NextGen star Alexander Zverev (advised 22/1) was already more than a potential star of the future having won three ATP 250 Tournaments at the tender age of 20. His career took another significant leap yesterday when he crashed in to the top 10 for the first time after winning a first Masters 1000 Series title in Rome, where he defeated defending champion and world number two Djokovic in the final with a devastating display of fearless, aggressively attacking tennis. The win and the timing of the win especially was significant as the 20 year old became the youngest winner of the Rome Masters since Nadal won it aged 19 back in 2006 and he also became the youngest winner of a Masters 1000 Series title since Djokovic won Miami aged 19 back in 2007.
On to this week’s ATP action and there are two ATP 250 clay court tournaments, one at Geneva and a new event at Lyon, which replaces Nice. With Geneva only being two years old and Lyon a new tournament there is little or no historical data to help analyse the draws so I will keep my selections to a minimum this week. At Geneva I don’t see top seed Wawrinka defending his home country title as it’s statistically uncommon for players to win back-to-back 250 events, nor do I see second Nishikori winning given his injury troubles and lack of competitive match play this year. Fourth seed John Isner from the USA performed well at Rome last week and would be of interest but I think it’s too quick a turnaround for him.
Another American who may surpass Isner this week is compatriot and sixth seed Sam Querrey (20/1), who showed some good form at Rome last week. If he can replicate that level he has a fair chance of springing a surprise this week. From the bottom half of the draw seventh seed Lorenzi (40/1) looks overpriced to me considering his usual consistency and record on clay and, with the veterans doing better than ever on the ATP Tour of late, this could be the time to side with the Italian grinder again.
Lyon has attracted a high quality field considering it is on the eve of the French Open but quite a few of the players will be looking for more competitive match time on clay having either not played a full season so far and/or not won many matches on the surface. With that in mind I will not advise any outright selections for this tournament on this occasion.
Looking ahead to the French Open and even though Nadal has been back to his dominant best at Europe’s premier clay court tournaments this year and he is clearly the player to beat at this year’s French Open with Federer out and Murray and Djokovic so out of form, the tournament is still the most open it has been for many years. Winning a Grand Slam on clay is far more challenging compared to winning tournaments with a three set format and Nadal is still more vulnerable to a shock defeat in Grand Slams than when at the peak of his powers as his form in them over the last few seasons proves.
While I would love to see Nadal win a tenth title, I would much prefer to see one of the young established or NextGen stars finally make their mark at Grand Slam level and break the dominance of the game’s elite players. Alexander Zverev is clearly capable of achieving this feat, as is Dominic Thiem, but i’m not sure Thiem is quite there yet psychologically and, with the ante-post value now gone on Zverev, neither player appeals from a betting perspective. At present there is little attracting me in the ante-post outright market so I will leave it till Sunday to decide and will also look at the Quarter winning markets where there will hopefully be some better value.