(1)Gael Monfils d (2)Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-4
1, 2, 3, NS
SEEDS: ONE & DONE (1st Match Loss)
2 out of 7 (4,5)
ADELAIDE NEWS & NOTES
*Since returning as a regular tour stop in 2020, Adelaide has been won by a top four seed both times it’s taken place. Andrey Rublev won as the 3rd seed in 2020 and Monfils as the top seed in 2022. Both seeds were heavy favorites in the title match with Rublev winning at 1.31 (-322) and Monfils at 1.60 (-167).
*Underdog winners have been more readily found early on at this stop. In 2022, seven of the eleven dog winners came in the opening round with the biggest winner at 2.91 (+191). That rated as the biggest dog scalp of the entire tournament with only one underdog winning from the quarterfinals through to the final. In 2020, four of the seven dog hits came in round one. The largest was at 3.30 (+230) with the biggest of the tournament coming in round two at 3.82 (+282). There were just two dog hits from the quarterfinals-final in 2020.
*Three set matches have hit around a 33% clip in Adelaide these past two runs. Ten of the 27 (37%) matches played in 2022 required three sets to settle things, while 2020 saw nine of 27 (33%) doing the same.
*Tie breaks haven’t been a huge play in Adelaide. In 2022, only eight of the 64 sets played (12.5%) required a tie break. 2020 saw more with 14 out of 63 sets played for a 22% clip. Those stats might be a bit misleading as far as how the courts themselves play as most rate Adelaide as “fast” regarding the overall court speed. Big servers are still going to be a better hold bet here, so guessing on tie breaks should be more of a matchup oriented approach in my opinion.
*This group of 32 players is absolutely loaded for a 250-level event. The field is led by Novak Djokovic who makes his return to Australia after last year’s fiasco that kept the Serb from playing down under. All eight of the seeds are ranked inside the top 20 with the field sporting half of its entrants ranked inside the top 50.
*Rublev, Auger-Aliassime and Khachanov own some of the best experience in the brief history of this tournament. Rublev of course being the tops in that category after winning the title in 2020. Auger-Aliassime made the semifinals here that same year and Khachanov finished as the runner-up in 2022.
*Djokovic starts the season just 2,000 points shy of current #1 Carlos Alcaraz with an easy path to pushing back towards the top spot thanks for his absence from this segment of the calendar in 2022. The Serb has won the title at four of the last five ATP events he has played dating back to Wimbledon in 2022. Nole did play in Adelaide way back in 2007 when it was known as the Next Generationa Adelaide International. He won the title, just the third of his career at that time.
*Medvedev is also seeking a bounce back after he elevated himself to the #1 spot in February, only to wind up finishing the season at #7 after an up and down year. Medvedev won just two singles titles in 2022 and had a disappointing Slam season after blowing the two sets to none lead over Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open. Meddy would not make it past round four at the French and U.S. Opens.
*Rune will be an intriguing watch early on after his massive push at the end of the season which saw him make stun Djokovic to take the Paris Masters title. Rune snagged 21 of his 50 wins indoors, 20 of which came after the U.S. Open. The Dane only went 8-9 on outdoor hard courts in 2022 and lost his Adelaide main draw debut to Corentin Moutet.
FIRST ROUND BANGERS
With such a strong field, there are plenty of dangerous unseeded players in this field and that means strong opening round matches. Here are the highlight ones for me.
*Kecmanovic vs O’Connell
This won’t catch the eye of many, but O’Connell is an Aussie with a big serve to monitor early on. He’s normally been able to compete well in these “home” tournaments and push the favored players to have to play a quality match to beat him. In this portion of the season in 2022, O’Connell lost a tough three set battle against Jordan Thompson to start play in Melbourne and dropped another three setter against Sebastian Baez in Sydney the following week. That set him up for a couple of wins at the Australian Open, including an upset of Diego Schwartzman. Kecmanovic had a nice bounce back season in 2022 with 40 wins after scoring just 17 in 2021. He split a pair of matches in his opening tournament in Sydney before making a nice push into the fourth round at the Aussie Open. This one could be a handy look at something going over the posted total that currently sits at 22.5.
*Kokkinakis vs Cressy
This one should be fun. Kokkinakis played very well in Adelaide across both tournaments held at this site in 2022 with a semifinal showing in the first and his maiden ATP title in the second. Six of his eight matches in Adelaide needed three sets to settle. These two have split a pair of meetings, with one in qualifying at Wimbledon in 2021 that favored Cressy and the other at the Challenger level in 2019 that went to Kokkinakis. The Aussie is the slight favorite here, but it’s tough to know if he’ll come out firing. He ended 2022 on a down note with four straight tour losses and a couple of straight sets defeats at the Davis Cup finals. Cressy played very well in this stretch to start 2022 with a run through qualifying to the Melbourne final with the American winning nine main draw matches in the Aussie swing, including a fourth round run at the Australian Open. Cressy’s serve & volley style can be tough to face when he’s crushing his first serve and the season opener might be the toughest time to have to face a different style.
*Murray vs Korda
This is one everyone will have circled. Murray starts the season ranked just inside the top 50 after battling to a 30-21 record in 2022. This will be the second time he’s seen Korda with the American holding the win over him after a three set win indoors in Gijon last Fall. Andy got some nice reps in just before Christmas by playing in the “Battle of the Brits” where he beat Jack Draper in three sets and loss to Dan Evans in three sets. At 22, Korda finished last season strong with back-to-back finals in Gijon and Antwerp, but he struggled for consistency most of the season. This is only his second trip to Australia, so the experience edge lies with Murray. Based on their last meeting and how we saw both struggle to maintain consistent levels from set to set and match to match, three sets might be worth a look in this one rather than guessing which player edges it out for the win.
*Rublev vs Bautista Agut
It’s 4-4 after eight career matches between the fourth seeded Russian and the unseeded Spaniard. They did not meet in 2022 after seeing each other three times in 2021 with Rublev taking two of three. On hard courts, RBA has won four of five against Rublev. That shouldn’t be a shock with the Spaniard normally playing some of his best tennis on this surface. The last hard court meeting between these two was in 2021 in Doha with RBA winning in straights. Adelaide should favor Rublev’s desire to pound the forehand on his plus one shot to do damage, but we know RBA can defend the baseline with the best of them. Rublev has the competitive advantage to start perhaps because of the reps he got in Abu Dhabi, but given Bautista Agut’s success on hard courts against Rublev, he could at least grab a set in this one if not grabbing an outright win.
*Rune vs. Nishioka
Nishioka played Adelaide last year, so he’s familiar with these courts as Rune makes his debut here for 2023. Nishioka is a tough player to gauge from week to week. He’s got amazing court coverage defensively, so he’s got the ability to frustrate players with his defense. The twist off for Nishioka usually revolves around the consistency of his serve. He’s never going to blow you off the court with his power, but if he’s accurate, he sets up his offense to have his opponent chasing from the plus one shot onward. It’s hard not to be impressed by what Rune did to end 2022, but new season – who ‘dis? Is it that Rune who finished with a flurry or the Rune who was a bit middling throughout the rest of 2022? His attitude rubs some wrong, but Rune is a fiery guy with self belief and that can go a long way. I’d rather sit this one out to start as it could go any which way from a Rune blowlout to Nishioka taking it perhaps in three sets.
All eyes fall to Djokovic in this quarter with Shapovalov as the other seed. And even though the Canadian has had a few moments against the Serb, he’s 0-7 overall with just two sets won out of 18 played. Don’t be surprised if the quarterfinals stay seeded with these two that Shapovalov can at least keep it close. They’ve played a couple times at the ATP Cup early in the season in 2020 and 2021 with Shapovalov pushing it to three once and losing 7-5, 7-5 in the other clash. Do monitor the end of qualifying today as things could be interesting with Shapovalov waiting to see one in the opening round. There are a lot of tough potential outs waiting with the likes of Popyrin, Saifullin, Pospisil, Kwon, Daniel, Hijikata and Duckworth still alive or a spot in the main draw.
Mikal Ymer would be the unseeded player I’m watching in this section. He played Adelaide last year and pushed Kokkinakis to three sets in the quarterfinals.
ONE & DONE WATCH: Qualifer over (7)Shapovalov
This Russian-led quarter sees Medvedev and Khachanov as the seeds. I do see some danger among the unseeded players with Jack Draper drawing the biggest attention. He’s in the bottom half with Khachanov and would relish another shot at Khachanov after being forced to retire in their meeting at last year’s U.S. Open. It would certainly be a bit disappointing not to get that match in the second round. Medvedev should be careful with Sonego in round one as the Italian has the big serve/forehand combination that can succeed on this surface. All things being equal, we know Medvedev wins that match if he’s playing at a high level.
Draper is the floater to watch as he could certainly push himself into contention for a spot in the final eight.
ONE & DONE WATCH: Sonego over (3)Medvedev
Bangers abound in this section as it looks to be perhaps the most competitive quarter in Adelaide. Rublev and Sinner are the seeds. Sinner likely has the better opener against Edmund who is still looking to find his best tennis after missing nearly two years of action due to leg injuries. Sinner against either Kokkinakis or Cressy will be a cracker in round two. Kokkinakis nearly knocked off Sinner in Cincinnati last Summer, while Cressy pushed him to three sets at a Challenger back in 2019. There is definite upset potential there as well as the bottom with Rublev with a tough opener against Bautista Agut. Survival there means a date with the Korda-Murray survivor. Rublev is 2-0 against Korda and 1-1 against Murray with the loss coming to Andy way back at the 2017 Australian Open and the win coming more recently in 2021.
Kokkinakis shapes up as the unseeded risk for everyone in this section. He’ll have the home support and confidence from his runs here in 2022.
ONE & DONE WATCH: Bautista Agut over (4)Rublev
This one projects to an Auger-Aliassime vs Rune quarterfinal and nobody would be mad at seeing that match-up. Felix awaits a qualifer in round one, while Rune knows he has NIshioka to start. The other opening round matches should both be solid with McDonald against Galan and Gasquet taking on Giron. Do any of those four have a shot to take out a seed? I think early in the season, you can always say yes. Gasquet played Felix tough in their lone meeting last year that was settled in a pair of tie break sets in Antwerp, while Giron took a set off him on grass in Halle. I’d give McDonald a slightly better shot against Rune in round two than Galan. All in all though if the seeds are consistent, this does look primed for an Auger-Aliassime vs Rune quarterfinal. The split two indoor matches last Fall, so this would be interesting to see how it goes outdoors. I’d give Felix the slight edge.
Gasquet is my guy to watch out for as far as the outliers. I’m not sure he’ll hold up over three sets against Felix or Rune to be a true threat, but he knows how to compete hard. It’s the fitness and fatigue that would be the worry.
ONE & DONE WATCH: Nishioka over (5)Rune
There is no automatic pick in this draw. While Djokovic will certainly have the drive and desire, having Medvedev in his half could be lethal. Djokovic has won four of the last five since the Australian Open in 2021, but only that match saw Meddy fail to take a set. Those two look the obvious threats in the top half for the finals’ spot. In the bottom, good luck with that third quarter if you’re looking at Rublev or Sinner. I’d be more tempted to try Sinner, but he hasn’t match well against Auger-Aliassime.
Djokovic at 1.71 (-140) may not seem that wise with Medvedev in the way, but you can always hedge yourself if they play straight up in the semifinals. Medvedev was 3.29 (+229) the last time they met at the Tour Finals. Rune certainly holds an intriguing price at 12.0 (+1100) if you believe that he’s still the guy you saw end 2022. If you’re looking to hit the dart board with a long shot, it seems better to look in the bottom half. That third quarter has so many tough unseeded players, it could yield a surprise at a large price. Bautista Agut at 41.0 (+4000) could be handy if you believe he can knock off Rublev to start. Kokkinakis at 67.0 (+6600) is the other one that sticks out with his success in Adelaide last year.
My strategy for 2023 is to take two each tournament. I’m firmly against taking players at less than even odds as far as the outright market is concerned, so even though I think Djokovic may well win this; he is a hard pass for me as far as price. I could regret the strategy I’m testing out this week in Adelaide, but I’m going with two guys who finished 2022 red hot and who both continued that in the exhibition messes in December. They’re in the same quarter which means one is guaranteed to lose, but let’s test it out and see what’s what.
Let’s Eat in 2023, stay piggy my friends.
Auger-Aliassime 8.50 (+750)
Rune 12.0 (+1100)