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  • Chris Sobey

Tennis Monte Carlo Masters

The first Masters Clay court tournament of the season at Monte Carlo got underway yesterday and it heralds the start of the European Clay court swing, which leads up the second Grand Slam of the season at Roland Garros in Paris. World number one Novak Djokovic, who has only lost one match this season and completed the Indian Wells and Miami double for an unprecedented third time, returns to Monte Carlo as the defending champion and will go for a three-peat, as well as a record breaking 29th Masters title this week.

The Big four of Djokovic, Murray, Federer and Nadal have dominated the Masters 1000 scene since 2010 winning 50 of the last 54 titles since April 2010 and given Djokovic’s total dominance at this level there’s little point in opposing him in the top half of the draw this week. However, the status of the Big Four can be questioned at present with Nadal seeming to be a shadow of his former self, Federer because of his age and because he’s returning from a two month injury lay off, and Murray because his form has dipped alarmingly since reaching the Australian Open final and since the birth of his daughter.

The statistics point towards one of the top three seeds winning this years title as they’ve won the last ten titles between them, and a player seeded no higher than six has been a losing finalist during this period. Djokovic will no doubt maintain the trend of one of the top three seeds winning the title, but the bottom half of the draw looks way more open and second seed Murray, fourth seed Wawrinka and fifth seed Nadal are far from certainties to reach the semi-finals on current form.

Murray, Nadal and Wawrinka still have to be respected given their past credentials, but as the second seed has won none of the last four titles and never been a losing finalist over the last decade and the fourth and fifth seeds have never won the title, and have only been a losing finalist only twice in this period (fourth seed 2014 and 2011) I won’t be advising them this week.

It’s worth opposing Nadal and Wawrinka in the third quarter of the draw and siding with 12th seed Dominic Thiem at 50/1, given he’s won four titles on clay over the last two seasons and has winning form against the aforementioned on the surface. The same applies for 10th seed Milos Raonic at 40/1 as he’s got winning form against Murray on the surface and has a winning head-to-head record against 2015 finalist and sixth seed Tomas Berdych, who he’s drawn to meet in the third round.

From a first round match betting perspective there are two favourites that should progress to the second round given their recent form and records on the surface. Jiri Vesely and David Goffin are both solid and consistent performers on clay and can be backed in a double at Evens.

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