The ATP Tour continues this week with the final two warm-up events for the French Open, in Belgrade and Parma. Dan Weston discusses the betting...
"In theory, this tournament should be an absolute procession for Djokovic. Based on clay numbers, he has an absurd ability differential over every player in the field and it’s no surprise that he’s currently trading as the odds-on 1.392/5 favourite on the Exchange."
Djokovic the only top ten player in action
Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas took last week's ATP titles on clay and this was perfect preparation for the French Open for the duo, who will come into the tournament with plenty of game time and full of confidence. Not to mention, a week away from competitive action which should stand them in good stead in advance of an arduous two weeks of best of five set matches.
Generally, top 10 players on the ATP don't tend to play the week in advance of a Grand Slam, and for good reason - they want to avoid the accumulated fatigue which tends to be an issue in the biggest test of fitness in professional tour. This should be particularly the case for the French Open, with clay being even more of a test with generally longer points leading to longer sets and longer matches.
However, world number one Novak Djokovic - usually so good at scheduling - has gone against this accepted wisdom and has decided to feature in his home tournament in Belgrade in the coming week, which is a real surprise.
Joining Djokovic as seeds with first-round byes this week are Nikoloz Basilashvili, Adrian Mannarino and Gael Monfils, which tells you plenty about how much of an outlier Djokovic is among the top players in deciding to play the week before a slam.
World no.1 has huge ability differential over field
In theory, this tournament should be an absolute procession for Djokovic. Based on clay numbers, he has an absurd ability differential over every player in the field and it's no surprise that he's currently trading as the odds-on 1.392/5 favourite on the Exchange. There's no player in the field even remotely close to his level on the surface.
Most players, presumably from the bottom half of the draw where Djokovic doesn't feature, will be fighting just to get to the final. Countryman Filip Krajinovic would have, in theory, been well-placed to do that but he has pulled out of the event, so it's likely to be between the likes of Federico Delbonis 12.011/1 or Gael Monfils 18.017/1 to get to the latter stages. I've also got half an eye on Arthur Rinderknech who is showing upside on clay and the Frenchman can be backed at around 36.035/1 based on general market pricing, but the problem is unless you can get an each-way on a player in the bottom half of the draw, these players will still be a huge underdog to Djokovic in a final.
Sonego an accurate favourite in Parma
The tournament in Parma should be more competitive, with Lorenzo Sonego taking top seed billing in his home country, and he's joined by Jan-Lennard Struff, Albert Ramos and somehow Benoit Paire as seeds with first-round byes.
The absurdity of Paire's status as a seed is illustrated by the Frenchman being a long-shot to win the tournament at around 29.028/1 based on general market pricing and he's barely won a match, or winning much more than 50% of service points, since the tour resumed last summer. With pretty much all players now competing regularly, I think it's time to go back to the rolling 12 month rankings which will much more accurately reflect a players improvement or in Paire's case, decline.
Sonego seems pretty justified as the tournament favourite here at 4.407/2. He's played well on clay since the tour resumed (104% combined hold/break percentage, winning 70% of matches) and in what is a pretty weak field, looks to have as good a chance as any. His last three losses have been against Djokovic, Zverev and Tsitsipas, so he's only losing against high quality opposition, and he should be well-set to make the latter stages.
Spanish duo potential long-shot options
Albert Ramos looks the best of the other seeded players so it's not a surprise to see him higher-rated by the market than other seeds with byes Struff or Paire, with the Spaniard at 7.613/2 right now. Struff is slightly further back, with Lorenzo Musetti also towards the forefront of the market.
The young Italian, Musetti, is making a name for himself on clay and looks a player of real potential, but the problem is that he has to win an extra match, due to being unseeded. His draw doesn't look hugely problematic in the early stages, but an all-Italian clash with Sonego in the quarter-final would be much more of a hurdle.
A couple of long-shots worth keeping an eye on, in Paire's bottom quarter, include Jaume Munar and the qualifier, Pedro Martinez Portero. The Spanish duo both have strong records at lower levels on clay and if I was tempted with an outsider here in Parma, it would probably one of these two. The Exchange market doesn't have a lot of liquidity currently on the bigger-priced players but general market pricing suggests you could get 26.025/1 and 17.016/1 respectively on the two players.
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