The Australian Open is just a few days away, so tennis stars are running out of time to get court practice ahead of the first major tournament of 2018.
As such, the 2019 ASB Classic has attracted a high-class field for what should be a fine week of competition at the ASB Tennis Centre in Parnell, Auckland.
One of the highlights of the sporting calendar in New Zealand, Roberto Bautista Agut won here a year ago and the Spaniard is again among the favourites to lift the trophy.
Having come out on top at the Qatar Open, beating Tomas Berdych in the final after causing a huge shock against Novak Djokovic in the semis, Bautista Agut is perhaps the man to beat.
But he is only the fifth seed for the tournament, which shows the strength in depth when it comes to the field that has been assembled by the ASB Classic organisers.
John Isner is the top seed with the American seeking to nail down a place in the top 10 of the world rankings, while Italian duo Fabio Fognini and Marco Cecchinato are seeded second and third respectively. Bautista Agut’s compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta is the fourth seed, while Canadian rising star Denis Shapovalov is among the other players to keep an eye on.
2019 ASB Classic Odds
An excellent level of tennis should be on show at the ASB Classic, but who are the players most worthy of consideration in the betting odds for the tournament? Let’s take a look at the outright betting odds from the top tennis sites and see if we can find the best value for this year’s ASB Classic.
|Pablo Carreno Busta||31/4||10/1||8/1|
|Taylor Harry Fritz||27/1||33/1||28/1|
Bautista Agut the Man in Form
Update: Agut has withdrawn due to fatigue. According to local media, the 17-hour trip coming back from Doha to Auckland for a Tuesday match would not have given him enough time to recover. As Agut and other payers look ahead to the Australian Open, it’s tough to blame him or anyone else for wanting to stay fresh and healthy.
There is no doubting momentum is with Bautista Agut after he collected the first trophy of the year in Doha, beating Berdych in three sets after also going the distance against Djokovic.
Whether the Spaniard has fully recovered from those exertions may affect how far he is able to go in Auckland, but it is clear he is playing good enough tennis to win this tournament again.
Bautista Agut came up against Juan Martin del Potro a year ago and defeated the Argentine, so he will be glad of a return to the scene of one of the best wins in his career to date.
In fact, that was the second time Bautista Agut has won the tournament as he also triumphed in 2016, Jack Sock retiring early in the second set, so he knows what it takes to win this event.
As a result, the bookmakers are backing Bautista Agut to make a splash at the ASB Classic again and he is offered at around the 4/1 mark to make it three titles at this tournament. Only Isner is priced at odds as short as Bautista Agut, who starts his defence against Leonardo Mayer. Cecchinato awaits Bautista Agut in the third round if both men get that far.
Norrie Takes Berdych’s Place
Berdych’s recovery from injury went far better than expected at the Qatar Open, the veteran Czech reaching the final of the event after being out of action for several months.
He therefore decided not to take up his place at the ASB Classic, with Cameron Norrie set to drop into the draw as a result of Berdych’s withdrawal.
It represents somewhat of a homecoming for Norrie, who lived in Auckland as a youngster after his parents moved to New Zealand. The Briton was among the best youth players in the world during his time in the country and will no doubt be excited to show off his development here.
Norrie made his Davis Cup debut last year, when he reached the Atalanta Open semi-finals and pulled off a number of eye-catching wins. At 25/1, he could be interesting on an each-way basis.
Shapovalov Seeks to Follow Superb 2018
Another young talent who had an outstanding 2018 and will be on show at the ASB Classic is Shapovalov, with the Canadian the youngest player in the top 30 of the world rankings.
A spot in the top 10 this year is not out of the question and Shapovalov will want to show some good form ahead of the Australian Open, with Joao Sousa his first-round Auckland opponent. Norrie could await in the second round and that would be a thrilling match between two of the game’s most talented youngsters, with Shapovalov ready to make an impact.
“I’m just super happy to be where I am at my age. I think it’s incredible,” he said ahead of the tournament, which he is a tempting 14/1 to win. “I have that sense of calmness that I feel like my game belongs with these guys, and I feel like my game is where my ranking is.”
Top Seed Isner Chasing Third ASB Title
With Bautista Agut out of contention there is still another double ASB Classic champion who will be among the strongest contenders to win the trophy: John Isner. He emerges as the new betting favorite having triumphed here in 2010 and 2014.
The big-serving American is always going to be a threat on hard courts because of his height and power, while his growth over the course of 2018 showed he is capable of finesse as well.
Marius Copil or compatriot Taylor Fritz will be Isner first opponent as he has a bye to start, with Norrie and Shapovalov in the same section of the draw. Isner can be backed at just 4/1.
Further ASB Classic history comes from wildcard pick David Ferrer at 25/1. The Spaniard is a four-time winner of the event, but the last of those successes came back in 2013, the end of a run of three straight titles at this tournament.
ASB Classic Best Bets
A clutch of players will see the ASB Classic as a very winnable tournament, but the reality is for most players this is simply a chance to fine-tune their games ahead of Melbourne.
The winner may therefore be the man who decides to go flat-out to get prize money and silverware on their record at the start of the year, trying to use Auckland as a 2019 springboard.
Isner is a worthy favourite at 4/1 considering his strong history in the tournament, but 4/1 doesn’t show a ton of value in this field. If you are willing to book Isner at short odds, you’ll get the best price at William Hill.
Shapovalov, for instance, has probably got more talent than anyone else taking part in Auckland and at 13/1 is a very interesting option despite being handed a challenging series of matches.
The bottom half of the draw seems to be slightly weaker than the top, which could also make a player such as Chung – backable at the 10/1 mark, a decent alternative for this week.