@JRTWEETSTENNIS PREVIEWS THE MONTE CARLO TENNIS MASTERS
The clay season may be a week old at this point, but the first real big event on the red dirt gets going this week from Monte Carlo, in the principality of Monaco. Rafael Nadal had dominated the event from 2016-2018, but with the Spanish legend injured and out of the field, 2022 will mark the third consecutive event that someone else will take home the title. Let’s take a look at some of the players to try and work into your lineups from the tournament favourites, to some potential dark horses.
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Despite the absence of Nadal from this field, there’s no shortage of big names and emerging stars to choose from in Monaco this coming week. Novak Djokovic has enjoyed his fair share of success here in the past and Stefanos Tsitsipas is defending the title from last season. Each of them has a red flag for me, however, with Tsitsipas entering the week in less-than-ideal form, while Djokovic is lacking for match play this season.
The two players I’d look to play from the elite tier of clay players would be Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud. Alcaraz is considered the heir apparent to Nadal, having just become the youngest ever player to win the Miami Masters event in Florida and is touted to build on that success during the clay-court swing over the coming months. Further, his elite athleticism and break percentage – which should only be accentuated on the slower clay courts – increase the likelihood that the teen could post some lopsided set scores in his favour. That is key, considering lopsided sets are so valuable in the scoring system for FanTeam tennis.
The same can be said for Ruud, who’s also been breaking opponents’ serve at a rate over 30% this season and has one of the heaviest topspin forehands on tour, which makes him extremely tough to handle on the high-bouncing clay. His marked improvement in the power department on both his first serve and forehand, also means he’s holding serve at a high rate, making those coveted lopsided sets even more likely.
Finally, something else both these men have is a clay title to their name this season, each having won a title during the brief South American clay court swing earlier this season. Many others have yet to step foot on the red dirt to this point in 2022.
Moving past some of the favourites to both win the tournament and accumulate plenty of points for your FanTeam tennis lineups in the process, conserving some salary will be key in order to be able to add players like Alcaraz and Ruud to your lineups.
A pair of names I fancy to help in that regard are Nikoloz Basilashvili and Lorenzo Musetti. Granted, the young Italian is a favourite in his first match, by the time the big guns get going (they have a bye in the opening round of action), Musetti could very well be an underdog in his match with sixth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime. Should he work his way past the mercurial Benoit Paire, Musetti is in with a chance at toppling the Canadian. The slower clay courts really help ensure players can’t rush Musetti’s one-handed backhand and if he were to play a seed in the second round, it’s tough to find one that he’d match up better with than Auger-Aliassime. We’ve seen the 21-year-old Montreal native really break out over the past year, reaching the top-10, but he’s still vulnerable on clay. He won just four matches from 10 in 2021 on the surface and his warm-up tournament in Marrakech didn’t go to plan, as he bowed out in the second round as a sizeable favourite. His style is still very power-centric and outside of landing his first serve and ending points quickly, the Canadian struggles with point construction and being able to play longer rallies. Musetti is a player poised to be able to take advantage.
As for Basilashvili, backing the Georgian is always a bit of a gamble, considering he plays with so little margin for error. He does, however, have a nice matchup in the first round, taking on Grigor Dimitrov. With the markets currently backing Basilashvili to win just 33% of the time, you could very well get him on the cheap for your FanTeam lineups. In a poor run of form this season, this is an excellent chance to “buy low” on the 30-year-old, who did make a semifinal run in Cagliari on the clay last year, while also winning a title in Munich. On the other side of the net, we see Dimitrov, who himself is susceptible to bouts of inconsistency and prefers the quicker surfaces. Having won just three matches on clay last season and losing to traditionally hard court players in Marcos Giron and Llyod Harris along the way, he does appear to be a vulnerable favourite in this spot.
Nikoloz Basilashvili has retired from his first round match in the second set with an injury!
Jon is a tennis handicapper and bettor, running a tennis betting podcast since the beginning of the 2021 tennis season. You can find his work at Tennis Betting Tidbits in any podcast app, or on Twitter at @TidbitsTennis.
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