The clay court season is well underway now and this week marks the second Masters event on the surface here in Madrid.
As you would expect from a Masters tournament, all of the big names are here, and while Andy Murray will be hoping to defend the crown he won 12 months ago the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Stan Wawrinka will be looking to steal it away from the Scot.
Discussions of tournament winners always begin with Djokovic, of course. He has not played in this event since 2013, when he was beaten by Grigor Dimitrov in the last 32, and the fact that he is even competing here in Madrid suggests he is concerned about his preparations on clay for the upcoming French Open; the Serb has lost his solitary match on the slow stuff in 2016, remember. For these reasons, we are happy to give him a wide berth given his paltry price of 1.91.
Multi-time Madrid winner and last year’s beaten finalist, Rafa Nadal, will be looking to build on his fine form here and wrap up a hat-trick of ATP Tour titles. Having triumphed in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the past few weeks, you could argue that Nadal is the man to beat here; making a mockery of his 3.75 price. Indeed, his potential route to the final is a happy one: Dominic Thiem in the last eight and Andy Murray in the semis being the toughest obstacles to overcome.
Fans of outside value might be interested in either Kei Nishikori (21.00) or Milos Raonic (34.00). Nishikori has appeared in three tour finals already in 2016, and it took an inspired Nadal to scrape him off court in Barcelona just a fortnight ago. A tough draw will be enough to put off some – a potential last eight meeting with either Richard Gasquet or Fernando Verdasco, followed by a quarter final against Stan Wawrinka or Gael Monfils – is less than ideal, so caution is advised.
Raonic, meanwhile, is no clay court specialist, and he will need to be at his very best to see off Aleksandr Dolgopolov in the last 16. But Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is beatable in the last eight, and Djokovic is vulnerable on clay. So you just never know, and if the Canadian can stay fit he has a chance.
He remains as frustratingly inconsistent as ever, but we really like Fernando Verdasco’s chances of upsetting Richard Gasquet in their last 16 encounter. The Spaniard has won three of their last four meetings, and is 4-1 up in their last five matches on clay. Don’t forget, Verdasco won the ATP Bucharest title a fortnight ago too so is in form, and his early exit from Estoril last week – where he played less than 24 hours after claiming his title – is forgivable.
Gasquet, meanwhile, was beaten by the competent Lucas Pouille in Monte Carlo and taken to a tie-break by rookie Roberto Carballes Baena in his first match here. So don’t be afraid to side with Verdasco at 2.00: that’s the pick of today’s betting tips from Bet Advisor.
The jury is still out on Joao Sousa as a proven clay court performer – he’s lost four of his six matches on the surface in 2016 to date, and his opponent in the last 32 is improving Spaniard Marcel Granollers. In the last three weeks alone Granollers has beaten the likes of David Goffin and Alex Zverev on clay, and he lost to eventual finalists Monfils and Nadal in Monte Carlo and Barcelona respectively. We’re happy to get on side with the Spaniard at 1.80.
And then we have the aforementioned Pouille taking on Sam Querrey. The Frenchman has won nine of his eleven clay court matches this year, reached the final in Bucharest and defeated Goffin in the first round here. Querrey, with all the will in the world, is not a clay court specialist by any means. Add Pouille to your betslip at 1.40 and bank some profit.