Next Gen ATP Finals preview and best bets

Next Gen ATP Finals preview and best bets

Andy Schooler ends a profitable 2023 tennis season by previewing the Next Gen ATP Finals which get under way in Jeddah on Tuesday.

Andy Schooler’s tennis previews delivered outright winners at 40/1, 13/1, 20/1 and 16/1 in October, followed by 11/2 and 11/8 winners so far in November – follow him on twitter @SchoolerSport

Tennis betting tips: Next Gen ATP Finals

2pts Arthur Fils to win the title at 3/1 (BetVictor, LiveScoreBet)

1pt Dominic Stricker to win the Green Group at 11/4 (Sky Bet)

1pt Alex Michelsen to win the Red Group at 2/1 (General)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook


Next Gen ATP Finals

  • Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (indoor hard)

The Saudis have taken over golf. Is tennis next on the list?

If that is to happen, then this week is the first step with the ATP Tour having chosen Jeddah as the host venue for their tournament which showcases young, upcoming talent – the Next Gen ATP Finals.

The event, staged successfully in Milan since 2017, features the best 21-and-under players of the season. Or at least that’s the theory.

In reality, the best four players in that bracket actually won’t be in attendance – Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune were so good they qualified for the main ATP Finals, while Ben Shelton and Lorenzo Musetti have both opted for a longer off-season. Given this event runs into December, the same month the 2024 season begins, it’s hard to blame them.

It leaves a weaker field than last year. Twelve months ago there were three top-50 players in attendance; this year just the one.

As with any new venue, it’s hard to know exactly what conditions will be.

What we do know is that they will play on a Greenset indoor hardcourt at King Abdullah Sports City and it’s usually played pretty quick when they’ve staged this tournament in Milan.

That sits in line with the event’s ‘guinea pig’ status in terms of rule innovations, most of which set out to shorten everything.

This is where the shot clock was born and there will be only 15 seconds between points if the previous point was less than three shots. Also, it’s just eight seconds between first and second serve.

This year, there will not even be an on-court warm-up. In short, get on with it.

The scoring format used here is also different to the regular tour.

They play ‘Fast4’ tennis which means it’s the first to four games, who wins the set. They play over the best-of-five sets. In addition, there is no ad-scoring so if a game gets to deuce, it’s next point wins (the server has the choice of which side to serve from).

The format makes tie-breaks much more likely – they come after six games, rather than 12 – and I’ve long been of the opinion that you want to back a player with a good tie-break record.

Last year, 13 of the 15 matches featured a breaker, while seven of them saw two or more.

One thing that is familiar is the round-robin nature of the tournament. Like the recent ATP Finals in Turin, the eight players are split into two groups of four with the top two in each progressing to Friday’s semi-finals.

Let’s take a look at the eight contenders…

GREEN GROUP

Arthur Fils

  • Best odds: Title – 3/1; Group – 11/8
  • Race position: 5
  • Ranking: 36
  • 2023 win-loss record (tour level): 19-17
  • 2023 best performances: W Lyon, RU Antwerp, SF Hamburg, Montpellier & Marseille
  • Recent form: L64 Paris, L32 Vienna, RU Antwerp, L32 Shanghai
  • Record v group opponents:
  • v Stricker – overall: 0-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2023: 0-0
    v Cobolli – no previous meetings
    v Nardi – no previous meetings

Looks a worthy favourite given he accumulated almost twice as many ranking points in 2023 as his nearest rival in this field.

The world number 36 is the only top-60 player in Jeddah and the only one to have already claimed an ATP title, doing so on the clay of Lyon in May.

However, he’s also shown his ability in faster, indoor conditions, reaching the recent Antwerp final, as well as semi-finals in both Montpellier and Marseille earlier in the year.

Holds a fine tie-break record, winning 67% of those he’s played in 2023, while his tour-level holds-and-breaks total figure of 101 is the best in this group. For the record, that’s the service-hold percentage (81%) added to the return-games won percentage (20%).

Dominic Stricker

  • Best odds: Title – 6/1; Group – 11/4
  • Race position: 7
  • Ranking: 94
  • 2023 win-loss record (tour level): 7-8
  • 2023 best performances: W Prague (CH), Rovereto (CH), QF Basel, L16 US Open
  • Recent form: L16 Ismaning (CH), QF Basel, L32 Antwerp, L32 Bratislava (CH), L32 Mouilleron le Captif
  • Record v group opponents:
  • v Fils – overall: 1-0; indoor hard: 0-0; 2023: 0-0
    v Cobolli – no previous meetings
    v Nardi – overall: 0-1; indoor hard: 0-1; 2023: 0-1

Stricker is the only player in the field with previous experience of this event with its differing rules and group-stage element.

He made the semi-finals in Milan 12 months ago where his big serving propelled him to some impressive victories. That shot has helped him win 61% of his tie-breaks in 2023 and that could be significant this week.

What has been notable about the early stages of the Swiss’ career is his love of the big stage. While he’s struggled at times at lower levels, when given the opportunity at tour level, he’s often taken it.

A run to the last 16 of the US Open is a case in point, while he’s already racked up a fine 11-10 win-loss record against top-50 players, not bad for a man who is yet to be ranked higher than 88.

However, Stricker will need to lift himself when in the Jeddah spotlight as he’s won only three of 10 matches since his US Open heroics, his relatively weak return of serve proving a problem.

Flavio Cobolli

  • Best odds: Title – 16/1; Group – 8/1
  • Race position: 9
  • Ranking: 100
  • 2023 win-loss record (tour level): 4-5
  • 2023 best performances: W Lisbon (CH), RU Olbia (CH), QF Munich, L16 Umag
  • Recent form: SF Daneryd (CH), L32 Helsinki (CH), L32 Bergamo (CH), RU Olbia (CH), QF Malaga (CH), W Lisbon (CH), SF Sibiu (CH), QF Szczecin (CH)
  • Record v group opponents:
  • v Fils – no previous meetings
    v Stricker – no previous meetings
    v Nardi – overall: 1-0; indoor hard: 0-0; 2023: 1-0

Like many of the Italian players, Cobolli plays the majority of his tennis on clay and that will be a problem this week

In faster, indoor conditions, Cobolli had lost six such matches in a row until he won a couple at a Challenger event in Sweden earlier this month, although one of those was against the world number 468.

On the positive side, he does hold the best return-games-won percentage in the field, although that is arguably a reflection of playing so much on clay.

It will be harder to break serve here and with players of Fils and Stricker’s calibre in this group, it’s hard to see the 21-year-old making progress.

Luca Nardi

  • Best odds: Title – 9/1; Group – 9/2
  • Race position: 11
  • Ranking: 115
  • 2023 win-loss record (tour level): 1-5
  • 2023 best performances: W Matsuyama (CH), W Porto (CH), RU Pune (CH), L32 Monte Carlo
  • Recent form: QF Yokohama (CH), SF Kobe (CH), W Matsuyama (CH), L32 Brest (CH), L32 Antwerp, SF Bratislava (CH), QF Mouilleron le Captif (CH), L16 Orleans (CH), L32 Saint-Tropez (CH), L32 Rennes (CH)
  • Record v group opponents:
  • v Fils – no previous meetings
    v Stricker – overall: 1-0; indoor hard: 1-0; 2023: 1-0
    v Cobolli – overall: 0-1; indoor hard: 0-0; 2023: 0-1

Unlike his compatriot Cobolli, Nardi does have something of a track record on indoor hardcourts – he’s made two Challenger semi-finals on the surface since the US Open.

However, he won only one match at tour level this season and with players of much greater experience at that level in this group, it’s asking a lot for Nardi to progress to the last four.

His shortcomings at tour level have been particularly exposed on serve with only 65% of service games one, meaning opponents are breaking, on average, more than once every three games.

A return-games-won figure of 16% also suggests the Italian will be going home early.

RED GROUP

Luca van Assche

  • Best odds: Title – 15/2; Group – 11/5
  • Race position: 6
  • Ranking: 70
  • 2023 win-loss record (tour level): 10-17
  • 2023 best performances: W San Remo (CH), Pau (CH), SF Orleans (CH), QF Metz, Hamburg
  • Recent form: QF Metz, L64 Paris, L128 Shanghai, SF Orleans (CH)
  • Record v group opponents:
  • No previous meetings

I’ve already explained how crucial tie-breaks could be this week and so the statistic which stands out for van Assche is that he’s won 69% of his breakers this season.

Remarkably, the figure actually rises to 72% when you include only tour-level matches.

Won a Challenger title on indoor hard back in the spring and recently made the last eight in Metz on the main tour so while these probably aren’t his ideal conditions, van Assche should still go well.

Alex Michelsen

  • Best odds: Title – 13/2; Group – 2/1
  • Race position: 8
  • Ranking: 97
  • 2023 win-loss record (tour level): 7-5
  • 2023 best performances: W Knoxville (CH), Chicago (CH), RU Newport, Champaign (CH), Rome (CH), L16 Winston-Salem
  • Recent form: RU Champaign (CH), W Knoxville (CH), L32 Charlottesville (CH), QF Fairfield (CH), L16 Tiburon (CH), SF Cary (CH)
  • Record v group opponents:
  • No previous meetings

Michelsen made his big breakthrough with a run to the Newport final on grass in the summer, an effort which clearly shows he likes the faster conditions – his serve can be a real weapon.

The American hasn’t played at tour level since the US Open but has been racking up the wins on indoor hard, claiming a Challenger Tour crown in his homeland.

Is another player with a fine tie-break record – 68% have been won this season – while another stand-out stat is that he has the best holds-and-breaks total in the field at tour level (104).

As long as he’s settled into new surroundings (a lot of the American players have traditionally struggled away from home) then Michelsen has a shot at this, especially given he’s landed in what looks the weaker group.

Hamad Medjedovic

  • Best odds: Title – 15/2; Group – 11/4
  • Race position: 10
  • Ranking: 110
  • 2023 win-loss record (tour level): 7-7
  • 2023 best performances: W Mallorca (CH), Mauthausen (CH), Szekesfehervar (CH), SF Astana, Gstaad
  • Recent form: L16 Danderyd (CH), L32 Sofia, Q1 Basel, Q1 Antwerp, SF Astana
  • Record v group opponents:
  • No previous meetings

The Serb was a late arrival in Jeddah but that’s because he was part of his nation’s Davis Cup team which was involved in the semi-finals in Malaga on Saturday.

That means he’s not had a great deal of time to adapt to the different conditions, although I am someone who feels a player can really benefit from spending time with the greats of the game and the fact he trained with Novak Djokovic last week could reap rewards here.

Medjedovic didn’t lose serve all week in Astana a couple of months ago where he made the semis, so he’s certainly got the ability indoors.

Is a potential outsider but my worry is his poor tie-break record and that could be important in this unforgiving format – winning just 12 of 29 gives him the second-lowest percentage (41%) in the field.

Abdullah Shelbayh

  • Best odds: Title – 16/1; Group – 6/1
  • Race position: 25
  • Ranking: 185
  • 2023 win-loss record (tour level): 2-6
  • 2023 best performances: W Charleston (CH), RU Manama (CH), L16 Metz, Banja Luka
  • Recent form: L16 Metz, L16 Ortisei (CH), L32 Tiburon (CH), W Charleston (CH), L32 Colombus (CH), L32 Rennes (CH)
  • Record v group opponents:
  • No previous meetings

This event always holds back a wild card to a local player and this year it has gone to Jordan’s Shelbayh.

However, previous wild cards have gone 4-7 in this tournament. The four wins were all down to Jannik Sinner, now the world number four and a player who was already ranked inside the top 100 when he won the title in 2019.

The other two invitees lost all their matches and, frankly, that could well be Shelbayh’s fate.

At 185th in the rankings, he’s considerably lower than any of his Jeddah rivals, hardly a surprise given he started the year playing on the ITF World Tour, the third tier of professional tennis.

Another whose serve has come under regular threat – he’s held only 74% at all levels and 68% in his rare tour appearances.

VERDICT

ARTHUR FILS is the class act of this field and most of the numbers back that up.

He’s played the most on the main ATP Tour and reached two finals, winning one.

Even if conditions are slower than expected, he has the all-round game to deal with that and, with an excellent tie-break record being brought to Jeddah, I like the Frenchman’s chances at 3/1.

I’m convinced that Fils and DOMINIC STRICKER will progress from the Green Group where the two Italians look a little out of their depth. A dual forecast market would be nice!

Stricker was excellent in this event 12 months ago and time and again has risen to the big occasion.

While I can’t bring myself to back both him and Fils outright, I will cover my bet on the Frenchman by backing Stricker to win this group.

Odds of 11/4 – twice that of Fils – simply look too big to me, particularly given he won their only previous meeting, interestingly in two tie-breaks.

In the other group, ALEX MICHELSEN looks worth an interest.

He’s been playing regularly indoors in recent weeks and should enjoy the conditions if, as expected, they are faster than average.

He’s another with a strong tie-break record which should come into play in this Fast4 format.

His service-hold percentage at tour level this year is a field-high 83% and that can help him in this section where there is not a standout player.

I was tempted by odds of 13/2 in the outright market but, given I feel the two most likely winners are both in the other group, the likelihood is that Michelsen faces a tricky semi-final if he progresses that far, making the each-way angle less attractive.

Instead, I’ll back him to small stakes to win this group at 2/1.

Posted at 1525 GMT on 27/11/23

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