With Novak Djokovic's exit to Dan Evans the major talking point in yesterday's action in Monte Carlo, the tournament moves to the quarter final stage today. Dan Weston runs through the matches...
"The King of Clay, who has a stunning venue record here and also generally in anything remotely resembling non-fast clay conditions, has steamrolled his two opponents so far to get to this stage. Federico Delbonis and Grigor Dimitrov have accumulated just five games combined across four sets with Nadal has dominated."
Evans shocks Djokovic to set up Goffin meeting
On another one-sided day in Monte Carlo - just the latter two matches of the eight were decided in three sets - we saw the shock exit of Novak Djokovic to Dan Evans, with the Brit making a statement victory by a 6-4 7-5 scoreline.
As is often the case in these type of huge underdog wins, though, key point overperformance was a major factor. Evans saved seven of 10 break points on his serve, and converted five from seven on return - numbers far above his pre-match expectation for those metrics.
Given this, it's important for the market not to over-react to big wins a lot of the time, and they haven't here. Evans is 2.608/5 for his clash with David Goffin - the second match on Friday's schedule - and that looks about right to me. The Belgian hasn't been in particularly inspiring form this year, running at below 102% combined service/return points won on all surfaces in 2021, and we have to go back to 2018 to see him have a notably above-average year on clay.
Evans isn't a noted clay-courter - he only has a handful of main tour wins on the surface - but is exhibiting improvement on other surfaces and in my view it's difficult to dispute the market here.
Tsitsipas should have too much for Davidovich Fokina
This is also the case for the other three matches on today's schedule, with the frequent dynamic of matches in the latter stages of big tournaments being generally efficiently priced being evidenced again here.
After getting past Christian Garin via a break in each set yesterday, Stefanos Tsitsipas faces a downgrade in opposition as he faces the 21-year-old Spaniard, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. That's not saying that Fokina is a bad player - he's certainly not and retains decent future upside - but Garin has been one of the better clay-courters on tour in the last year or two.
This is illustrated by Tsitsipas being shorter today at 1.232/9 than he was yesterday, and to me that looks pretty correct again. I'd be surprised if he was defeated here and the new Tsitsipas - with improving return numbers - looks around a top five level clay courter from a numbers perspective.
Nadal simply too good in these conditions
Speaking of top five clay courters, we can go beyond that level to discuss Rafa Nadal. The King of Clay, who has a stunning venue record here and also generally in anything remotely resembling non-fast clay conditions, has steamrolled his two opponents so far to get to this stage. Federico Delbonis and Grigor Dimitrov have accumulated just five games combined across four sets with Nadal has dominated, and the market expect this to continue today with him being just 1.132/15 to get the better of Andrey Rublev.
Nadal's pricing tells you how much better he is in these conditions than any other player - my model made him similarly priced at 1.101/10 - and even a player on a massive upward curve like Rublev is, and who is clearly an all-surface player of a high standard, looks like being no match for Nadal today. He's just too good in these conditions.
Enigmatic Fognini difficult to predict
Last year's tournament in Monte Carlo was cancelled, so the previous edition of this event was in 2019. It required a lights out display from Fabio Fognini - the level he's so occasionally capable of - to defeat Nadal in the semi-finals that year and the enigmatic Italian is through to the quarter-final stage here as well.
That year, Fognini came into the event in dreadful form with a number of quick losses in the warm-up events but then reeled off five back-to-back wins to lift the trophy and apart from a fourth-round run at the Australian Open - where he was easily beaten by Nadal - he's not played well this year either. Will history repeat itself?
Casper Ruud will hope not. The Norwegian is a marginal 1.875/6 favourite to get past Fognini this afternoon, which again looks about right. My numbers make Ruud a better server than Fognini, with Fognini a better returner but to a lesser extent. This looks the toughest match to call, with Fognini's level being extremely unpredictable in general.
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