Tie-break in Alexei Popyrin v Botic van de Vandschulp at +120 at bet365
Gilles Simon to beat Laslo Djere at +160 at Caesars Sportsbook
Ilya Marchenko to beat Alexander Bublik at +190 at BetMGM
Mackenzie McDonald (each way) in ATP Moscow at +1800 at bet365
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|ATP Moscow & Antwerp Information|
|What||ATP Kremlin Cup and ATP European Open|
|Location||Moscow, Russia; Antwerp, Belgium|
|Time||Monday, October 18 to Sunday, October 24|
|How to Watch||Tennis Channel|
I’ll start my selections with a tie-break bet in Antwerp where the courts should play faster than their counterparts in Moscow, the other venue this week.
The greens won’t be lightning fast but it will have a bit in it for the servers and these pair are two of the biggest in the European Open field.
Popyrin has held serve 85% of the time on hard courts over the past year and Van de Zandschulp 80%.
Popyrin’s last indoor appearance came in Singapore towards the start of the season and he won the title, serving 60 aces in his five matches.
Five of his 12 sets that week went to a tie-break.
His Dutch foe arrives here not long after a surprise run to the quarter-finals of the US Open so confidence will be high as he heads indoors – and he won two Challenger titles with a roof over his head in 2020.
Like Popyrin, he should produce plenty of unreturnable serves in this contest.
I put Simon up in this column a few weeks ago at a decent price. He came within a game of victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Metz but ultimately lost to continue a poor run of results.
The Frenchman has won just three matches at tour level all season but I’m still prepared to give him another chance in Moscow.
As was the case behind the previous Simon selection, that’s primarily due to his opponent’s disappointing form in these conditions.
Djere plays most of his tennis on clay and his record on indoor hard leaves a lot to be desired – he’s 4-12 across the course of his career.
Admittedly the majority of those victories have come in recent weeks but I still believe Simon’s greater natural indoor ability can win the day here.
The former top-10 star has suffered a lot of narrow losses and there’s a real feeling that one victory could turn things around for him.
I feel he’s got a better chance of doing that than odds of +160 suggest and will back him accordingly.
Another underdog I like the look of this week in Marchenko, a player who qualified in Moscow without losing a set.
Despite the fairly sluggish courts, he lost his serve only twice in those two matches.
Bublik would prefer conditions much quicker. His big serve will still win him points but not as many as he’s used to getting elsewhere.
He had to withdraw from both Sofia and Indian Wells due to a shoulder problem. If that’s not healed completely, that’s another problem for him on serve.
Bublik isn’t the most mentally strong character and another potential problem I see for him this week is the fact the tournament is being played at new venues. Before you question my grammar, I use the plural correctly – the Kremlin Cup is being staged at two separate arenas, the Palace of Gymnastics (which holds the Centre Court) and the Luzhniki Sports Palace (host of the other two match courts).
It would be no surprise to me if there were grumblings about the two venues playing differently and that’s the sort of thing I can see bothering Bublik.
Interestingly, he’s down to play doubles in the Sports Palace on Monday but, as fifth seed, I’d expect him to face Marchenko in the main arena on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The game handicap may be worth a look but I’ll take a punt on Marchenko, who beat Andy Murray indoors earlier this season, to claim the upset win at +190.
The top four seeds in Moscow and Antwerp all get a first-round bye so it’s worth a look at which of them may struggle in their opening match.
Diego Schwartzman, the second seed in Antwerp, will have to play either Andy Murray or Frances Tiafoe in Belgium and that looks awkward, although I’m not convinced he’ll be a heavy favourite if favourite at all.
A better bet will likely be to oppose the second seed in Moscow, namely Aslan Karatsev.
He’s not played indoors in 11 months and there’s a good reason for that – he’s won just two of 11 matches at tour level in such conditions.
Karatsev must also get over last week’s 6-1 6-3 shellacking by Hubert Hurkacz in Indian Wells.
I can see him losing, whoever he plays in round two – it will be one of Miomir Kecmanovic or Egor Gerasimov, the qualifier who made the last eight here in 2018.
American Mackenzie McDonald made his first ATP final in Washington earlier this year and he’s a tempting price to back that up in Moscow this week.
He looks well drawn, falling in the same quarter of the draw as Karatsev and Simon (both mentioned above).
Ideally, he’d probably want conditions a bit faster than they are but he did win on a similar surface at the Challenger Tour event in Nur-Sultan earlier in the year.
Andrey Rublev is the firm favourite in the field but he’s on the other side of the draw and so McDonald looks a decent piece of each-way business.
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Andy is a sports journalist of more than 20 years’ experience and is a former betting editor of the UK-based website, Sporting Life. He has specialized in tennis for many years, previewing hundreds of ATP Tour events and reporting from tournaments such as the ATP Finals and Davis Cup final. Andy has also covered numerous other sports, with a particular interest in soccer and cricket.More info on Andy Schooler
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