Following back-to-back Masters 1000 level tournaments on the ATP Tour, there are two lower-profile 250 events this week in Geneva and Lyon. Dan Weston discusses the week ahead...
"In Federer's previous event (Doha in early March) he lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili in his second match after scraping past Dan Evans in his opener so there is little in the way of knowledge about Federer's likely level on a surface which isn't his favourite in any case."
Big names featuring in this week's 250s
It was back to business as usual for Rafa Nadal yesterday, as he defeated Novak Djokovic in Rome across three sets to pick up yet another clay Masters title. Following this, the two best clay-courters on tour have scheduled in some rest ahead of the French Open, which is a pretty smart thing to do given the dangers of overplaying in advance of potentially seven best-of-five set matches at Roland Garros.
The warm-up tournaments for Grand Slams have tended to be bereft of big names, with most choosing to rest up in advance of such big tournaments which are true tests of fitness, but there's a surprising number of top players in action across the two events this week, with some really high quality fields for 250 level tournaments.
Plenty of intangibles surrounding Federer's reappearance on tour
In Geneva, Roger Federer takes the top seed berth in only his second tournament since January 2020.
In Federer's previous event (Doha in early March) he lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili in his second match after scraping past Dan Evans in his opener so there is little in the way of knowledge about Federer's likely level on a surface which isn't his favourite in any case.
Saying that, conditions in Geneva are likely to be quicker than average, which should be of assistance to the serve-orientated Swiss legend, with service points won at the venue being a couple of percentage points ahead of the ATP clay mean, in conjunction with a high aces per game count for clay courts.
Those doubts around Federer's current level ensure that he's currently trading as second favourite on the Exchange, and at around 5.509/2 in general market pricing, with Casper Ruud - a much more known quantity currently on clay - the tournament favourite at 4.03/1.
Other players in the draw who have solid 12-24 month clay data include Denis Shapovalov 7.06/1, Cristian Garin 13.5 and Grigor Dimitrov 15.014/1, and it would be a surprise if these players weren't competing for the title. A couple of others, such as Fabio Fognini and Laslo Djere, have clay ability and could perform too, but aren't as highly rated currently.
Dimitrov potentially undervalued by the market
Even with the intangibles on Federer currently, I think the market has reacted to a kind opener with his second round match scheduled to be against Jordan Thompson or Pablo Andujar. Garin is seeded to be his quarter-final opponent, and that's far tougher - the Chilean could be a big hurdle for Federer to overcome on clay and I don't mind his price at all at that 13.5. Other potential quarter-final opponents for Federer include Marin Cilic or Marton Fucsovics, who Garin faces later today in round one.
Dimitrov has a great draw in quarter three, with a bye, then a relatively inactive Fernando Verdasco in round two. While Reilly Opelka performed well in Rome last week, it would be a stretch to suggest the big-serving American could back that display up again given previous poor clay data, and Adrian Mannarino or wild-card Arthur Cazaux are unlikely to be any test for the Bulgarian.
At 15.014/1, Dimitrov is a live outsider. He's had two losses out of two in the recent Masters events but had more break point chances in both and I think the market may have over-reacted slightly to those.
Tsitsipas justified favourite in Lyon
Over in Lyon, the four seeds - Dominic Thiem, Diego Schwartzman, David Goffin and Stefanos Tsitsipas - are all of high quality on clay and it's the Greek, Tsitsipas, who is the 3.052/1 favourite over 4.57/2 Thiem. Every other player is in double-digit pricing, including Jannik Sinner 13.012/1 and Aslan Karatsev 15.014/1 who also look like being a threat from the lower-ranked players who didn't receive a first-round bye.
Thiem, Karatsev and Sinner are all featuring in quarter one, which potentially gives Thiem a blockbuster quarter-final against either one of the other two, who meet in the match of the round one matches tomorrow.
In the bottom half of the draw, Tsitsipas looks a justified favourite with a considerable ability differential over the players in his half of the draw, although the likes of Lorenzo Musetti and Sebastian Korda - two young players with very high upside - could prove to be more of a threat than some of the bigger names in that bracket.
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