There’s round one and two action from the Madrid Open on Tuesday on the ATP Tour and Sean Calvert is back to assess the day’s clay court action from a value betting perspective.
We got off to a good start on Monday in Madrid when John Isner provided us with a 2.38 winner as he defeated Miomir Kecamnovic, who, as I’d hoped, failed the mental challenge of being forced to hold serve time after time.
It went downhill after that though, with Adrian Mannarino not taking advantage of the obvious nerves that Carlos Alcaraz had on debut in Madrid.
“I started the match a little bit nervous,” Alcaraz admitted. “I tried to play aggressive to get the nerves out and tried to enjoy playing here, in front of a big crowd in Madrid.”
It was too much for Mannarino and to end the day, Fernando Verdasco was still too rusty to take advantage of any nerves that the struggling Christian Garin may have had in their opening set.
Moving on to Tuesday and the forecast says to expect a sunny day, with very little wind, so conditions should be perfect for tennis.
It’s a quick turnaround for several players today from finals on Sunday afternoon: Albert Ramos, Cam Norrie, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Jan-Lennard Struff and the one that stands out a mile as likely to struggle is Ramos.
The Spaniard barely got through his Estoril final against Norrie, having had on-court treatment for a right adductor problem and he looked to be struggling from then on, wincing noticeably towards the end.
So, a match in very different conditions at altitude less than 48 hours later could well be a problem for Ramos, but opponent Taylor Fritz has been priced accordingly and there doesn’t seem much value in the American now.
Norrie also had the trainer out in that Estoril final (anti-inflammatories for a right foot problem) and he may well also have a bit of a hangover from a final that he really let slip away.
Struff is slight underdog against Alexei Popyrin and under normal circumstances you’d be tempted by the German’s price on clay against Popyrin, but we’d be guessing a lot as to how he’ll shape up in such a quick turnaround.
Basilashvili faces Benoit Paire and that one could be absolutely anything, with Paire tanking pretty much every week for a long while and he was last seen sunning himself in the Maldives.
One Frenchman that hasn’t been lounging around on the beach is Pierre-Hugues Herbert and he has a very handy record in Madrid of 10-4 win/loss (including qualifying) and a hold/break total of 107.
He’s held serve 90% of the time in these quicker conditions in Madrid in those 14 matches and he qualified very nicely this time around, too, holding serve in 19 of the 20 service games he played against Tennys Sandgren and Gianluca Mager.
That sort of form and those stats must give him a chance against the inconsistent Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who was dreadful in a semi final loss to Ramos in Estoril on Saturday, winning just two points on second serve in the match.
It might be that the conditions here in Madrid combined with the aggressive style of Herbert could be a winning combination, as Davidovich Fokina is yet to win a match at this tournament (lost to Gasquet and Fritz in 2019 and 2018).
You never quite know what sort of level Davidovich Fokina will produce on the day, but he looks worth taking on here, with Herbert an underrated performer in these conditions.
Another one that could be too short after an unexpected run at Masters 1000 level is Hubert Hurkacz, who brings a 0-3 career series deficit into his clash with John Millman.
Since that surprise title in Miami Hurkacz has only played a couple of matches on clay: one was a deciding set win over Thomas Fabbiano and the other a heavy defeat to Dan Evans and he might be a little underprepared for this one.
Millman, on the other hand, has played nine matches on clay in the last month and while it’s clearly not his best surface, the livelier conditions in Madrid will help him and he might well be able to test the Pole here.
Hurkacz played well the last time he came to Madrid, making the last-16 as a qualifier, but with so few sets under his belt on clay and the added difficulty of playing at the Madrid altitude, too, this might become difficult.
Millman enjoyed the backing of the home crowd (and a hard court) when he beat Hurkacz at the Australian Open 16 months ago, but it shows that if Millman is motivated he can hang around and draw the errors from an opponent like Hurkacz.
The Pole lost five of his next seven matches after winning the Delray Beach title earlier this year and he felt a bit too short for me in this one at the original price of 1.35, but he’s drifted in the betting now, which makes him closer to the right odds.
Guido Pella looks to be coming back a little bit towards better form, but his body may not be up to it these days after a long time out with injury and illness in recent times.
He was doing pretty well against Millman last week before a groin injury stopped him in his tracks and I expect Jannik Sinner will prove too strong on these quicker conditions.
Of the round two matches on Tuesday, the one that looks interesting to me is Tommy Paul at a big price against Andrey Rublev, who’s never played a singles match in Madrid in his career thus far.
Paul was the only player other than Stefanos Tsitipas in the final to take a set off Rublev in Hamburg on the clay last autumn when Rublev won that title that week and having had a match already in Madrid (beat Martinez on Sunday) we might see Paul pressing Rublev again.
Rublev was a 1.28 chance when he beat Paul 2-1 that September day in Hamburg and now the Russian is half that price at 1.15 or so, which seems rather short, and the +5.5 games on Paul at 1.85 (Betfred) looks decent.
0.5 points win Herbert to beat Davidovich Fokina at 2.75 (Bet 365)
0.5 points win Paul +5.5 games to beat Rublev at 1.85 (Unibet)