The European indoor hard-court season begins in earnest this week with events in Metz and St. Petersburg and we have you covered in terms of the betting.
US Open semi-finalist Kei Nishikori headlines at the Moselle Open, and in truth he’s a pretty short price considering he has yet to take down a title in 2018.
Nishikori has been pretty consistent this season but this is his first ever appearance in Metz and one wonders how he will go on a Greenset surface that’s not particularly quick. With this in mind I would not like to be lumping on the Japanese star at odds that look a little prohibitive.
Even though there are no Top 10 players in the field there are some big names and the story of the week is definitely the return of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga has won Metz three times, most recently in 2015, but he has played just six matches all season and as a result his ranking has dropped well outside of the top 50.
He will have the fans onside this week but it would be a huge ask of him to claim another title here, especially given that he starts against German Peter Gojowczyk, who was a surprise winner last year and who will be desperate to defend ranking points.
Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet have been playing Metz since way back in 2004 and both have enjoyed fantastic careers, yet given Gasquet has yet to win here it’s hard to see why he’s a 6/1 second favourite.
Seeded second is Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has enjoyed a genuine breakout year and looks like a player who will be a fixture on the ATP circuit for years to come.
Tsitsipas generated some huge buzz at the recent Rogers Cup, becoming the youngest player in history to take down four Top 10 players in a row at an event. The Greek also made a quarter-final run at Wimbledon and is now ranked 15 in the world.
Tsitsipas should be a real handful indoors and given he is fit and fresh he might be worth a punt at 11/2 in France.
In St. Petersburg it will be an emotional week for Mikhail Youzhny, the Russian battler who brings down the curtain on a terrific career after one last hurrah at an event he has played every year since 2000.
Youzhny won his home event in 2004 and has a 34-14 lifetime record in St. Petersburg. Incurable romantics can get 80/1 that he finishes his career with a fairytale title win, but it looks a big, big ask as there is some serious talent heading to the Russian port city on the Baltic Sea.
Dominic Thiem is the top seed and proved his game is in fine order by pushing Rafael Nadal to a final set tiebreak in their US Open quarter-final a few weeks ago. Stan Wawrinka is also involved but he’s not really shown any real consistency in 2018, certainly not enough to justify a punt at 7/1.
Damir Dzumhur made history last season as he claimed both ATP tournaments in Russia in a single season. However since taking down the St. Petersburg and Moscow titles during an inspired spell, his game has not looked particularly solid.
A more realistic ‘home hope’ would be Karen Khachanov, who has reached his highest ever ranking this week of 25. A tall, imposing powerhouse of a player with a huge forehand (very much in the Marat Safin mould), Khachanov loves nothing more than to hit through players and he looks to have big claims this week at 7/1.
Bilko’s Banker: Stefanos Tsitsipas to win the Moselle Open at 11/2 (888 Sport)
Best of the Rest: Karen Khachanov to win St. Petersburg at 7/1 (bet365)
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