The Rome Masters continues today with a mix of first and second round matches on the schedule, and some fantastic matches in prospect. Dan Weston returns to give his thoughts on the day ahead...
"Opponent Carreno-Busta has a much more illustrious recent record on clay, winning in Marbella at the start of April and then making the semi-finals in Barcelona just under a month ago - defeating Schwartzman in the quarter-finals as a slight underdog."
Karatsev again involved in a fascinating clash
Yesterday I mentioned that the match of the day looked to be Miomir Kecmanovic versus Aslan Karatsev, and it was the Russian, Karatsev, who progressed from a tight encounter, winning 7-6 6-4 in a close match which had just three break point chances apiece.
Following this, Karatsev is arguably involved in the match of the day again on Tuesday with him taking on his fellow Russian, Daniil Medvedev this evening in the last match on the schedule (not before 18:00 UK time), and this also promises to be a fascinating match-up with it being difficult to call in advance.
Medvedev with much to prove on clay
The market is also finding it tricky to split the duo, making Karatsev the 1.8810/11 favourite to make round three on Thursday, and Medvedev being priced just over even money is probably more down to his reputation and world ranking (three) than any noted clay ability - he's now won just one of his last eight matches on clay (with six of the seven defeats coming when a pre-match favourite) and clearly is not a fan of the surface at all.
There's little doubt that Medvedev is an extremely talented player and his level on other surfaces justifies his world ranking, but he's got plenty to prove on the dirt right now.
Schwartzman far more comfortable on clay
Another player who has plenty to prove on clay is Felix Auger-Aliassime, who also has more defeats on clay than wins since the tour resumed last summer, with a 4-6 record. He got past Filip Krajinovic yesterday in a tight three-setter, and also had a couple of good wins in Barcelona, defeating Denis Shapovalov and Lorenzo Musetti, but I'm unconvinced about the Canadian's level on clay right now.
Auger-Aliassime's opponent today, Diego Schwartzman, is far more proven on the surface having reached five ATP Tour clay finals, winning two, and also a final here in Rome last year where he was defeated by Novak Djokovic. Not only this, but Schwartzman has far better underlying data and he looks some value even as a solid market favourite at 1.594/7.
Carreno-Busta capable of defeating Nishikori
However, for today's recommendation, I want to look at another pre-match favourite, albeit bigger-priced, with Pablo Carreno-Busta 1.9310/11 to get the better of Kei Nishikori.
Nishikori defeated Fabio Fognini yesterday but in Madrid last week was coming back from a leg injury which saw him withdraw from Estoril the week prior, and while the injury-prone Japanese man has been trying to recover the form which saw him ranked at a career-best four, he hasn't made a semi-final on the ATP Tour since April 2019.
Opponent Carreno-Busta has a much more illustrious recent record on clay, winning in Marbella at the start of April and then making the semi-finals in Barcelona just under a month ago - defeating Schwartzman in the quarter-finals as a slight underdog. A semi-final loss to Rafa Nadal was obviously expected.
While Carreno-Busta disappointed last week in Madrid, losing his opener to Federico Delbonis, it's worth making the point that the quicker conditions in the Spanish capital were unlikely to be to his taste. He should be grateful for the reduction in court speed this week and looks like a value favourite to make round three.
Djokovic heavy favourite to pick up welcome win
Finally, Novak Djokovic also starts his tournament, with the world number one a heavy favourite to get the better of Taylor Fritz - he is currently just [1.13] to get the win - and it would be a welcome win for Djokovic, who has only played two tournaments, winning neither, since the Australian Open and didn't feature last week in Madrid.
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