Fognini v Thiem a match only for the brave
There are 13 first-round clashes in the Italian capital today, following yesterday's small start which saw wins for Aslan Karatsev, Filip Krajinovic, Christian Garin and Marin Cilic. The join the eight seeds with first-round byes in the round two schedule, which is likely to start tomorrow.
With 20 first-round clashes still to be played in total, today's schedule represents the majority of these, and there are some fascinating talking points for the day ahead.
Firstly, as referred to in the outright preview, Dominic Thiem meets Fabio Fognini in a match where only the brave would be willing to make a definitive judgement.
The Austrian, Thiem, has lost all four matches since his comeback from long-term injury, underwhelming compared to market expectations. Meanwhile, Fognini is one of the most inconsistent players on tour - capable of playing lights out and defeating elite opposition, or losing easily to players ranked outside the top 100.
Fognini is the favourite at 1.674/6. I have no view as to whether this is value or not.
Wawrinka's level difficult to predict
It's also difficult to predict where Stan Wawrinka is at right now. The 37-year-old has enjoyed an illustrious career at the top of the sport, but finds himself ranked outside the top 200, having also suffered long-term injury issues.
The sum total of the Swiss's activity this season is just two matches, where he lost in straight sets to Elias Ymer in the Marbella Challenger, and Alexander Bublik in a deciding set in Monte Carlo.
These were Wawrinka's first two matches since March 2021 - he was ranked 20th at the time - so we have little to go on in terms of his current level, particularly as the last match was a month ago.
Wawrinka's absence from subsequent events, on his preferred clay, could well be telling. He faces the big-serving American, Reilly Opelka, today, and it's worth remembering that Opelka got to the semi-final here last year, with four underdog wins to get to that stage.
The market makes Opelka a strong 1.384/11 favourite, and I suspect his serve will be too consistent for the rusty Wawrinka today.
Brooksby has much to prove on clay
Quite a few players in action today have question marks surrounding their current level, or surface level. In the latter case, Jenson Brooksby fits the bill, with the American having lost all three of his main tour clay matches, and being given a lesson last week by the veteran Spaniard, Roberto Bautista-Agut.
However, Brooksby has won a Challenger event on clay previously, so shouldn't be absolutely disastrous on the surface, but I do think that the market is taking a chance on him today at 1.558/15 against the home wild card Flavio Cobolli.
The Italian reached the semi-final of the Rome Challenger recently and therefore should be very comfortable in his surroundings, and has also picked up a clay title in Zadar (Croatia) in March.
It will be fascinating to see whether talent from other surfaces (Brooksby) trumps surface familiarity and home support (Cobolli). I'd probably rather lean towards Cobolli at prices.
Clay experience should favour Ramos
I also lean towards Albert Ramos as a marginal 1.855/6 favourite for his meeting with Tommy Paul.
Ramos reached the semi-final in Estoril recently, losing to eventual winner Sebastian Baez, and was beaten in a decider by Marin Cilic in Madrid last week.
The Spanish veteran does have a clay title to his name this season with a win in Cordoba in February, and while his form is fairly mixed, his 12 month clay numbers are far better than those of his opponent.
Considering this, I'm surprised at the market lines. Paul himself hasn't impressed of late, with only one win (via retirement) in his last five, and has mostly stuck to hard courts this season.
With Ramos having better clay data and far more surface experience, both this season and in the past, I think he looks reasonable value currently and he is my bet of the day.