Andy Schooler returns to offer up his ATP tennis betting tips for this week’s tournaments in Beijing and Tokyo, which see both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in action.
China Open Beijing, China (outdoor hard)
Andy Murray may have been doing himself a disservice when he said last week he was only playing “top-60 or top-70” tennis at present and he could be a spot of value at this week’s China Open.
Murray pushed world number 31 Alex de Minaur hard in Zhuhai where his serving was notably better than during the early part of his comeback.
He only lost that contest 6-4 in the decider and should be all the better for it.
The Scot, champion here in 2016, has been upbeat about how he’s felt physically backing up matches and this week presents an opportunity to continue his improvement.
Admittedly Murray does have a tough opener – against US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini – but the Italian is now among the hunted and will be under pressure to back up that result.
He struggled to do so in Metz on his return to the tour, losing miserably in his opening match and this is certainly a tricky draw.
Berrettini’s serve is a major weapon but in Murray he’ll be facing one of the greatest returners of all time.
The breakout star of the season did get a fairly easy time of it at the US Open – he only beat one seed en route to the last four – and I’m prepared to take a chance on Murray at 25/1.
If he does survive that opener, the draw really opens up with compatriot Cameron Norrie a potential second-round opponent.
I’m certainly not convinced that top seed Dominic Thiem will be around come the quarter-finals, the Austrian has a poor record in China and is often found wanting at this time of year, at least in part because he plays such a busy schedule throughout the season.
He was beaten by the world number 163 in Davis Cup recently and could easily lose to Richard Gasquet first up.
New dad Karen Khachanov is another of the big names in the top half of the draw but he’s been struggling for form – and probably sleep.
A case is easier to make for Fabio Fognini, twice a semi-finalist at the tournament, including last year.
However, he all know how inconsistent the Italian can be so anyone backing him at 28/1 needs to take that into account. With a tough draw, he’s not for me this week.
Down in the bottom half, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Roberto Bautsita Agut are other seeds not at their best right now. The same can be said of Gael Monfils, who let us down last week, and John Isner.
Perhaps Diego Schwartzman could offer some value at 22/1. He won in Los Cabos prior to the US Open and he then made the last eight in New York to show he’s a strong player on the hardcourts. However, it might be a bit fast for him here.
I’m intrigued to see how Alex Zverev goes after his tie-winning performance at the Laver Cup when he was surrounded by greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
A week in their presence may just have been what the doctor ordered for the German, who has largely disappointed in 2019.
The double-faults which had plagued him during his run to the last 16 of the US Open were largely gone in Geneva and his cup-clinching effort against Milos Raonic should have restored confidence to a better level.
He opens against Frances Tiafoe and then meets Felix Auger-Aliassime or Albert Ramos-Vinolas. That’s a decent-enough draw, one which offers Zverev a chance to play himself into a tournament he reached the semi-finals of in 2017.
It’s a bet which definitely carries risk and I’d keep stakes fairly small but the talented German will win events like this again at some point and at 9/1 I’ll take a chance that it’s this week.
Rakuten Open Tokyo, Japan (outdoor hard)
Novak Djokovic is, somewhat surprisingly the star turn in Tokyo this year.
The world number one has a perfect 29-0 record in Beijing, where he usually plays in this week of the calendar, but this season he’ll instead make his debut in Japan.
That immediately throws up a slight concern, one which grows when you consider this will be his first event since he retired from the US Open with a shoulder injury.
He’s also got a potentially testing draw with an opening match against qualifier Alex Popyrin and then a potential second-round clash with Jan-Lennard Struff.
Both have big-hitting games which could trouble Djokovic if he’s not up to speed – and there seems to be a good chance of that.
Quick conditions would help the underdogs’ cause and they are usually on show at the Ariake Tennis Park but courts have been resurfaced ahead of next year’s Olympics and so could play slower than in the past.
While we’re on the subject of renovation, it’s worth noting that last year’s form can be largely discounted – the event was played indoors at another venue while the work was taking place.
We all know Djokovic is capable of winning this, or any other tournament, but he’s 8/11 and that’s a price I’m more than happy to swerve.
Strut your Struff
I quite like Struff as an each-way outsider at 40/1.
He beat Tsitsipas in quick conditions in Cincinnati and was also the victor against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Montreal. Other 2019 scalps include Zverev, en route to the last 16 in Indian Wells, Raonic and Pablo Carreno Busta.
He did lose in the opener in Metz on his last tour appearance but followed that defeat by claiming the doubles title so clearly isn’t playing too badly.
Albot deserves second chance
In the bottom half, I’m prepared to take another chance on Radu Albot.
I mentioned the Moldovan’s strong hardcourt record in last week’s column only for him to lose to Carreno Busta in the first round.
However, that result – secured by a single break in each set – was put into some perspective by the fact that the Spaniard went on to win the title in Chengdu.
Albot is a whopping price again this week – 80/1 – and I don’t think that fairly reflects his chances.
Borna Coric is the man seeded to reach the final but he’s been out of sorts of late, while fourth seed Benoit Paire – a possible second-round foe for Albot – is one of the most inconsistent players on the tour. A talent, no doubt, but you never know when he’s going to be dialled in.
Albot was a semi-finalist in Los Cabos before the US Open where he pushed top-10 star Zevrev to a fifth set. Marin Cilic and Gilles Simon were among his victims during the summer hardcourt season.
It’s not a week for lumpy, confident bets, but let’s give him another go.