The King of Clay Rafa Nadal continued his dominance on the red dirt by winning a record eighth Rome Masters 1000 Series title beating defending champion Sasha Zverev in a rain delayed final yesterday 6-1 1-6 6-3. It’s fair to say Nadal had a slight advantage having won his quarter final and semi-final matches on Friday and Saturday during the day, while Zverev’s respective matches didn’t finish until after midnight, so he had far less recovery time. Nadal is the red-hot favourite to win an unprecedented eleventh French Open title and having dominated much of the European clay court swing, it’s hard to find any genuine reasons to oppose him.
On to this week’s ATP action and there are two ATP 250 clay court tournaments at Geneva and Lyon before the French Open begins next Monday. Lyon replaced Nice in 2017 so ill use the historical data from both tournaments with conditions being very similar. Defending champion Tsonga does not return to defend his title as he’s out injured, but 2015 and 2016 Nice champion Thiem lines up as the top-seed this week and will be difficult to stop winning the title as he’s the only top-seed who has ever won Nice or Lyon.
The top-seed has won one of the last eight titles and was never a losing finalist during this period. The second seed has won two of the last eight titles (last Tsonga 2017) and they were a losing finalist once during this period (last 2010). Seeded players in general have performed well over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than three won five of the last eight titles (last Tsonga 2017) and a player seeded no higher than eight was a losing finalist five times during this period (last Berdych 2017), including the last four in a row. An unseeded player won three of the last eight titles (last Thiem 2015) and an unseeded player was a losing finalist three times during this period (last 2013).
From a betting perspective Thiem (6/5) should be too good for the top-half of the field as he’s got a winning head-to-head record against the players who look to be his main challengers. From the bottom half of the draw eighth seed Millman (33/1) is playing well enough on clay having reached the final at Budapest and he won the Aiz En Provence Challenger a week before Lyon.
With only a few years historical data to help analyse the Geneva draw I’ll just give a quick run down of the contenders and a couple of form-based selections. Top-seed Querrey is not renowned for his clay court prowess and he’s worth opposing on that basis. Second seed Fognini would be of interest from a betting perspective, but as he clearly had a knee injury at Rome last week I’m going to oppose him on that basis. Third seed and 2016 and 2017 winner Wawrinka returns to defend his title and he’s in the top-half of the draw, but with only eight competitive matches this year and one on clay, which he lost against Johnson 6-4 6-4 last week I don’t see him making it three home titles in a row this week.
From the top-half of the draw sixth seed Johnson (25/1) is a tough competitor and looks over priced considering he has form on clay winning Houston the last two years. He beat Wawrinka and pushed word number ten Carreno-Busta close at Rome last week just losing 6-4 2-6 6-4 and with an easier draw to contend with this week he should be able to mount a serious challenge for his first clay court title in Europe. From the bottom half of the draw veteran Seppi (18/1) has shown some good form on clay this season and if he can continue that level of form this week he should go close to winning the title. Finally, the unseeded Gojowczyk (40/1) is in good enough form to challenge for a title of this nature and while he’s drawn to face Seppi in the quarter-finals, I believe he’s good enough value to add as a saver in case they do meet and the German wins what would be their first meeting.
From a first round match betting perspective at Geneva I think qualifier Rubin (2.0) from America will be to too good for veteran Baghdatis on clay as he’s lost both his matches on the surface this year against younger lower ranked players like Rubin. At Lyon I think Lajovic today and Fritz tomorrow are both to short and are worth opposing against more experienced veterans Zeballos (9/4), who beat Lajovic at Geneva last year, and Ebden (29/11) respectively.