ATP Tennis Tips: Metz, St Petersburg best bets11 min read
Metz, France (indoor hard)
This week is a bit of an odd one of the ATP Tour – two indoor tournaments essentially plugging a gap in the calendar before the Asian swing begins.
The two events are somewhat contrasting too with Metz offering some of the faster conditions on the circuit (St Petersburg, see below, is much slower). The big servers should relish playing here.
One group of players who certainly seem to like it here are those of the host nation.
Frenchmen have won 10 of the 16 editions of this tournament, most recently last year when Gilles Simon lifted the trophy for a third time.
The veteran, who has also finished runner-up once, has an excellent record in Metz and I’m a little surprised to see him up at 16/1.
He admittedly will need an upturn in his form if he’s to reach the final for a fifth time but he should by boosted by conditions he clearly revels in – it’s worth mentioning he’s a two-time champion in also-slick Marseille too – and also has a draw which offers the chance to play himself in.
Marius Copil has the potential to be an awkward first-round foe given he twice made finals on indoor hard last season. However, he’s been pretty woeful this year, winning only six of 23 tour-level matches.
Next would come either Aljaz Bedene, a player who was competing on clay in the Davis Cup at the weekend, or wild card Rayane Roumane.
The big hurdle for Simon in this section looks to be top seed David Goffin.
The Belgian has been in good form of late, reaching his first Masters 1000 final in Cincinnati, and he’s also turned into a very strong performer on indoor hard in recent years, famously make the title match at the ATP Finals in 2017. He’s a former champion here too, back in 2014.
While he’s an understandable favourite, Goffin still looks a tad short at 3/1 and with Simon more than five times the price, I’m happy to take a chance on the home hope, who has won two of their five previous meetings.
Others to mention in the top half include our winner from Winston-Salem, Hubert Hurkacz, and Benoit Paire.
However, Hurkacz is another coming here straight off the clay, while long-term readers will know my views on the mercurial Paire. Both are too short for me on this occasion.
Ugo a go-go
The bet I like the most in Metz is Ugo Humbert down in the bottom half – I simply can’t resist him at 33/1.
Another Frenchman, the lefty loves a fast surface where he’s capable of fending off opponents with his serve.
He posted impressive service numbers indoors in Marseille earlier this season when he made a run to the semi-finals.
Notably he had won a Challenger the week before that effort – and that’s exactly what he’s done ahead of this tournament too, winning the title in Istanbul over the weekend.
Metz singles draw feat. Goffin, Hurkacz, Tsonga and Pouille. pic.twitter.com/aB1lDcRXRR
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) September 14, 2019
Herbert lost only one set in Turkey and was in dominant form. Eight of the 11 sets he contested, he won by a scoreline of 6-2 or better.
While that was admittedly outdoors, it has to be considered good preparation and it shouldn’t take long for him to adapt to the friendly conditions, particularly given he was born and bred in the city and now lives just a few miles away in nearby Luxembourg.
Humbert also showed his propensity for a slick court when reaching the last 16 of Wimbledon and the semis in Newport, so I’m definitely keen to get him on my coupon.
Opening against a qualifier, Humbert should face second seed Nikoloz Basilashvili in round two. However, the Georgian has done little on indoor hard since a final run in Memphis in 2017 and looks beatable.
Jan Lennard-Struff and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, two I also considered in this section, are both potential quarter-final opponents, while Lucas Pouille may await in the last four.
Perhaps these names explain his quote. However, none of them would start against Humbert as a massive favourite and the 33/1 looks to have plenty of value attached to it.
Ugo Humbert each way –
Gilles Simon each way –
St Petersburg Open
St Petersburg, Russia (indoor hard)
Conditions in St Petersburg are usually pretty slow on the event’s Rebound Ace surface which was introduced when the tournament moved venue in 2015.
Damir Dzumhur and Dominic Thiem are the last two winners and that says much.
Players capable of grinding out the points could go well, while having some flat-hitting power to get the ball through the court is another bonus.
Take on top two
I’m certainly ready to take on the top two in the market, namely Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov.
Both are from the host nation which probably explains why they are here.
Medvedev returns to action just over a week after playing for nearly five hours in the US Open final, the most physically and mentally draining match of his life.
Of course, that came after a month featuring an incredible amount of tennis, Medvedev having played in three finals in as many weeks in the lead up to Flushing Meadows.
I find it very difficult to think he’ll be anywhere near his best this week and it would be no surprise to see him flop out well before the latter stages. At 9/4, he has to be taken on.
Neither would it be a shock to see Khachanov head through the exit door early.
The 23-year-old became a father for the first time on Saturday and I’d suggest he will be a) tired and b) have other things than tennis on his mind.
Berankis has the tools
Many punters believe in the ‘nappy factor’ adding motivation to new dads but while that may kick in somewhere down the line, this week feels too soon, especially given Khachanov hasn’t exactly set the world alight this season. At 9/2, he’s too short.
Borna Coric (6/1) is another who hasn’t hit the heights too regularly and he’s been hindered by injury in recent times, while Andrey Rublev remains a good talent who lacks the consistency – I can’t back him at 8/1.
It could well pay to look down the market in search of a big-priced winner/finalist here and I’ll start by picking out Ricardas Berankis.
The Lithuanian is a proven performer on indoor hard. He reached the quarter-finals here in 2017 and a month later made the final in Moscow where conditions are pretty similar.
Last season he made the last eight in both Metz and Moscow, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the former and taking the aforementioned Medvedev the distance in the latter. He ended the year by reaching back-to-back Challenger finals indoors.
St. Petersburg singles draw pic.twitter.com/XJewZ0ET9y
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) September 15, 2019
He did beat Medvedev earlier this season in Dubai and recently won a Challenger title in Vancouver on hardcourts, boosting his confidence heading into what is as close to a home event as he can get.
Berankis has that flat-hitting ability which can rush opponents on a sluggish surface and he looks a dangerous floater in Medvedev’s quarter.
He could first have to beat Rublev, which helps explains why he’s out at 40/1, but I’m prepared to have a small punt at that price.
Back Sinner in Saint Petersburg
I’ll do the same with rising teenage star Jannik Sinner in the bottom half at 50s.
The Italian has caught the eye of many at Challenger Tour level and this 250 tournament looks exactly the sort of event at which the 18-year-old will make his breakthrough at some point.
It could be this week – if he can see off Mikhail Kukushkin, champion in 2010, first up.
Sinner, who has been helped to this point by renowned coach Ricardo Piatti, has won on indoor hard on the Challenger Tour this season and has also picked up his first two top-100 wins.
Most recently he fully tested top-25 star Stan Wawrinka at the US Open, taking him to four sets, losing one of those on a tie-break.
That will have given the 18-year-old added belief and he can prove his talent in a quarter which could see him face Khachanov in the last eight.
Ricardas Berankis each way –
Jannik Sinner each way –