At the time of writing, the finals of last week’s three ATP Tour tournaments at Munich, Estoril and Istanbul where either underway, or still waiting to start. At Munich the final was an all-German affair between reigning champion and NextGen star Sasha Zverev and veteran Kohlschriber (advised 10/1). At Estoril two unseeded players reached the final; home hope Joao Sousa continued his impressive consistent form and was due to face 2018 Next Gen sensation Tiafoe, who was appearing in his second ATP Tour final this year after winning Delray Beach earlier in the season. Finally, at Istanbul it was a great advertisement for the veterans with 34-year-old Jaziri from Turkey deservedly reaching his first ATP Final after playing some great tennis this year and he was due to face the battling Daniels from Japan who has turned in to a real tough competitor and consistent competitor, when he is fit and healthy at least.
On to this week’s action and it’s the fourth ATP Masters 1000 Series of the season, and second on clay, got underway yesterday in Madrid at the futuristic Caja Magica and the tournament is renowned for its quick conditions due to the high altitude of Madrid. The tournament has been dominated by the Big Four Nadal (4), Federer (2), Djokovic (2) and Murray (2) over the last decade and the big question this week is if world number one, top-seed and the King of Clay Rafa Nadal can win Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid back-to-back for the second time and then go on to win an unprecedented eleventh French Open crown.
Nadal won’t have Federer or Murray in his way this year, tenth seed Djokovic avoids Nadal in the bottom half of the draw, but his form suggests he won’t be challenging for a third title this week, but Indian Wells winner and fourth seed Del Potro is in the top-half of the draw and is playing his first clay court tournament this season, after missing Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He resides in the Second Quarter of the draw and could meet Nadal in the semi-finals if both are at the top of their game. Del Potro best results at Madrid were two semi-finals back in 2009 and 2012, and with no preparation on clay it’s hard to gauge his chances this week. If he plays well this week and at Rome the week after it could pay to back him for the French Open if he receives a kind draw. Fifth Seed and 2017 finalist Thiem also resides in the top-half of the draw, but after a disappointing season by his high standards, and with Nadal in the First Quarter of the draw with him it’s unlikely he’ll repeat last year’s success.
Second seed Sasha Zverev reached the quarter-finals last year after winning Munich the week before and then famously went on to win his first Masters 1000 Series title, the Rome Masters the following week. Again, it’s hard to gauge his chances this week; he’s clearly starting to play better, but it all hinges on the defence of his Munich title, and if he does I don’t expect him to challenge for the title this week but I imagine he will still get a few useful match wins under his belt before meeting a player who is fresher and maybe hungrier He also has the small matter of a number of capable top-class players capable of stopping him, like third seed Dimitrov, seventh seed Isner, eighth seed Goffin, fifteenth seed Pouille and unseeded NextGen stars like Chung, Edmunds and Wild Card Tsitsipas, who is drawn to meet Zverev in the second round if the young Greek he wins his opener.
Looking at past statistics over the last decade and the top-seed has won two of the last ten titles (last Djokovic 2016) and they were a losing finalist three times during this period (last 2011), which gives Nadal a statistically good chance of winning a fifth title. However, as far as past statistics go they never really seem to apply to the elite players like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, who are in a totally different league when it comes to bucking historical statistics and trends. The second seed has a good record at Madrid winning four of the last ten titles (last Murray 2015), but they were never a losing finalist during this period, which could bode well of Sasha Zverev’s chances this week, depending on how fresh he is. Seeded players in general have dominated Madrid over the last decade and a player seeded no higher than five won the last ten titles (last Nadal seeded four 2017) and a player seeded no higher than fifteen was a losing finalist nine times during this period (last Thiem eight 2017). Unseeded players have never won the title at Madrid over the last decade and they were a losing finalist once during this period (2008).
From a Betting perspective I’m going to avoid the top-half of the draw with Nadal in such dominant form on clay this season and he’s yet to drop a set still. The faster conditions may make it more difficult for him to dominate, but he’s looking in such good physical state it’s going to take a monumental attacking performance to stop him I imagine.
Two players from the bottom half of the draw who frank past statistics and have the talent and form to reach the final are third seed Dimitrov (36/1), who made the semi-finals at Monte Carlo losing to Nadal, which suggests he is playing well enough to reach the final this week and seventh seed Isner (40/1), who is in form having won his first Masters 1000 Series title at Miami back in March and he’ll be fresh for a good run this week having not played since Houston. Both players also have winning records or form against most of the main dangers in the bottom half of the draw.
From a first round match betting perspective there’s a few matches that caught the eye and after careful analysis I’ve decided to oppose some favourites who I believe there are odds are too short. The out of form Schwartzman is worth against Mannarino, who leads the head-to-head 1-0 and will like the quicker conditions. I would oppose Kohlschreiber against Sugita as the Munich final and celebrations will have taken a lot out of the German. On current form tenth seed Djokovic must be opposed against Monte Carlo finalist Nishikori, who unseeded this week. Veteran and Wild Card Garcia-Lopez has a 5-0 head-to-head losing record against American Harrison, who will relish the quicker condition’s, and he’s the outsider of the two so Garcia-Lopez is worth taking on. Finally, Spaniard Ramos-Vinolas is worth opposing against the talented German Gojowzczyk as Ramos is so out of form and Gojowzcyk leads the head-to-head 1-0.