ATP Tour Week 21 Preview: Americans can be chanced in French Open warm-up events

American Tennis Player John Isner
John Isner will be tough to beat in quick conditions...
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After last week's Rome Masters we have tournaments in Lyon and Geneva as the ATP Tour prepares for the French Open. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the events...

"This could leave the way open for Isner, whose recent defeats on clay have been very tight - two final set tiebreaks and a narrow defeat to the in-form Alexander Zverev. If conditions continue to be a little quick, he'll also benefit."

Players taking a last chance to warm-up ahead of the French Open

In the Italian capital last week, most high-profile players got their opportunity to get some valuable court time ahead of the French Open, and the majority have taken the week off this week in order to be fresh in advance of Roland Garros.

The effect of this is obvious - this week's events in Lyon and Geneva have relatively weak fields and Dominic Thiem and John Isner are the only top ten players in action this week. Both take to the courts in Lyon, where they have first-round byes, and are joined by fellow seeds Jack Sock and Hyeon Chung, as well as Calvin Hemery and Radu Albot, who got wins on a low-profile opening day on Sunday.

Thiem likely to be tough to beat in Lyon

Thiem is the best player in the field by some distance and odds of [2.30] about the Austrian are understandable. Having said this, he's not enjoyed the best European clay season so far, reaching just one final, in Madrid just over a week ago. While it's understandable Thiem is keen to fine-tune prior to the French Open, again it leaves question marks over his scheduling, with can be described politely as 'arduous'.

Last season was the first event played in Lyon for a number of years, and conditions look on the quicker side of medium-paced, with marginally more service games held and aces per game served than the ATP mean. Perhaps this is also a negative for Thiem, who performs best in slow conditions.

A look at the draw will also tell you that Thiem has a bit of a gift of a draw, with only the inconsistent Sock a major threat in the top half. It would take severe underperformance for Thiem not to make the final.

Isner the safer choice in the bottom half of the draw

The bottom half of the draw is also weak, with Chung and Isner the seeds with byes, and Chung has some questions to answer following a crushing 6-2 6-0 defeat at the hands of Robin Haase last week in Madrid, and not participating in Rome.

This could leave the way open for Isner, whose recent defeats on clay have been very tight - two final set tiebreaks and a narrow defeat to the in-form Alexander Zverev. If conditions continue to be a little quick, he'll also benefit and the only main threat in Q4 is from Gael Monfils, who looks well out of touch currently - perhaps taking the big American each-way at 13/2 is the best bet here.

Conditions also likely to be quick in Geneva

Over in Geneva, conditions also look on the quicker side of average, and the field looks more level, with a number of players capable of making a run to the latter stages.

Wawrinka with much to prove ahead of this week

Stan Wawrinka has won the last two events here, but the Swiss man is completely out of touch following injury issues, and it would take a big leap of faith for anyone to have him onside currently at [5.30].

Fabio Fognini, at [4.60], is the market favourite, and joins Wawrinka, as well as Sam Querrey and David Ferrer in picking up first-round byes as the top four seeds. Of these, Fognini is probably in the best touch, and has the best clay data, so his status as tournament favourite is pretty fair.

Johnson with a track record of doing well on quicker clay

Of the unseeded players, Guido Pella, Steve Johnson and Albert Ramos look the main players capable of threatening the top four seeds. All are in the Wawrinka/Querrey top half of the draw, which looks full of players of a similar level. Johnson has performed well on quicker clay in the last couple of years, and beat Wawrinka last week in Rome. Odds of 14/1 can be considered on the American player.

The bottom half of the draw in Switzerland looks more likely to go the way of the seeds, with Ferrer and Fognini boasting better data than the unseeded players, although perhaps the giant Ivo Karlovic will be tough to break in these conditions. Having said that, he'd need to win a number of tiebreaks to get to the latter stages - something he hasn't been able to do with regularity over the last year or so.

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