Hello again everyone! With Charlie and Luke carrying the podcast this week, I thought I would chip in with the first article of this week’s tournament, the Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo. Will it be the usual Rafa story, or will a new name be on the trophy?
You may remember the last edition in 2019, where there were two massively priced finalists in Dusan Lajovic and Fabio Fognini, neither of whom have made a final at this level before or since. Whilst there have been some other unusual finalists in the past, such as Ramos-Vinolas in 2017 and a Nishikori still brushing off injury cobwebs in 2018, these finalists have something in common; they lost to Nadal, who has won this event an incredible 11 times. It makes logical sense to be going each way (EW) with your outright options this week and targeting someone in the opposite half of the draw to Rafa (the top two quarters). I will also be sharing my favourite R1 matches for the neutral, and some predictions as well.
I’ll be frank to start; Nadal will probably win this event. If you fancy a safe bet, he’s your man. However, ATP tennis is in the beginning stages of a transition, and if a big hitting player can catch fire this week, they have caused Nadal issues in the past (take Fognini’s lights out tennis in 2019 as an example).
The words big hitter come to mind when you think of the young Italian, Jannik Sinner. Though it is hard to predict how he will react from a first major setback of his career, he has shown himself to possess strong self-belief and ability under pressure in his short career. Though a R2 with Djokovic would await, the Serb has suffered some unusual losses here in the past and has struggled to play his best tennis in anything not a Grand Slam for some time now, and we can look to take him on this week. A price of 66/1 on Sinner is attractive. I flirted with Cristian Garin at 125/1, but he has had his injury problems recently and his form has not impressed me. An effective player in clay court 250s and 500s, but his backhand can be exposed at the highest level.
Favourite: Nadal 5/6
Wildcard: Sinner 66/1
R1 MATCHES TO WATCH:
Musetti vs Karatsev: I heard this match was a source of contention on the podcast, and it will be a fantastic match to watch for the neutral. Whilst Musetti is more comfortable on clay, many of Karatsev’s good results at the challenger level came on clay. I do not expect this to fully translate to the main tour, and slightly lean towards Musetti here, but this match could go either way.
Auger-Aliassime vs Garin: Another match that divided opinion on the podcast. Minus a run in Rio, FAA has not impressed me on clay, whilst Garin is an experienced campaigner who has already played a decent amount of tennis on clay this season. I expect him to narrowly come through as a result, but it will be interesting to see how FAA’s new relationship with Toni Nadal will turn out.
Davidovich Fokina to beat de Minaur 4/6
Whilst I am cautious about betting on the enigmatic Davidovich-Fokina, he is much more comfortable on this surface than de Minaur, who’s flat shots really struggle to cause any damage on the slow clay. Davidovich Fokina is comfortable being the aggressor and assuming that he is fully motivated, should be a decent favourite here.
Humbert to beat Millman 8/15
Whilst both players do not have much previous on clay, (Millman has not won back-to-back main level matches on clay barring a final in Budapest in 2018) Humbert has improved immensely since his last outing on the surface, and his heavy forehand, athleticism, and fighting spirit should suit the surface well. Millman also employs a kick serve frequently, which will naturally deviate to the Frenchman’s lefty forehand, reducing its effectiveness.
Delbonis to beat Mannarino 2/7
Lefty vs lefty matches are often unusual, however Delbonis is so much more comfortable on clay than his opponent that I must take this match. His heavy ball will bounce high, out of Mannarino’s comfort zone which is a lower ball so he can control his flat groundstrokes. Mannarino, unusually for a left hander, is more effective against right handers with solid backhands as he himself considers his backhand his major weapon, deviating from a ‘normal’ left hander pattern. He will not be able to rely on this pattern against the heavy forehand of Delbonis.
Carreno-Busta to beat Travaglia 1/2
Whilst Carreno-Busta has played a lot of tennis in the last week, this is one of his most important periods of the year and he is playing a player badly out of form. Travaglia is marginally more comfortable on slower hard courts, like his opponent, and does not possess the variety or power to blast through the very solid and stable game of PCB.
Good luck and enjoy the event!
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