It's day two of the French Open on Monday, and with a number of big names in action, including Rafa Nadal, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, is back to preview the schedule...
"On clay in his career, Ebden is 1-10 in main tour matches, winning just 53.5% of service points and 31.6% on return (85.1% combined) and this isn’t even Challenger level, as evidenced by his mediocre 4-5 record in main draw Challenger matches as well. His sample of data isn’t the biggest, but at the age of 30, this is purely because Ebden isn’t choosing to play clay court events."
Nadal with new opponent to open round one
The French Open continues apace today with 24 fresh matches taking place, as well as several re-arranged from yesterday. The bizarre schedule that the tournament chooses means that there are matches in both the top and bottom half of the draw on day two, which doesn't occur at any other Grand Slam.
Players in the top half of the draw include the number one seed and overwhelming tournament favourite, Rafa Nadal, although the King of Clay has seen an opponent alteration, with the oft-injured Alexandr Dolgopolov pulling out, and being replaced by Simone Bolelli. His chances of winning his opening match - practically guaranteed, according to my model, and the market - don't particularly differ with the change of opponent.
Dolgopolov was one of a number of players to pull out injured, which gives weight to those who believe the new prize money ruling from the governing bodies is working, and in the long-term, this should make player fitness and motivation in the first round of Grand Slams a little more guaranteed. Players turning up injured, playing a few games, or the first set and then quitting in order to get a round one losers cheque in excess of £20k - good work if you can get it - should become a thing of the past.
Limited Fabbiano can make short work of inept Ebden
From Nadal at the peak of the ATP Tour, we also have some - shall we say politely - players with considerably less ability on the clay, and two of these feature today in the Matt Ebden versus Thomas Fabbiano match. Both do their best work on hard courts but Ebden's record on clay is nothing short of horrific.
On clay in his career, Ebden is 1-10 in main tour matches, winning just 53.5% of service points and 31.6% on return (85.1% combined) and this isn't even Challenger level, as evidenced by his mediocre 4-5 record in main draw Challenger matches as well. His sample of data isn't the biggest, but at the age of 30, this is purely because Ebden isn't choosing to play clay court events.
He's basically here because his ranking enables him to pick up a huge first round cheque at the very least, and I'd be very surprised if he pushed even a limited opponent in Fabbiano, who is [1.42], today. We can get even money with the Sportsbook on Fabbiano -5.5 games, which looks good, given that these Ebden loses sets by an average of a 2.72 game margin in main tour matches on clay - a 3-1 set win for Fabbiano would have a solid chance of covering this line.
Young prospect Ruud looking short against Thompson
Australians, with Ebden a prime example, don't generally have the best record on clay, but Jordan Thompson is not a complete mug on the dirt, and looks generously priced at [3.75] to get the better of the young Norwegian prospect, Casper Ruud, who qualified to be here without losing a set, albeit against some mediocre opposition, with the exception of Thiago Monteiro.
Ruud shot to prominence last season on clay, which is undoubtedly his favourite surface, with a run to the semi-finals of Rio de Janeiro, but he's been unable to replicate this level since, and while I do think he's a player of decent potential, he looks short-priced to get the win here. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Thompson was able to push Ruud, or even get the win.
Ivaskha capable of keeping matters respectable against Thiem
Other favourites who look a little short on day two include Marco Cecchinato, who isn't good enough to be [1.52] against Marius Copil, even in conditions which will suit, while Ilya Ivashka could give a good account of himself against Dominic Thiem, with the Austrian short at [1.07]. Thiem - as evidenced yet again last week - has an extreme propensity to drop sets against considerably worse opposition, and it would be no shock if Ivashka was able to cover handicaps here.
Wawrinka needs to recapture former glories to avoid ranking disaster
Finally, in other matches, Stan Wawrinka has much to prove still at his current level, and his exit in Geneva last week offers little confidence that he can do so. A loss to the capable Guillermo Garcia-Lopez today will be a disaster for his fragile ranking, and the Swiss man is [1.79] to avoid this occurrance.
Novak Djokovic is another who isn't at his best, but still is of a top five level on clay, and opens his campaign against Rogerio Dutra Da Silva, while arguably the best match of the day, given player levels and the competitiveness of the clash, sees Borna Coric face Philipp Kohlschreiber, with the Croatian talent, Coric, a slight [1.75] favourite to progress.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
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