ATP Tennis Betting: Sock can land maiden hard court title in Auckland

The second week of the 2017 ATP World Tour season features two ATP 250 tournaments in Australasia, as the build-up to the Australian Open continues.

Last week we were rather let down by Bernard Tomic (not for the first time), with the Aussie complaining, somewhat unbelievably, of ‘over-training’ and sickness in a feeble loss to David Ferrer. 

We got a better run for our money with Benoit Paire though until the Frenchman lost in the semi finals to Roberto Bautista Agut, who played pretty well and kept up the recent Chennai ‘curse’ of only top four seeds winning that title. 

ASB Classic – Auckland
Starting with the ASB Classic in Auckland, we have a 32-man field for this ATP 250 event, which is played on a Plexicushion outdoor hard surface that’s the same one that’ll be used in Melbourne.

It’s a fairly quick surface usually, but the players do have to contend with quite a strong wind – as you’d expect in the City of Sails – and a variety of players have won here in recent years, from the big-serving John Isner (twice) to David Ferrer (three times) and Jiri Vesely.

Top seed and defending champion this time around is Roberto Bautista-Agut, while Ferrer, Isner and Vesely are also back, along with former finalists Jack Sock, Adrian Mannarino and Yen-Hsun Lu. 

The draw appears to have almost divided the big-servers from the rest, with Isner, Sock, Stevie Johnson, Ryan Harrison and Feli Lopez all set to slug it out in the bottom half, while RBA, Ferrer, Joao Sousa and Albert Ramos contest the top half.

And that makes it tricky to call that bottom half, but Lopez has an awful record at this time of the year, so he’s overlooked, while Johnson looked well off the pace in Sydney last week. 

It seems to point to an Isner v Sock semi final to me and with Sock having won three of the last five and likely to be sharper after warming up in Hopman Cup last week he gets the nod.

Sock played well in Perth, beating Lopez and Nick Kyrgios and losing from match point up against Richard Gasquet, plus he was also a finalist here in Auckland a year ago, but had to retire due to sickness.

The American is due a hard court title and this looks a pretty decent chance to add to his only main level tournament win, which came on the clay of Houston in 2015.

The top half looks quite open, with RBA unlikely to fancy another long week ahead of Melbourne and Ferrer's best days seemingly behind him, so it may pay to take a chance on one of the two former finalists Mannarino and Vesely, but neither particularly appeals to me as a bet this week, so Sock will be my man in Auckland.

Apia International – Sydney

Over in Sydney they also play on a Plexicushion outdoor hard surface, which is also quite lively these days, as are the balls, and of course the heat can be a major factor here.

Viktor Troicki comes here as two-time defending champion and he has a superb record in Sydney of 17-3 (including qualies), but surely the Serb can’t win this three times in a row? 

He’s certainly been given the draw to do it, with a first round opponent of either Flo Mayer or Paulo Lorenzi and Philipp Kohlschreiber as a probable last eight opponent. 

Pablo Cuevas is the high seed in that bottom half, but I’d expect that the winner of Gilles Muller and Alexandr Dolgopolov will stand a better chance of winning, while Kyle Edmund has a shot too in that quarter of the draw.

I’m yet to be convinced by Edmund in the extreme heat and humidity of Australia, but if he’s able to handle it this time the Brit has a decent chance in Cuevas’ section of the draw. 

Another one who struggles in this sort of heat is Martin Klizan, who’s at the bottom of the top half of the draw and this half looks pretty open, with Dominic Thiem far from certain to be looking for anything more than court time this week. 

The Austrian retired here a year ago and Sydney has seen its fair share of unheralded finalists in recent years, including Troicki, Mikhail Kukushkin, Jarkko Nieminen, Julien Benneteau and Tomic. 

Troicki and Kukushkin were both qualifiers when they clashed in the 2015 final, so it’s not a bad tournament to look for a big-priced finalist in, with Andrey Kuznetsov one for the shortlist. 

The attack-minded Russian faces a big-hitting battle with Klizan first up, so it’s a risk, but Kuznetsov has a decent record in Australia, making the fourth round in Melbourne last year before losing in four sets to Gael Monfils.

He played pretty well in defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in Doha and he’ll be keen to get some match time under his belt before Melbourne.

There’s nobody in his quarter to be afraid of, with Pablo Carreno Busta the top seed (Kuznetsov has won two of their three meetings) and if Thiem doesn’t go deep that top half of the draw looks very open indeed.

Fernando Verdasco will have his backers after Doha, but the Spaniard has only twice in his career made a final the week before a major and the last of those was seven years ago.

Pablo Carreno Busta is yet to win a main level match in Australia, but made great strides on hard courts last year and he’ll surely be the main threat to Kuznetsov in that second quarter. 

There are plenty in with chances this week and my money is going with Sock and Kuznetsov at 5.0 and 21.0. 

Best Bets
2 point win Jack Sock to win Auckland at 5.0
½ point each way Kuznetsov to win Sydney at 21.0