Welcome to the newest addition to the 2021 calendar! Added by the ATP in mid-January, the Singapore tournament has obtained an exceptional licence for this season with Marbella, which will take place from 5 to 11 April after the Masters 1000 in Miami. This is the third time that the little yellow ball has been to the "Garden City", after appearances between 1989 and 1992 and again between 1996 and 1999. This change in the programme will shake up the habits of the players, who will travel to Asia more than six months ahead of the previous years. A continent they haven't visited for more than a year and a half since the Asian tour was removed from the schedule last season. The tournaments that follow the Grand Slams are always quite special. If some players surf on a good dynamic, others sometimes arrive a little on the kneecaps so much the matches in five sets can draw from the reserves. With a physical preparation a little truncated because of the period of isolation experienced by the players in Melbourne, the physical condition of the players present will be to be watched. But beware, as many of the players in the draw were not in Australia. Will they benefit from this? For this first edition, no member of the Top 20 will be present in this draw decimated by the forfeits. Whereas the three first seeds were supposed to be named Félix Auger-Aliassime, Casper Ruud and Daniel Evans, all three have finally withdrawn their names, which leaves us a rather bald table with only 9 members of the Top 100. We can even say that the board is rather weak, since Ernests Gulbis, 185th in the world and Ramanathan (190th) will enter directly into the main draw without going through the qualifications. Following this hecatomb, the seeded player n°1 will therefore be French since it is Adrian Mannarino (35th) who will have the honour of being the highest ranked player of the tournament, ahead of John Millman (38th) and the experienced Marin Cilic (43rd). Playing conditions in the OCBC Arena will be "medium fast" according to the information we were able to find on site, which will favour the big servers. However, the good boosters will not be easily overwhelmed.
1st quarter table
A good opportunity for Adrian Mannarino? The Frenchman generally does well in indoor races with 60% of victories. Since 2018, he has contested a final every year on this surface, unfortunately without success for the moment. After a rather mixed Australian tour, he will find a surface where he has achieved very good results since the resumption of the season 2020 (10 wins for 5 defeats), whether it is in Nur Sultan (final), in Sofia (semi-final) or even in Bercy, where he nearly knocked down Zverev. His part of the draw will be affordable, but we will have to be wary of a player like Radu Albot who proved at the Australian Open that he was in good shape at the beginning of the season. The Romanian is a really good indoor player and we know that he is capable of performing against players better ranked than him as he showed last year (victory over Shapovalov and Hurkacz in particular). Exempted from the first round, Mannarino will therefore have to play two serious matches if he wants to reach the semi-finals, starting with a probable entry against a Gulbis who will already have some indoor experience since he will play his fourth tournament on this surface since the beginning of the year.
2nd quarter table
Although Alexander Bublik is a favourite in this part of the picture, his degree of involvement and motivation is still a mystery. Able to produce good performances when he is concerned, the Kazakh often knows ups and downs, as shown by his beginning of the season (finalist in Antalya followed by a very average tournament at the Great Ocean Road and an Australian Open where he crashed in the second round). He remains a very good indoor player with notably 3 victories on the challenger circuit in 2019 and some reference victories (Shapovalov, Bautista Agut). With such an open field, we can imagine that the Kazakh will probably be motivated to go for his first title in his career. On paper, the main threat will be Japanese since he will possibly meet Nishioka in the quarter-finals. The seeded rider n°5 has started his season with three defeats and his performances haven't been really encouraging. He doesn't really have any indoor reference on the main circuit except a good course in Cologne at the end of last year, even if he has nevertheless made some good performances as a challenger (winner in Astana, semi-finalist in Kobe). A surprise is therefore not to be excluded and it wouldn't be surprising to see, for example, a Maxime Cressy, who shows some nice things at the beginning of the season and who has already won two challenger tournaments in indoor.
3rd quarter table
Since his knee injury in 2019, Marin Cilic hasn't been able to regain the level that made him a Top 3 in the world. Except for a good Australian Open 2020 (8th final), the Croatian has had a complicated 2020 season (he didn't manage to win three consecutive races, even in indoor competition, for a 6-5 result). Although he hasn't won one since 2018, Cilic has won 8 indoor titles (and 4 finals) and probably has as much experience as all the players in the draw combined. But his current level is worrying. He'll be lucky to have a draw that's well within his reach if he's physically fit. In an attempt to win his 19th career title, the Croatian could face a surface specialist in the quarter-finals in the person of Soonwoo Kwon. The Korean rider has won no less than 70% of his career matches in indoor racing (of course the big majority of them as a challenger), but still has some interesting matches on the main circuit against Milos Raonic and Richard Gasquet among others. Kwon will arrive in Singapore with confidence since he has just reached the final of the challenger in Biella (indoor) which ended this Sunday.
4th quarter table
The last quarter of the table seems to be the most undecided. If John Millman is obviously the favourite, it is difficult to judge the beginning of the season of the Australian, crashing at the beginning against a good Corentin Moutet in the first round of the Australian Open. In the ATP Cup, he has won against the Greek Michail Pervolarakis (463rd in the world) but didn't succeed in disturbing Pablo Carreno Busta. Although he has better statistics on hard outdoor, Millman proved that he can also be very successful in indoor competition. We remember in particular his victory in Astana at the end of 2020, against Adrian Mannarino by the way. Asia is a continent that is doing rather well for him since in 2019 he reached the final of the ATP 500 in Tokyo when he was just coming out of the qualifications (defeat against Djokovic). In his part of the table, Lloyd Harris and Alexei Popyrin are outsiders to watch out for. The latter has made an excellent start to the season and seems to have - finally - passed a milestone in terms of level of play during the Australian tour. After falling behind Tommy Paul in Murray River before losing to Dimitrov in a very tough match, the young Australian hopeful has done it again by taking out David Goffin in the first round of the Australian Open before crashing against ... Lloyd Harris in five sets. The South African is a difficult player to play indoors as he showed at the end of last season. He had reached the quarter-finals in Cologne and Antwerp in a row while he was coming out of the qualifiers. A surprise is to be expected in this part of the draw.
Our predictions for the quarters
Q1: Mannarino or Gulbis vs Albot Q2: Bublik vs Cressy or Nishioka Q3: Kwon vs Cilic Q4: Popyrin or Harris vs Millman
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