The Madrid Masters takes place this week, the first of two back-to-back clay Masters events on Tour. Dan Weston looks at the betting...
"In theory at least, these Madrid conditions should reduce the gap between hard courters with strong serves, and traditional clay-courters. Compared to Monte Carlo several weeks ago, which was played in slower conditions, the big-servers should have more chance here."
Quick conditions in Madrid likely to dictate plenty
Possibly more so than any other clay Masters event, it's vital to discuss the likely conditions which we will see in Madrid over the coming week, so this looks like a reasonable enough starting point. Across the 2018 and 2019 tournaments in Madrid plus yesterday's four matches (2020 wasn't played), 64.2% of service points were won - a figure almost 3% above the ATP clay court mean - and there were 0.10 aces per game more served in Madrid compared to the average clay court.
Given the above - and yesterday's four matches also featured a higher than average service points won figure - it's fair to state that conditions are likely to be quicker than average for clay events over the coming week. This brings into play the further dynamic of not reading too much into performances in Madrid in advance of the French Open, which begins in around a month's time, and will be played in markedly different conditions.
In theory at least, these Madrid conditions should reduce the gap between hard courters with strong serves, and traditional clay-courters. Compared to Monte Carlo several weeks ago, which was played in slower conditions, the big-servers should have more chance here.
Nadal priced accurately as a strong favourite
This is illustrated by Rafa Nadal not having a spectacularly good record here - it's good, don't get me wrong - but four titles in the last 10 events is nothing like his record at venues such as Monte Carlo and at the French Open, played in slower conditions more to his liking.
He's lost to the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem and Andy Murray (twice) here in recent years, and while there's little doubt that Nadal should be a strong favourite here, he's slightly odds-against on the Exchange at a current 2.245/4.
Nadal's price looks fair enough. Following some back problems after the Australian Open, he was defeated by Andrey Rublev in a surprise loss in Monte Carlo - he was priced around 1.201/5 that day - but fought back with some battling displays in Barcelona the week later to lift the trophy, edging Tsitsipas in a thrilling final.
Tsitsipas the main threat to Nadal
The Greek, Tsitsipas, looks the most likely challenger to the King of Clay this week. He won't mind the quicker conditions, having more of a serve-orientated dynamic, and he looks the next best in the field following the withdrawal of Novak Djokovic. Stats-wise, he's clearly pushing towards being a top clay courter, running at over 108% combined service/return points won on the surface in the last year (I consider 110%+ to be elite-level) and he's evidently on an upward ability curve as well. Tsitsipas benefits from being in the opposite half of the draw to Nadal and looks a justified second-favourite at 5.04/1.
Rublev among other players with chances
Following these two in the outright market, the next tier of contenders include Dominic Thiem, Andrey Rublev, Daniil Medvedev, Jannik Sinner and Aslan Karatsev - these are the only other players currently priced at 30.029/1 or below for the title.
Thiem has clay pedigree but has had some injury issues of late, not playing for the best part of two months, while Medvedev still has much to prove on clay at this stage of his career. Sinner and Karatsev are clearly on upward ability curves at different stages of their careers, and look likely to be several who could push top-10 opposition in the coming week. Rublev at 16.5 and an outsider in Matteo Berrettini 40.039/1 have good clay data as well, and shouldn't have any problems with the quicker conditions either - they look to have reasonable chances of making the latter stages.
The problem is that with two players leading the market priced at 2.245/4 and 5.04/1 and being accurately priced in my view, there's not a great deal of scope to find much value in the outright market. A Nadal or Tsitsipas victory is priced as an implied 65% chance, and there is even an argument which could be made that this is a conservative figure - a final between the duo wouldn't be a surprise at all.
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