Action continues at the Rome Masters today with third round matches on the schedule. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, gives his thoughts on the upcoming day five schedule...
"Dimitrov was our pick on Wednesday for that win over Nishioka, and my numbers again make the Bulgarian some value today at the current 11/102.10"
Martinez Portero covers handicap as big names exit
We went two from two in Rome this week with the heavy underdog, Pedro Martinez Portero, covering the game handicap in his loss to Denis Shapovalov - just about - although match stats suggest that this was a pretty competitive match, with Shapovalov only winning 53% of points in the match, which is pretty low for a straight-set win. He also had break point chances in only one more return game than the Spaniard, so it would been pretty unjustified if Martinez Portero didn't cover.
A few big names exited on day four, with Milos Raonic, Fabio Fognini, Kei Nishikori and Gael Monfils all seeing their tournaments ended by players who most would perceive to be lower-profile. Nishikori was ousted by the Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti, who I must admit, looks highly impressive - and this is where I start our day five discussion.
Musetti should have enough to continue Rome journey
Qualifier Musetti has played mostly on the Challenger Tour in the last year - understandable given his current ranking - but his numbers in qualifying and Challengers on clay in the last year have been extremely strong. Using some adjustment factors that I have pre-identified to take account of the general lower standard of qualifiers and Challengers to the main tour, and also factoring in Musetti's main tour data this week to get to round three, I have Musetti's main tour expectation to be around a 105% combined hold/break percentage on clay. This would make him ballpark top 25 level at the current time, and these numbers are stratospheric for an 18-year-old. A journey to the top of the sport looks increasingly likely for Musetti.
Today, he faces the German qualifier, Dominik Koepfer, who is something of a downgrade in opposition quality compared to his two opponents so far, who are both former top 10 regulars. I hope Musetti doesn't disappoint, because I'd love to see him play Novak Djokovic in round four, and the 2/51.41 about the Italian actually looks a little generous.
Dimitrov looks value to get past Sinner
Musetti isn't the only Italian teenager in round three, with Jannik Sinner also featuring as a wild card and getting through to meet Grigor Dimitrov today. Sinner is also widely tipped for a journey to the top, but stats-wise over the last 18 months or so, isn't quite as impressive as Musetti at this current time.
However, Sinner has got two excellent wins so far, over a rusty Benoit Paire and then the (in my view) over-rated Stefanos Tsitsipas, and I think this might be part of the reason why he is currently trading as a marginal 10/111.89 favourite over Grigor Dimitrov, who handed out a real thrashing to Yoshihito Nishioka in round two.
Dimitrov was our pick on Wednesday for that win over Nishioka, and my numbers again make the Bulgarian some value today at the current 11/102.10. My numbers might be undervaluing Sinner a bit because he hasn't played much on clay in the last year, but for me, Dimitrov looks to be our best opportunity for a recommendation today.
Djokovic and Nadal strong favourites to progress
In other matches, I mentioned that I want to see Musetti face Djokovic in round four, but the world number one will need to get past the in-form Filip Krajinovic first today. He does, however, look accurately priced at 2/111.19 to get the win. Even shorter than this is Rafa Nadal, who is priced as a virtual bye to get past Monte Carlo finalist Dusan Lajovic in the last match on the schedule. The King of Clay looked imperious in his round two win over US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno-Busta, winning 66% of points in the match, and it's difficult to suggest anything else than a routine victory for Nadal this evening.
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Back Grigor Dimitrov at 11/102.10 to beat Jannik Sinner