The heart of the tennis schedule rolls on, as we jump from a Masters event in the Spanish capital of Madrid, to another in the Italian capital of Rome. While the surfaces and level of prestige may remain equal, the conditions differ significantly as we move from about 650 metres of elevation in Madrid to sea level in Rome. That means slower conditions, and alters what type of player one should be looking to roster in their FanTeam tennis lineups.

Last week, we saw both women’s recommendations of Simona Halep and Jessica Pegula cruise into the quarterfinals, with both women combining to drop just a single set along the way. The men’s side didn’t fare as well, with Sebastian Korda falling in his second match, and Casper Ruud continuing to struggle during the European clay swing, failing to win a match in Madrid. So, who should people look to back this coming week in Rome? Let’s break it down.

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Where else would one start but with the King of Clay himself, Rafael Nadal? Back in slower conditions, Nadal is going to be really tough to beat at one of his favourite venues. His price may be expensive through the early rounds, but with his penchant for winning so often in straight sets, and his ability to post some lopsided set scores in slower conditions on the dirt, Nadal may well be worth the price. The only concern heading into Madrid was if he’d hold up physically returning from injury. He answered those questions nicely, having an impressive tournament, losing only to his prodigal compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.

From the women’s draw, someone that should feature in a few lineups from the second round onwards is Spaniard Paula Badosa. While she was dealt a really tough second match in Simona Halep last week, her path to the quarterfinals appears much smoother this time around. Between her dominant win against potential second-round opponent Veronika Kudermetova a week ago, and the rest of the draw consisting of players she should handle with rather ease (with the exception of a Jelena Ostapenko that is firing on all cylinders), Badosa has the potential to rack up the points for all those that choose to trust her in their lineups this week.


As for a player from the women’s draw that can likely be had for a reasonable price for a few rounds, Tamara Zidansek should be one to consider. An underdog in the betting markets for her opening match against Daria Kasatkina, the Slovenian has had a slower start to this clay season than expected. That said, her only tournaments of the season on the red dirt have come in quicker conditions in Stuttgart and Madrid. Her game style suits the slower courts, where she can defend, wait for errors from her opponents, all while constructing points and waiting for an opening to find her own winners. Against an opponent who won’t be dictating points with any kind of power and plays a similar style, there should be some value in backing her as an underdog for both of the opening two rounds.

On the men’s side, there are a few guys that could win a few matches and are priced as underdogs in their opening match & likely to be underdogs against in the second round in the betting markets. The first, and more risky option is Ilya Ivashka. The 28-year-old has been finding his feet this season on clay after a breakthrough clay season a year ago. His last three losses have all come in three sets, including losses as a rather large underdog to Lorenzo Musetti and Stefanos Tsitsipas. He could very well stick with and upset the upstart Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and if he does, Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime is much more vulnerable in the slower conditions in Rome, than he was in the altitude of Madrid.

The second option is David Goffin, who has opened as an underdog to Hubert Hurkacz. After a tumultuous stretch returning from injury, the Belgian has been solid as a rock this clay season. Goffin won the title in Marrakech, and followed that up with a pair of wins in Monte Carlo before running out of gas after the aforementioned long week the week prior. He then had a hiccup against Filip Krajinovic in Belgrade, before qualifying and making the third round last week in Madrid, losing only in a third set tiebreak to Nadal, as a massive underdog. The veteran has regained his rally tolerance and his ability to flatten balls out and generate a bit of pace when needed to win points provides the perfect balance needed to win in these conditions. He very well could upset the serve-reliant Hurkacz in the first round, before playing a Jenson Brooksby who’s poor on slower clay or Challenger standout Flavio Cobolli in the second round.

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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