The first of the two North American Masters 1000 events starts today in Montreal and Dan Weston thinks Alexander Zverev can put a good show of himself...
"However, despite this, Zverev's hard court record this year is still decent enough from a serve/return points won perspective, and given his draw, should be confident of making the latter stages."
Montreal the first of two consecutive Masters events
The good and the great of the ATP Tour are in Montreal this week, although of the great, arguably only Rafa Nadal is present - Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are not in attendance this week as players begin their build-up to the US Open in a few weeks time.
Rogers Cup Canadian Masters series rotate between Montreal and Toronto and this year's men's event is in Montreal, with the women taking to the court in Toronto. There have been numerous winners in these events across both locations - it's not always been dominated by the traditional elite quartet - with Alexander Zverev taking the title here in 2017, beating Roger Federer in straight sets in the final.
Nadal a strong favourite to lift the trophy
If an elite winner is to triumph this week, it will be Nadal given those absences for Djokovic and Federer, and the Spaniard is priced at [2.86] on the Exchange - the only player in single-digit pricing. Conditions are likely to be fairly medium-paced for hard courts and while big servers do tend to like non-slow hard courts, it isn't anticipated that any particular playing style will derive huge benefit from the expected conditions this week.
Eight seeds have first round byes - Rafa Nadal, Fabio Fognini, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Kei Nishikori in the top half of the draw, and Karen Khachanov, Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem in the bottom half - and I've the 2019 hard court levels of the main statistical contenders below (major players with above 103% combined serve/return points won percentages):-
Numbers suggest Nadal justified as favourite
Looking at these numbers, it's not surprising Nadal is the strong tournament favourite in the absence of Djokovic and Federer - the King of Clay may not quite be the King of Hard Court, but he is considerably better than the field and is deserving of his status as the tournament favourite.
It's certainly going to be a tough job for players in the top half of the draw to prevent Nadal from reaching the latter stages this week, which isn't a positive for the likes of seeds Fognini, Tsitsipas and Nishikori, and also the likes of De Minaur, Bautista-Agut, Schwartzman and Coric, so looking at potential trading or each-way options in the bottom half of the draw makes a reasonable amount of sense.
Zverev a reasonable option in the bottom-half of the draw
In particular, these focus around Matteo Berrettini, John Isner, Daniil Medvedev, Milos Raonic, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev. Raonic and Auger-Aliassime have a tricky bracket involving Lucas Pouille, Karen Khachanov and the duo who often retain market faith but frequently don't justify it - Stan Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov.
Zverev's bracket is much more straightforward, with his second round meeting due to be either Marton Fucsovics or Cameron Norrie, before a likely last 16 clash with either Nikoloz Basilashvili or the declining Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
This makes the German a little more appealing, despite a tough year which has seen him struggle more than many anticipated. However, despite this, Zverev's hard court record this year is still decent enough from a serve/return points won perspective, and given his draw, should be confident of making the latter stages. The [13.0] on the Exchange in a pretty weak event for a Masters appeals - Zverev will need to start accumulating ranking points quickly in order to make the final eight in the Race to London.
In the bottom quarter, it is more stacked. The likes of Daniil Medvedev, John Isner, Marin Cilic, Matteo Berrettini, Dominic Thiem and the winner last night in Washington, Nick Kyrgios, should all be major threats, so with this in mind, focusing on Zverev this week makes sense.
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Back Alexander Zverev at [13.0] to win ATP Montreal