly fascinating tournament and week ahead.

It will be a big week for the defending champion Belinda Bencic, with a lot of points to defend with a competitive field. The qualifying field was loaded due to other tournament cancellations, meaning the main draw will be filled with top 30 players and form players with 3 wins under their belt.

Let’s split the draw up into quarters, before coming back at the end with any suggestions. Keep an eye out tomorrow as further thoughts may be added if any qualifiers stand out.


Quarter 1

Simona Halep hasn’t had the start to 2020 that she would have hoped, however needs to be respected in this field. There are no easy rounds or sections in such a loaded draw, however as the beneficiary of the first round bye and a second round match against Riske/Jabeur, which is on of the better starts to the week for any player.

Aryna Sabalenka needs to display some improved form before I start to re-consider her in the outright markets. That isn’t to say she cannot win this tournament; however, I need to see more from her to consider her at such a price in a competitive field. Needs to defeat Sakkari and the winner of Wang/Mertens just to reach the quarter finals, so I don’t see value in the price.

Of the unseeded, the winner of Wang/Mertens looks like they could cause some trouble in this section. Whilst she did lose to her at the Australian Open, Mertens could cause Halep a bit of trouble here, however the Romanian wouldn’t be facing her until the quarter finals. A nice draw overall for Halep.


Quarter 2

Elina Svitolina was poor in her quarter final in Hua Hin; however, I am not sure how much can be read into that result. She was out of Thailand quite quickly bound for Dubai, and it can make it a little difficult to figure out how her form stacks up. Given there are several big strikers in this quarter, she would really need to lift her form significantly compared to the start of 2020. Would be hoping she doesn’t have to meet Muguruza given the recent loss in Melbourne.

Garbine Muguruza is not going to be a consistent player across 2020, so it is going to be very difficult to catch her at times. From an outright perspective it might be worth seeing her make the final eight or four a couple of times before starting to trust her, as her nerves were on show in the Australian Open final for all to see. Thanks to the withdrawal of Bertens, Muguruza is tasked with the role of the first player to face Kim Clijsters in her comeback.

Of the unseeded, Dayana Yastremska is the most appealing at the current price. She did struggle to finish off the career of Wozniacki in Melbourne having held leads in both sets, and her form outside of that performance has been sound. She looks the biggest unseeded threat in this top half prior to qualifier placement. Whilst I would love to see some great tennis from Kim Clijsters, who looks to be striking the ball very well in footage over the last week, I will be watching her matches only.


Quarter 3

Petra Martic hasn’t shown enough on hardcourt recently to be considered a strong threat in this match. I prefer others in this tournament.

Belinda Bencic needs to bring her best this week as the defending champion. Her form to start the year hasn’t been fantastic, and I wonder if the pressure as defending champion of a big tournament may play on her mind a touch as well. The loss in Melbourne did worry me, and I do feel at times she is still reliant on her opponent to have lapses and struggle at times.

Of the unseeded, Amanda Anisimova and Anett Kontaveit are two names that stand out here, with 2 qualifiers to be added to this section once round 3 of qualifying is completed. Anisimova is the one for me. There is a risk as she hasn’t started the year well, however her best tennis can push anyone in this quarter, and perhaps the half as well. I will be suggesting her as a trading option and taking it from there.


Quarter 4

Sofia Kenin didn’t look at her best in the Fed Cup, and she will now need to adjust to be the hunted after her Australian Open victory. She has been dealt the toughest first round match of any seeded player, and this may be a bit of an adjustment for Kenin. As a player that plays right to the limit, I just wonder if a touch more pressure may be her undoing at some stage during this tournament.

Karolina Pliskova has her name surrounded by qualifiers in her draw, so it is hard to gauge how strong her draw is as this is one of the strongest qualifying groups for the year. We know what she is capable of at her best, it is a matter of application. Conditions may not entirely suit her; however, she needs to be respected.

Of the unseeded, the first name that stands out is Elena Rybakina, as she continues to race up the WTA rankings. She is needing to travel from Russia to Dubai and didn’t look at her best in the final against Bertens. The question will be in her ability to back up this week. She managed well earlier in the year with Shenzhen into Hobart, however this is a tougher field. 3 of the 8 spots in this quarter are to be filled by qualifiers.


Betting Strategy

I have settled on one main selection, and two trading selections. I think of the top seeds, the best draw currently belongs to Simona Halep.

At her price and in these conditions, she is worth a play, and her price may even come in after the first round if a few seeds are upset in tough matches. First round bye is crucial, and she looks well placed in the conditions.

From a trading standpoint, I have highlighted one player in the top half and one in the bottom half. I like the current odds for Dayana Yastremska to do some damage in the top half, as she does match up well against players in her section.

In the bottom half, Amanda Anisimova stands out at her price. One of the better first round opponents given the form of Strycova, and if she wins, she could really work her way into this tournament well and regain some much needed confidence.

Tough field in Dubai, so I would tread carefully. The qualifiers could all make an impact, so I will comment further once they have been placed in the draw. If you have any questions, please get in touch on Twitter (@Ace_Previews) or via email (ace@acetennispreviews.com).

Selections

BACK – Simona Halep

BACK – Dayana Yastremska (Trading Selection)

BACK – Amanda Anisimova (Trading Selection)

Monfils v Auger-Aliassime

Approx 1:30am AEDST

In what has been arguably the most successful 2-week period in the career of Gael Monfils, I must say it is difficult to look at opposing him today.

And I won’t be opposing him today.

I have been incredibly impressed with the composure of Monfils over the last two weeks. The effort and fatigue associated with playing the full tournament last week disappeared thanks to how he started this week. Monfils is renowned for spending far longer on the court than is absolutely necessary, however, he is yet to drop a set this week.

To see a player at their best level, late in their career, with added drive and determination is the type of tennis you want to see across the year at ATP level. He looks to have that power back in his first serve, and when he is confident on serve it carries over to the rest of his game. When Monfils limits his lapses on serve, it builds pressure on the game of his opponent, which could be telling here in a final.

We saw in Adelaide that things were slowly starting to click against for Felix Auger-Aliassime, as he continues to gradually build form and confidence back into his game. After what looked to be a trickier draw in Rotterdam, FAA has ended up facing Struff, Dimitrov, Bedene and Carreno-Busta. Whilst solid players, the four opponents aren’t quite playing at the level of Monfils on these courts.

Monfils has done a fantastic job of defending his title from last year, with one step remaining. FAA’s opponents have converted 4/22 break point chances this week, and given the way Monfils can defend and force extra shots in the high-pressure environment of a final, I like the Frenchman to win and cover the handicap today.

Whilst it is great to see FAA improving his level this year, and I have high expectations for him on the clay, I prefer Monfils in this situation. If he maintains the level of the last fortnight, Monfils will defend his title and cover the game handicap. Worth a 2 unit selection.

Selection

BACK – Monfils -2.5 for 2 units

Welcome to the preview for the men’s tournament in Rotterdam this week.

The defending champion this week is Gael Monfils, who will be coming off claiming the title in Montpellier on Sunday. Monfils defeated the likes of Goffin, Dzumhur, Medvedev and Wawrinka on his way to the title, coming from a set down in the semi and final.

It looks to be a fascinating draw this year, with several players displaying some very solid recent form.

I will split the draw in half, and then come back together at the end with any appealing outright or trading selections.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


Top Half

The worthy top seed here is Daniil Medvedev. Whilst he didn’t start the year overly strongly, with losses at the ATP Cup and at the Australian Open to Stan Wawrinka, he must be respected in this draw and in these indoor conditions. Gets a tired Pospisil in round 1, however does look to be one of the more talented quarters, boasting Krajinovic/Rublev/Monfils/Kohlschreiber and others. Worthy favourite, although the price feels a little short given the strength of the field.

One of the form players of 2020, Andrey Rublev also finds himself in what looks to be a tricky little quarter. Sitting around the 5th line of betting, it is hard to make a case for Rublev being value given the strength of this quarter, and his past struggles against Medvedev, however I am not looking to actively oppose him this week. May be a little short in some head-to-head odds due to recency bias.

Whilst he is the defending champion, it is difficult to make a strong case for Gael Monfils backing up from his title in Montpellier. He does have a nice quarter; however, he can be a difficult one to gauge in terms of ability and effort some weeks. The frustrating part is he is likely able to beat everyone in this draw at his best level. The question is: coming off a title and a full week, can he bring something that even closely resembles his best?

The final seed in the top half is Fabio Fognini. We didn’t see his best level in Australia, and indoor hardcourt hasn’t been an overly enjoyable hunting ground for Fabio over the years. Tough draw, and a player I am happy to avoid this week.

Of the unseeded players, I would keep an eye on Filip Krajinovic, Karen Khachanov, Dan Evans and even a sneaky qualifier in Philipp Kohlschreiber. Kohlschreiber has put together some solid tennis to start the season, and unfortunately had to withdraw from his match at the Australian Open. Nikolaz Basilashvili could cause an upset or two, however I don’t quite have him in the outright discussion given this draw.


Bottom Half

Roberto-Bautista Agut was a little disappointing in Melbourne, however I do feel he should comfortably make the final 8 here. Biggest challenger for the Spaniard in this quarter in my opinion in David Goffin who leads the head to head and is a very tricky match-up in styles. Should be too good for qualifier Fucsovics and the winner of Mannarino/Carreno-Busta. One to watch if there is a potential meeting with Goffin and he were to progress.

David Goffin has displayed some decent form to start 2020 without burning the candle at both ends. His loss to Rublev in 4 sets at the Australian Open was disappointing, however he did look solid overall in his couple of matches in Montpellier last week. Looks to have the most favourable draw of the seeded players and needs to be respected in this field.

Denis Shapovalov hasn’t shown enough consistency to start the year to trust him in the outright discussion. He finished 2019 brilliantly, and I wonder if he is just struggling a little bit knowing there is currently a gap between what he is producing and what he can produce. Not interested in his outright price currently, and I would be happy to wait for him to regain his form and play him match-ups instead.

Stefanos Tsitsipas is an interesting case in this tournament. He didn’t look to be fully engaged and mentally on-court to the level we have come to expect over the last 18 months and didn’t bring his best level to start 2020. A big concern is his recent performances against Shapovalov, Kyrgios and Raonic. The lack of break point opportunities seems to build the pressure for Tsitsipas, who doesn’t appear to be as engaged in that first-strike tennis. I would like to watch his first match against the impressive Hurkacz before getting involved in any outright discussion at the price.

Of the unseeded, Hubert Hurkacz, Grigor Dimitrov and the winner of Struff/Auger-Aliassime are the main players I will be monitoring. Tough early match-ups for those players though, with Hurkacz to face Tsitsipas and Dimitrov to face Shapovalov.


Summary

This tournament is loaded with extremely competitive matches from the first round. From analysis, I wouldn’t be going into the fourth quarter with any confidence, and I do feel the first quarter is quite a tough section as well. As a result, there is an outright selection in quarter 3 and one trading option in quarter 2 that look worthy of small selections.

The outright selection that appeals for mine is David Goffin, who looks to have the most favourable draw, coupled with a friendly match-up form against RBA. I like his chance to progress and build into this tournament strongly. On recent form I prefer Goffin, however I may comment further on this as the week unfolds.

The second quarter trading selection that appeals is Karen Khachanov. We saw an improvement in his form in Melbourne and could utilise the draw of Fognini with a strong first round performance.

It is a tricky week with a lot of talent and players with high ceilings, so I would tread carefully.


Selections

 BACK – David Goffin (will update thoughts if potentially meet RBA in QF or Tsitsipas in SF)

Trading Selection

 BACK – Karen Khachanov (will monitor across the week)

Harris vs Rublev

Approx 06:30pm AEDST

This certainly wasn’t the final I had expected to unfold in Adelaide. The young up-and-coming qualifier against the Doha champion from last week. Both players have taken slightly different routes to the final but will both be looking to capitalise on the opportunity.

It should be noted that Andrew Rublev will have a very quick turnaround time today. After getting off court around midnight, having spent nearly 3 hours duelling with Auger-Aliassime in the final, Rublev will step back onto court 16-17 hours later to play in the final. At a short price as a heavy favourite, it does make it a little harder to support him today.

This is also unfamiliar territory for Lloyd Harris, making his way through to an ATP Final. He has looked very impressive at various stages this week, including his dominant win over Carreno-Busta in the quarter final. After a second set lapse in the semi-final, he was able to steady and defeat fellow qualifier Tommy Paul.

Whilst I think this match ultimately rests on Rublev, the accumulated fatigue will bring Harris into the mix. Rublev was visibly frustrated late in set 2 and early in set 3, and with a serve such as Harris’ the South African may be able to put a bit of pressure on the Russian. Whilst I don’t think it will be smooth sailing for Rublev today, I think there are enough indicators to suggest the serve of Harris, coupled with the dips in form from Rublev over the last couple of matches are enough to suggest a play on the game total going over today.

I am happy to make a 1.5 unit selection on the total going over 22.5 games today, in what I think will be a closely fought final.

Selection

 BACK – 1.5 units Harris/Rublev total games over 22.5

Welcome to the preview for the ATP tournament taking place this week in Adelaide. It is the first event in Adelaide for some time that isn’t more of an exhibition, with some players looking to find an extra bit of time on court in the lead-up to the Australian Open next week.

Whilst it is a good opportunity this week, we need to keep in mind that many players will have eyes looking towards next week. Novak Djokovic had pulled out of the tournament in the last 36 hours, which has really opened the draw a touch.

Conditions will be quite warm to start the week, before cooling a touch. It is a smaller 30-person draw, so we will split it in half and see if we can find any value spots to target for the week.


Top Half

I do feel as though Alex De Minaur may not be playing this week if this tournament was held in any other country. The Australian spent more than enough time on the court to start the year in the ATP Cup, however, with Djokovic pulling out he has been able to take the top seeding for this tournament.

He won the tournament in Sydney that was run this week in 2019, so is defending a chunk of points off his ranking. Personally, I hope he doesn’t have a full week, as his Sydney title clearly took its toll on his Australian Open 2019 performance. First-round bye does help, however, and I feel Alex has too much national pride to not put in a solid performance this week.

One player I really want to keep my eye on this week in the top half is Pablo Carreno Busta. Whilst he was part of the ATP Cup team that went all the way to the final in Perth/Sydney, PCB should be relatively fresh having only played the doubles for the week.

He will want to spend a little bit of time on the singles court this week, and I do feel as though this is a pretty friendly draw for the Spaniard. If he brings something close to his best, he should still be in Adelaide come the weekend, barring an outstanding performance from a player such as Gilles Simon or Jeremy Chardy.

Cristian Garin was showing some discomfort on court in Brisbane, and his performances didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He was up against three quality players in Djokovic, Anderson and Harris, however, did find the going tough throughout all three matches. His game ultimately isn’t suited to the hardcourt, so will struggle at times on the surface. I prefer others this week, although it is a friendly section of the draw for Garin.

Of the unseeded players in the top section of the draw, the ones to keep an eye on include Lloyd Harris, Jordan Thompson, Tommy Paul and Aljaz Bedene. The last three names all fall in the quarter with De Minaur and could all spring a surprise or two this week if they find their best form.

Thompson was poor in Doha to start the year, so I will be fascinated to see what he can produce on home soil to try and kick-start his 2020 season. Harris has Garin to start and is more than capable of an upset in that match based on his form in Brisbane and qualifying form this week, so he is one to keep an eye on in the early stages.


Bottom Half

The stand-out name in the bottom half of the draw is Andrey Rublev, who went all the way in Doha last week to claim to title. Whilst he was exceptional on the way to the title, I do wonder about the turnaround for Rublev, as two full weeks leading into a Grand Slam, as well as travelling half-way around the world is a heavy schedule coming into a Grand Slam.

Given his form over the last couple of months, Rublev is a threat at Grand Slam level to be making the second week, so he needs monitor how things unfold this week in my opinion. If it wasn’t the week before a Grand Slam and he was fresh, I would be very keen on the Russian this week.

Jan-Lennard Struff was solid in the ATP Cup without being spectacular. He has a tough first-round match against Fernando Verdasco, however, will benefit from the Spaniard travelling in from Doha. Needs to be respected this week. However, I think the quarter-finals may be his ceiling in what is a fascinating little section of the draw.

Felix Auger-Aliassime benefits from a first-round bye, however, I just need to see more from him on the court before considering him now in any outright capacity. He looked to have incredibly low confidence during the ATP Cup, finishing off with losses to Millman, Struff and Lajovic in straight sets, after what was a promising start against Pervolarakis to kick off 2020. He still seems to be struggling a lot with his serve, and until that improves, I cannot find myself supporting him in an outright capacity.

Again, there are a couple of unseeded players that stand out in the bottom half. The first name I want to focus on is Dan Evans. We saw just how well he was playing in the singles with his defeat of De Minaur on home soil, which was impressive given the context and situation of that match. He is building into some solid form, and with a favourable first round in Adelaide he can make a deep run in Adelaide this week.

Of the others, I am interested to see how Sam Querrey starts the year, however his first and second round draws are tough. Whilst you could make a case for Herbert or the Aussie wildcards in Bolt and Duckworth, I think I would prefer to be supporting those players in head to head matches rather than making a play from an outright perspective on recent form.


Summary

A bit of a smaller draw this week, however, I think there is a player we can take from each half that will put in a solid performance this week. The player in the top half that looks to be value for mine is Pablo Carreno Busta. That second quarter does look a little weaker, and if he can find his way to the semi-final there may be the possibility of De Minaur having been beaten by that stage. If not, I would still give PCB a decent shot of beating the Australian given the volume of tennis each has played to kick off the year.

In the bottom half I am drawn to making a play on Dan Evans. I think he has a favourable draw to kick off the week, and his confidence will carry over from some impressive singles efforts in the ATP Cup last week. He has a bit of variety in his game and is suited to the conditions this week. He needs to be respected given his recent form, and his price does look to be decent value.

It is a bit of a watch-and-wait to start the year, as it can be tough to assess motivation levels. Nevertheless, the two players above have not had to travel far, and should both be relatively fresh coming into the week, so it is worth a small play on both this week.


Selections

 BACK – Pablo Carreno Busta

 BACK – Dan Evans

Welcome to the first preview for 2020, looking at the ATP Cup. The tournament sits in a bit of a funny period of the calendar, when you consider there is a grand slam in Melbourne just around the corner.

The key to success in this format is to have either two very solid singles players or one solid singles player, one relatively solid singles player and a solid doubles set-up. With the Australian Open around the corner, there is the potential for the big-name singles players to at times be less inclined to participate in the doubles so as not to overdo prior to a Grand Slam. Let’s look at each of the groups, then see if there is any outright value overall.

Remember, the winner from each group, and the two best runner-up records will progress.


Group A – Brisbane

Serbia – Djokovic, Lajovic, Troicki, Cacic, Milojevic

France – Monfils, Paire, Mahut, Simon, Roger-Vasselin

South Africa – Anderson, Harris, Roelofse, Klaasen, Montsi

Chile – Garin, Jarry, Tabilo, Podlipnik-Castillo, Barrios Vera

Fascinating group in my opinion, with all the focus on Novak Djokovic. He has shown over the last 10 years that he loves the conditions in Australia, however further up the coast in Brisbane will call for more humid conditions to those in Melbourne. With a lack of hardcourt depth behind Djokovic, I think the Serbian team may be a touch vulnerable here in group A.

I don’t see the Chilean team progressing beyond the group stage. I will say the same for South Africa given Kevin Anderson is returning from an injury layoff and there just hasn’t been enough consistency in the game of Harris at the top level, although he would be competitive against some of the second-ranked players in this group.

I think France is a great chance of making an impact in this group. Monfils brings a better effort against top-ranked players, and he should be competitive at least in all matches, even against Djokovic in the humidity. What France has at their disposal is several exceptional doubles players, led by Mahut and Roger-Vasselin. They would back themselves in most scenarios if they were 1-1 leading into the double. With Paire the strongest second ranked player by quite a way, they are ones to watch. At the very least, they could be competitive for a spot progressing by finishing second in this group.

Group B – Perth

Spain – Nadal, Bautista-Agut, Carreno-Busta, Ramos-Vinolas, Lopez

Japan – Nishioka, Matsui, McLachlan, Soeda,

Georgia – Basilashvili, Metreveli, Tsivadze, Tkemaladze, Bakshi

Uruguay – P Cuevas, M Cuevas, Roncadelli, Behar, Fumeaux

I won’t spend too much time on this one. With Nishikori’s withdrawal, this lopsided group just became even more favourable for Spain. I would be shocked if they didn’t progress.

Group C – Sydney

Belgium – Goffin, Darcis, Coppejans, Vliegen, Gille

Great Britain – Evans, Norrie, J Murray, Salisbury, Ward

Bulgaria – Dimitrov, Kuzmanov, Lazarov, Donski, A Andreev

Moldova – Albot, Cozbinov, Matvievici, Baskov

For similar reasons to the appeal of France in Group A, I lean towards Great Britain here, even with the withdrawal of Andy Murray. They have Dan Evans, who will hold his own against the top players from each team. They have Cam Norrie, the strongest second option by quite a way, and with Murray and Salisbury they should win two or three doubles matches (biggest challenge Vliegen and Gille, a very solid doubles pairing). If Evans can snatch a win or two in the singles, they are a great chance.

Group D – Perth

Russia – Medvedev, Khachanov, Kravchuk, Gabashvili, Nedelko

Italy – Fognini, Travaglia, Bolelli, Lorenzi, Giannessi

United States – Isner, Fritz, Ram, Krajicek, Paul

Norway – Ruud, Durasovic, Hellum Lilleengen, Rivera Hoeyeraal

This looked to be a more interesting group when Berrettini was part of the Italian team and Opelka part of the US team. This looks to be on the racquet of Russia…if they want it. Khachanov will be too good for Italy and Norway at the second spot and would likely be favourite against Fritz as well. Given Khachanov and Medvedev also can play doubles if needed, they look the most likely to progress here.

I wouldn’t discount Italy and the US completely. Fognini and Bolelli a great double pairing if Italy can snatch some singles victories. The US have also set themselves up well for the doubles and if Isner can hold serve and win tiebreaks then they could cause a shock.

Group E – Sydney

Austria – Thiem, Novak, Ofner, Marach, Melzer

Croatia – Coric, Cilic, Galovic, Dodig, Mektic

Argentina – Schwartzman, Pella, Londero, Gonzalez, Molteni

Poland – Hurkacz, Majchrzak, Zuk, Kubot, Marek

This group is fascinating for several reasons, with Marin Cilic crucial to the outcome of this group. Put Cilic against Novak, Pella and Majchrzak and he should be winning all three matches there. With Dodig and Mektic both ranked in the top 15 currently in doubles, they will be a tough unit to stop. The question marks come with the fitness of Coric and Cilic. If they are close to 100%, they will be tough to stop.

Argentina will rely quite heavily on Diego Schwartzman and will have the potential to be outhit a touch in this group in hardcourt. Austria look very solid at the singles and doubles level, with a nice even squad catering to all needs.

Tough group. Very tough group. I would give the edge to Croatia on value given their doubles set-up for hardcourt, with Austria a close second.

Group F – Brisbane

Germany – Zverev, Struff, Moraing, Krawietz, Mies

Greece – Tsitsipas, Pervolarakis, Tsitsipas, Kalovelonis, Skorilas

Canada – Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime, Diez, Shamasdin, Polansky

Australia – De Minaur, Kyrgios, Millman, Peers, Guccione

Speaking of tough groups, we have another one here in Group F. Had Vasek Pospisil been in the Canadian team I would consider them here, however the fact that Australia has the ability to cover the singles positions well (including best second ranked player in Kyrgios), plus a solid doubles contingent leads me to give them the edge here. We can assume De Minaur and Kyrgios are motivated here given the home court, and money on offer and the ranking points attached to this tournament. A lot will rest on the shoulders of Kyrgios to get off to a good start in ties, with De Minaur up against the toughest slate of top-ranked players of any group.

Don’t sleep on Germany, who also have a very solid pairing in Krawietz and Mies for the doubles (won the French Open and both ranked in top 11 in doubles). Struff is also a capable doubles player, so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds. If Zverev can deliver, they are a chance.

Greece lacks depth in this group, and Canada will be too reliant of two younger singles players coming off a pre-season. This looks to be a battle of Australia and Germany, with the home-court advantage the difference for the Aussies.


Knockout Stage Prediction

Below is how the draw is set for the quarter finals, with my predictions slotted into each position. It is tough to choose in several situations, especially which runner-up positions to progress.

Quarter Final 1

Winner Group A – France

Lower-ranked Runner-Up – Belgium

Quarter Final 2

Winner Group D – Russia

Winner Group E – Croatia

Quarter Final 3

Winner Group C – Great Britain

Winner Group F – Australia

Quarter Final 4

Winner Group B – Spain

Higher-ranked Runner-Up – Serbia


Summary

This is tough to predict for a few reasons. First, round-robin groups into a knockout stage is tough to predict, let alone off the tennis pre-season and limited visibility of several players leading up to this week. Add to that a Grand Slam in a couple of weeks, and I think we will see a different approach from teams compared to Davis Cup. The likes of Nadal and Djokovic won’t want to be playing 4+ sets of tennis each round, and Nadal has struggled to be fit for Australian summers of late.

Whilst it is hard to predict, based on the above I think there is a bit of value in the price for France. Given the set-up, unless either team progresses as a runner-up, Spain and Australia would meet before the final. At the current odds available I would take Australia, given I would be surprised if Nadal played a lot of doubles.

At the top, I think France represents a bit of value. I think if they can progress from the group stage, they would match up well against most pool winners. A lot of trust goes into supporting the likes of Monfils and Paire, however their best competitive tennis in a high-stakes set-up is good enough.

Overall, the value currently in my opinion is with France, followed by Australia. The fact they would sit on opposite sides of the draw if they won their pools is also quite appealing.


Selections

 BACK – France

 BACK – Australia


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