Round 1 ATP Dubai Odds & Best Bets, Featuring Novak Djokovic’s Return to the Tour (Feb. 21)
Karim Sahib/Getty. Pictured: Novak Djokovic hits a volley in practice ahead of his first round match in Dubai.
Love him or hate him, the biggest story of the week on the ATP Tour will be Novak Djokovic’s return to action.
The 20-time slam champion who was removed from the Australian Open by the Australian government due to his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine (in extremely simple terms) hasn’t played since the Davis Cup at the beginning of December, so it’ll be fascinating to see his initial return to the Tour.
With plenty of controversy surrounding the world number one, and so many questions still to be answered, there are many possibilities for what could happen when he returns.
Nonetheless, his first-round matchup with Lorenzo Musetti is set to be played on Monday morning, and I’ll talk about my thoughts on the match below.
Here are my views on the most important match of the day and a second where I see value to bet.
Match times are subject to change. Read here for tips on viewing tennis matches.
David Goffin (-118) vs. Taro Daniel (-104)
7:40 a.m. ET
One of the first matches of the main draw features two players in very different stages of their career.
Though Goffin and Daniel are at similar ages, 31 and 29 respectively, it feels as though Daniel is about to enter the best part of his career, while Goffin’s prime era has past him.
To start the year, Daniel is 10-3 with wins over quality players like Andy Murray, Musetti and Alex Molcan while Goffin is 3-6 on the year and coming off of a season in which he played just 29 matches. Though the Belgian is 63 spots ahead of Daniel in the rankings, that doesn’t reflect the form of the two.
Daniel has already won qualifying matches in Dubai against Molcan and Elias Ymer, two players who have been playing well as of late, and Goffin is on a three-match losing streak which features a 6-0 6-3 loss to Alex de Minaur.
While Goffin still has a higher hard court Elo Rating than his opponent, there’s no doubt for me that any price that has the Japanese as an underdog here is worth taking.
Pick: Daniel -104 via FanDuel
Novak Djokovic (-2000) vs. Lorenzo Musetti (+1200)
11:30 a.m. ET
We haven’t seen Djokovic in a match setting on a tennis court in some time, but it’s safe to assume that he won’t be the peak version of himself in his first round matchup.
After a two-month break following the Australian Open in 2021 last year, he fell to Dan Evans in a shocking defeat at Monte Carlo in the second round, and he dropped a set to Marton Fucsovics after a two-month layoff following the US Open.
In both situations he quickly picked up his form, but this is a spot where I don’t feel that it’s assured that we’ll see the best version of Djokovic, particularly a player that has had steep improvement at the start of the year.
Musetti ended his 2021 campaign in poor form that included a six-match losing streak, but he hasn’t had a single bad match thus far on the year, and he hasn’t once played on his preferred service of clay, where he has an Elo Rating 70 points higher than his hard court rating.
The young Italian hasn’t had an easy draw all year, but he’s taken a set or more in each match, and the two sets he took off of Djokovic at the French Open should provide him a bit of confidence.
Stylistically you can almost throw out that match as the conditions aren’t remotely close to what we’ll see in Dubai, but mentally it may free Musetti a bit.
I’m comfortable backing Musetti against a player who hasn’t taken the court in three months, even if that player is one of the best to ever do it.
Pick: Lorenzo Musetti over 7.5 games via FanDuel (+102)