The main draw of the Monte-Carlo Masters gets underway on Monday and Sean Calvert is back to cast his eye over the round one matches on the hunt for betting value.
We’re back at the Monte-Carlo Country Club for the first time since 2019 and usually this Masters 1000 event is not a good tournament to be backing underdogs in – but that wasn’t the case in the most recent edition.
Cancelled in 2020 due to Covid, the 2019 edition produced an unprecedented (in this tournament) 42% underdog winners, bringing the average over the last seven editions up to 29% from 26%.
The worry is that that 2019 tournament was a one-off, but we’ve seen a lot of peculiar and unexpected results this season and since the restart of the tour in 2020, so with many of the top players making their seasonal debuts on the red dirt, too, there’s a chance we could see more upsets than in the old days of the Monte-Carlo Masters.
It’s always been dead slow here and there were only 10 tie break matches of 52 in 2019, with an overall average of 25% of the matches here featuring a tie break in the last seven editions.
Monte-Carlo is at the bottom of the list as well for service holds, with an average of 72% holds of serve in the main draw in the last four editions.
In the years 2013-2018 inclusive there was an average of 26% underdog winners in Monte-Carlo’s main draw and there’s been an average of 25% underdog winners in round one in the last seven editions of the tournament.
In terms of profit and loss from those underdogs, you’d have made a healthy profit in 2019 if you’d backed every underdog that week of £224 (based on just a £10 stake), but if you’d backed every dog in round one in the last five years you’d have lost £433 (all based on opening prices from Pinnacle).
It’s not a tournament I want to get too involved in, so I’ll just try round one and see if we can find some value in it, and those who make the shortlist include: Christian Garin, Albert Ramos, Dan Evans, Jan-Lennard Struff, Lorenzo Musetti, Lorenzo Sonego, and Laslo Djere.
Grigor Dimitrov has a good record in Monte-Carlo, making the semis as recently as 2018 and holding a 14-7 win/loss mark in the main draw, but he usually finds Jan-Lennard Struff a tough opponent on clay.
Struff has won two of their last three meetings (all on clay, two of which matches were in Monte-Carlo) and the big German has held serve a whopping 88% of the time in his four-match clay career series against Dimitrov.
The pair’s stats show that Struff has had the edge by and large, with second serve numbers very similar (51% for Dimitrov and 49% for Struff) but Struff has won seven percent more points on first serve and created a lot more break point chances (29 to 19), while their break points converted numbers are almost the same (26% Dimitrov and 27% Struff).
Given also that Struff has played a week on clay last week in Cagliari while Dimitrov has been struggling again lately (lost to Cam Norrie in Miami and Lorenzo Musetti in Acapulco) Struff has a fair shot as underdog in this one, with the over games a possible option, too, given the stats.
Albert Ramos is rarely an easy out on the clay and Jannik Sinner, coming off what must have been a disappointing defeat in the Miami final, where he didn’t show his best, looks a tad short against the Spaniard at 1.40.
Ramos was unlucky not to make the final in Marbella, having been 1.09 in-play to beat Pablo Carreno Busta in the semi final, and rarely does Ramos get beaten comfortably on the red dirt when he does lose.
He’s either won the match or taken at least a set in his last 14 main level matches on clay and he’s a former finalist in Monte-Carlo (2017) so this is anything but an easy opener for Sinner.
Sinner did make the quarter finals of the French Open back in October, but you’d have to say Sinner had a pretty handy draw that fortnight that culminated in beating an injured Alexander Zverev to make the last eight.
Ramos +1.5 sets is a fair option here, but maybe just a little too short for me.
I’m more inclined to risk a bigger-priced wager and the one I like is for Dan Evans to upset the finalist from the last edition of the Monte-Carlo Masters, Dusan Lajovic.
Clay is far from Evans’ best surface, but he showed that he can perform well on it when his head is in the right place last week in Cagliari when he should have beaten Lorenzo Musetti on the Italian’s home soil.
Evans has beaten Lajovic at a clay Masters in the past – when they met in the qualifying event for the Rome Masters in 2019 – and he may have the advantage here again thanks to his run out on the dirt last week.
Lajovic skipped Marbella last week to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and I don’t mind taking a chance at 2.50 (Bet 365) that Evans takes advantage of the situation and comes away with the win.
The third bet I’ll take is for Christian Garin to beat Felix-Auger Aliassime at around 2.25 (generally).
I’ve taken a big-priced punt on Garin on the outrights this week, but I also have to have him here at this price on this surface against the young Canadian.
FAA has had his moments on clay, but his stats on this surface are quite underwhelming: 15-14 win/loss at main level with a service hold/break total of 95.
That compares quite poorly with his 29-21 win/loss mark and 105 hold/break total in his last 50 matches at main level on outdoor hard courts.
Indeed, FAA showed very little indeed on clay last season, losing four of his last five matcheson the dirt and against the likes of Yoshihito Nishioka and Alexander Bublik – both of whom prefer much quicker conditions.
The much-publicised link-up with Toni Nadal may end up helping Auger-Aliassime eventually, but it’s too soon to have had much effect already and Garin’s stats are some way superior to those of FAA (37-13 win/loss and a hold/break total of 107).
FAA did beat Garin on clay in 2019 in Rio, but that was after Garin beat FAA a week earlier in Buenos Aires and Garin was favourite for both of those matches, so I’m not sure I quite understand the pricing on this one.
Last week’s Cagliari finalists Lorenzo Sonego and Laslo Djere both have quite quick turnarounds from Sunday’s final in Italy, but it’s not that far to travel and both have their chances as underdogs against Marton Fucsovics and Karen Khachanov respectively.
Finally, Lorenzo Musetti is tempting as underdog against Aslan Karatsev, with the latter not having played on the clay since last autumn and he’s actually never played a main level match on the red dirt in his career.
Karatsev did get a lot of wins at Challenger level on clay last August and September, but he failed to qualify for Roland Garros (lost to Korda in qualies) and many will prefer the current clay level of Musetti to the somewhat unproven at this level clay game of the Russian.
Musetti was the pre-tournament favourite to win Cagliari last week and he was rather unlucky that he faced Djere on a really windy day there a few days ago. He’s certainly a reasonable pick to beat Karatsev at these prices.
So, a few options then in round one of Monte-Carlo, but it’s not a tournament I like to wager much on, so I’ll just take three small ones and that’ll be all for this week as far as match bets are concerned.
And now that we have ‘quarter winner’ prices out I’ll take the bet I mentioned in my outright preview, which is Filip Krajinovic to win Q4 at 14-1 (Bet 365).
0.5 points win Struff to beat Dimitrov at 2.50 (generally)
0.5 points win Evans to beat Lajovic at 2.50 (Bet 365)
0.5 points win Garin to beat Auger-Aliassime at 2.25 (generally)
1 point win Krajinovic to win Q4 at 15.0 (Bet 365)