Rome Masters Outright Tips: Djokovic short-priced on return from injury

Serbian Tennis Player Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic returns to action after an elbow problem...

The return of Novak Djokovic to the main tour provides an interesting talking point ahead of the Rome Masters. Previewing the event is Dan Weston...

  • Djokovic return means Alcaraz a longer priced favourite

  • Reasons to swerve 4.03/1 Djokovic

  • Sinner the logical call to pip Novak in Rome

Alcaraz again pre-tournament favourite

There's a quick turnaround on the ATP Tour this week with Rome Masters being the second of back-to-back Masters 1000 events after Madrid last week.

In that, Carlos Alcaraz converted his pre-tournament favourite status to the title - he was slightly odds-on before the start - dropping just two sets in six matches.

The Spaniard is again favourite to lift another trophy in a week and a half's time (this is a 12-day event) but is a bigger price for this event at 2.3811/8 due to the return of Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic facing tough draw as he returns to tour

The world number one has had an elbow issue which caused his absence in Madrid, and he's also suffered shock defeats to the likes of Lorenzo Musetti and Dusan Lajovic over the last two events he's competed in as well.

Even the likes of Luca Van Assche and Ivan Gakhov haven't been dominated by the Serb, which should be considered a concern for anyone thinking of backing Djokovic at the current 4.03/1.

Novak Djokovic victory fist 1280.jpg

With the duo seeded two (Alcaraz) and one (Djokovic), they cannot meet until the final, and it's probably fair to argue that Djokovic has the tougher draw.

This is both early on, but also with the likes of Holger Rune 11.010/1 and Jannik Sinner 8.615/2 in his half of the draw. According to the market, Alcaraz has no-one of that ilk in his half, with Stefanos Tsitsipas not particularly impressing in Madrid, and Daniil Medvedev unlikely to enjoy the slower clay in Italy.

Conditions should be much slower than Madrid

On that subject, historical data suggests that traditional clay-courters will be delighted to get back to Rome, after Madrid.

Service points won and aces per game figures are very marginally higher than ATP clay mean figures in recent years, but conditions will almost certainly be markedly slower than Madrid. Don't expect as many serve battles and tiebreaks as we saw in the Spanish capital.

In theory at least, this should suit the return-strong contenders such as Alcaraz and Sinner, who has won almost 50% of return points on clay this season.

I'm not particularly concerned about Sinner's fitness, having withdrawn from Barcelona and Madrid with sickness, and he should hopefully be well rested and back to his best here.

Sinner the logical call to oppose Djokovic

The Italian should be a major threat to Djokovic in the top half of the draw, and is the logical port of call if you are keen to oppose the world number one.

The outright market is still forming on the Exchange, but he's currently trading at 8.615/2, which is a little bigger than general market prices.

It would be a major surprise if Alcaraz was eliminated early in the bottom half of the draw.

Tsitsipas, plus Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev will probably have their supporters, but they look far from the level of the Spanish phenomenon this year - he'd be a heavy pre-match favourite against any of these.

So, if pushed, my lean is towards Sinner as a route to take on Djokovic, whose fitness concerns and recent level make me think he's vulnerable at less than half the price of the Italian.


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