Tennis betting expert Andy Schooler has 5/1 and 40/1 picks for this week’s ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, the Western and Southern Open.
Western and Southern Open Cincinnati, USA (outdoor hard)
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve backed Roger Federer in Cincinnati down the years but it has proved a worthwhile exercise – he’s won the title on no fewer than seven occasions.
And at 5/1 I’m happy to go in again on the Swiss in 2019.
Federer turned 38 the other day but one of the big takeaways from Wimbledon was the fact he was still remarkably fresh after almost five hours of tennis. Fitness is not an issue.
It could be those two championship points he squandered in SW19 against Novak Djokovic still rankle and, yes, there’s a chance that could be issue here. However, I doubt it.
Federer has been a master at putting disappointment behind him in the past and the next month or so is now hugely important for his season as a whole – if he can win the US Open, the rest won’t matter.
Expect full focus in Cincinnati where the conditions are pretty much ideal for the Federer serve which held up so well during Wimbledon fortnight.
Of course, that man Djokovic was the one who ended up lifting the trophy but there was very little between them that day.
A move from the grass to the DecoTurf II hardcourts certainly favours the Serb but if there was one hardcourt venue where Federer would choose to play Djokovic it would be this one. The pair are seeded to meet in the semi-finals.
Federer leads Djokovic 3-1 in Cincinnati with two of those wins coming in the current world number one’s pomp – one in 2012 and the other in 2015.
Admittedly, Djokovic did beat Federer here in last year’s final, although it was a strangely subdued display from the Swiss that day, one I’m prepared to put down as a bad day at the office.
Federer looks to have a decent path to the last four with a quarter-final meeting with either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas looking the toughest assignment.
Big servers pose problem
But Medvedev, at time of writing due to contest the final in Montreal, has now played two full weeks of tennis and surely must be feeling it by now, while Tsitsipas was back to disappointing form last week.
You’d expect Djokovic to progress too, although notably he could face a number of big servers – his route to a showdown with Federer could involve meetings with Sam Querrey, John Isner and Nick Kyrgios (a man he has never beaten). All will have a puncher’s chance in these conditions, even against a great returner like Djokovic.
While Djokovic deserves his place at the head of the market – he’s a 6/4 chance – I don’t think there should be such a large gap between him and Federer.
Rafael Nadal, the man who will face Medvedev in the Montreal final, heads up the bottom half of the draw.
He’s completed the Canada-Cincy double before but he’s the only man to do so in the last 16 years. That was also in 2013, arguably the best season of the Spaniard’s career.
That success remains his only one in Cincinnati where the conditions are frankly a bit too fast for Nadal’s liking. An overall 22-11 win-loss record in pretty poor by his standards (in contrast, Federer is 46-9) and you have to wonder if two solid weeks of Masters tennis is really ideal preparation for the US Open for the 33-year-old with a creaking body.
Cilic offers value
At 10/3, I’ll happily oppose him and will do so by backing Marin Cilic each way at 40/1.
This has not been a good season for the Croat but he’s shown signs of picking up over the last couple of weeks.
In Washington, he beat Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the quarter-finals before losing a tight contest to Medvedev, while Montreal brought another narrow defeat, this time to Dominic Thiem, a result which could have been oh so different had Cilic taken even one of the nine break points he created.
Generally, Cilic has been serving well again and the conditions here will only make that shot a bigger weapon.
A return to Cincinnati should also fill him with a bit of extra confidence – he won here in 2016 and last year he was edged out in a three-set semi-final by eventual champion Djokovic.
Crucially, Cilic is in a nice section of the draw. The third quarter certainly looks the weakest with Thiem the man due to make the semis, at least according to the seedings.
However, it’s likely going to be too fast for him, while Alex Zverev continues to perplex and it’s hard to think Andy Murray is going to be that competitive in a field of this quality given he’s playing singles for the first time since January.
Murray and Cilic are both 40/1 shots and that’s surely wrong. I know who I’d rather back and will do so.