The ATP Tour heads to France and Switzerland in week 20, as the clay court swing continues with the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon and the Geneva Open – both ATP 250 events in the lead-up to the French Open. Sean Calvert is back with his outright betting preview of both tournaments.
With two weeks (now) to go until the French Open the extended clay swing continues with the Geneva Open and the Open Parc Lyon, but before we get stuck into those events a look back at Rome.
We were within a point of having a 300-1 outright into the quarter finals last week in Rome when Denis Shapovalov held match points against Rafael Nadal, having led the Spaniard by a set and 3-0 (point for 4-0) at one stage.
He couldn’t see it out from 1.14 in-play though, so it goes down as yet another unlucky one at a massive price.
Elsewhere, I said in last week’s preview that I wouldn’t rule Lorenzo Sonego out of making the quarter finals and that’s precisely what the Italian managed at his home Masters 1000 (indeed, the 450-1 shot went on to make the semis) but few would have predicted a Federico Delbonis/Reilly Opelka quarter final in Q3.
We backed Opelka to win his quarter in Miami and he was woeful and you wouldn’t have expected him to finally find some form on slowish clay in Rome, but that’s what he did, and it took Rafael Nadal to stop him in the semis.
Conditions and trends
Geneva and Lyon are usually played in the week before Roland Garros and have been known to produce a few bigger-priced winners, but I wonder what difference it will make this year that it’s being held two weeks prior instead?
Geneva has had winners and finalists at 33-1, 28-1, 25-1 and 20-1 in the last three editions and the last time it was held (in 2019) we were really unlucky with 33-1 Nicolas Jarry, who lost to Alexander Zverev in a final set tie break from match points up.
The number one seed has won Geneva in three of its last four editions and top seeds usually go well in Lyon, too, with only Robin Soderling in 2010 failing to make at least the quarter finals as number one seed in the last 10 editions in Lyon.
Qualifiers have weak records in Geneva and Lyon, with Mischa Zverev the only one to make it past the quarter finals in Geneva so far, while no qualifier has passed the last eight in Lyon yet in its three years on tour (2012 was the last year that a qualifier went further than the last eight in Nice which preceded Lyon on the tour).
The weather forecast wasn’t entirely accurate last week in Rome when it predicted days of midweek rain that didn’t materialise until later, but for what it’s worth they say it will rain every day in Geneva this week.
According to weather.com there’s between a 79% and 98% chance of rain between Saturday and Wednesday and light rain is expected on all of the other days, so we could be in for a long week there.
Any rain will make conditions slower in Geneva, which has an altitude of around 375m and in the past it’s allowed the likes of Peter Gojowczyk, Marton Fucsovics and Mischa Zverev to make the final or win it.
Rain also features prominently on the Lyon forecast for the week, but it appears that it’ll be more like showers there, so they might be able to play through it, but conditions seem likely to be slower than usual at both tournaments.
Geneva will be played behind closed doors, while Lyon will have a limited number of spectators on the Centre Court only.
Roger Federer is the top seed in Geneva this week, with the 39-year-old making his first appearance at the Geneva Open, having played a Challenger in Geneva way back in 1998.
So, it’s been a long wait for fans in Geneva to see Federer in action – just the 23 years – and they won’t get to see him live because the tournament isn’t allowing fans in this week.
The Swiss maestro was last seen on the match court two months ago when he lost to Nikoloz Basilashvili in Doha and his last match on clay came in the semi finals of the French Open of 2019.
Fed’s been practicing with former Geneva champion Marton Fucsovics at the tournament in the last few days (Federer beat Fucsovics 6-3 in a practice set, reportedly) and said: “I have been playing tennis a lot in the last few weeks. All good. My knee reacts differently sometimes after a match compared to when I train. So let’s see how it goes now in a match.”
He’ll face either Jordan Thompson or Pablo Andujar first up, followed by possibly Fucsovics or Marin Cilic, Cristian Garin or French Open Boys Champion Dominic Stephan Stricker.
If Fed did meet Stricker there’d just be the 21-year age difference between them, with Stricker being born just over a year after Federer won his first major title.
But the likely rain all week makes this a tough one to call, while the element of guesswork regarding Federer’s conditioning doesn’t help punters either.
It would be some achievement for fed to turn up here after barely any tennis for getting on for 18 months and win it on his worst surface in the rain, but I like the 33-1 about former champ Fucsovics.
Garin struggled in damp conditions against Felix Auger Aliassime and turned it right around when the sun came out the next day, so I prefer the power of Fucsovics in the likely damp conditions.
It’s one of those that could easily lose in round one, but I don’t mind taking on Garin, Federer and the hit and miss Cilic at these prices and it may well be the case that Fucsovics really enjoys Geneva and will relish the prospect of another title here.
His tennis was excellent in the early spring and he was unlucky to keep running into an on-fire Andrey Rublev, but he can play on clay, too, as he showed when almost beating Dominic Thiem in straight sets last week in Rome before fading badly.
All told, 33-1 seems more than reasonable.
In Q2, Casper Ruud will be a popular choice and he looks a strong favourite to progress to the semis against the likes of Benoit Paire, Dominik Koepfer, Feli Lopez, Tennys Sandgren and Salvatore Caruso.
There’s a spot for a qualifier here as well though and depending on who gets that spot they may be of interest despite the lack of success that qualifiers have had over the years in Geneva.
Playing behind closed doors is unlikely to appeal to Paire, but I’m not sure that Koepfer is good enough on clay – let alone damp clay – to take advantage and make the last four, while surely conditions won’t favour Lopez and Caruso is badly out of form.
Sandgren hasn’t got much of a record on clay, losing 12 of his last 15 main level matches on this surface, so this quarter looks like Ruud’s to lose.
Quarter three is interesting though, with seeds Adrian Mannarino and Grigor Dimitrov hardly the strongest on the clay, while Fernando Verdasco looked in Madrid like he needs another month or so of practice after a long time out injured.
Reilly Opelka is the obvious pick to threaten Dimitrov here after the American’s surprising run to the semis in Rome and the altitude in Geneva will help his serve, but it’s the qualifier that will face Verdasco that interests me.
The final quarter is where we find our 300-1 nearly man from last week, Denis Shapovalov, but there are plenty in with chances in Q4 aside from Shapo, such as Fabio Fognini, Guido Pella, Thiago Monteiro and Laslo Djere.
Stefano Travaglia hasn’t shown anywhere near enough lately to rate him as a likely winner, but the qualifier that will face him could have a chance, so let’s wait and see who that is.
Fognini doesn’t seem in the mood to slog it out in the drizzle in a 250 with the French Open around the corner and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his round one opponent Pella go well here – if he’s fit, which he rarely seems to be these days.
Djere hasn’t won a match since losing the Cagliari final to Sonego and he’s on a run of five straight losses, but he’s another one in with a big chance if he has a good week.
He faces Monteiro in round one and the winner of that one has a definite chance, but with both Monteiro and Djere on losing runs at the moment it’s hard to pick a winner of that match, let alone back one of them to win the title.
Shapovalov is too short in price for me, given how inconsistent he is, and it’s largely a case of wait and see in Geneva for now.
Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon
Lyon has one of the strongest draws for a 250 that I can recall, with six top-20 players plus other big names all in attendance this week.
The last time that this tournament was staged they had one top-20 player (number 18 Nikoloz Basilashvili) so they’ve really benefitted from the French Open being pushed back a week.
Dominic Thiem needs match time, as does Gael Monfils, while Diego Schwartzman is looking to find some form as is David Goffin, while Stefanos Tsitsipas wants to play some more before taking a break next week ahead of Roland Garros.
The top half of the Lyon draw looks particularly loaded, with Thiem drawn with Schwartzman, Jannik Sinner, Aslan Karatsev, Karen Khachanov, and Estoril finalists Albert Ramos and Cam Norrie.
If we’re going to find a nice-priced winner in the top half of the draw then it might come from Q2, which sees out of form duo Schwartzman and Khachanov as the high seeds, and it’s hard to see French duo Richard Gasquet and Benjamin Bonzi going on a deep run from that section.
So, depending on who qualifies, the three spots in this quarter reserved for qualifiers (or lucky losers) might well be of interest to us, despite the weak record of qualifiers at this event in the past.
Similarly to Geneva we’ll have to wait and see who gets through qualies, as rain has disrupted qualifying and then wait for the layers to price them up.
But Schwartzman and Khachanov have both struggled badly this clay swing: Khachanov is 1-4 win/loss, while Schwartzman is 2-4 and hasn’t beaten anyone ranked inside the top-60.
Schwartzman was dismissed three and one by Felix Auger-Aliassime last week in Rome, where the Argentine was a finalist last season, and if ever he looked vulnerable on the clay it’s now.
I can’t imagine that damp conditions will help him and there could be an opportunity in Q2 for someone.
Q1 looks hard to call, with Thiem, Sinner, Karatsev, Ramos, Norrie and Corentin Moutet all capable on their best form and this is no easy section for Thiem, who was beaten by Lorenzo Sonego in Rome in the second week of his comeback from injury.
I’m happy to leave that section and move on to the bottom half of the draw, where Stefanos Tsitsipas is a warm order to make the final and the Greek certainly looks like he’s got the best of the draw.
Tsitsipas’ quarter (Q4) doesn’t have one player in it who would class clay as his best surface, unless Gael Monfils (one main level clay title in his career and that over 15 years ago) decided that his favourite conditions were clay.
Monfils is in desperate need of matches after a long spell inactive and the same could be said of his compatriot Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who definitely wouldn’t list clay as his best surface.
Lloyd Harris, Yoshihito Nishioka and Ugo Humbert all need it much quicker than this and maybe Tommy Paul could be the only one to put up a challenge of some sort to Tsitsipas – assuming the latter is here to seriously challenge for the title and not just as a way to get a couple more matches under his belt before Paris.
It’s difficult to see anyone barring maybe Felix Auger-Aliassime, Lorenzo Musetti or David Goffin potentially beating Tsitsipas, whose current form is very good on the clay, and Auger-Aliassime and Musetti meet in round one.
They also clashed in Barcelona when FAA ran out an easy winner in the end, but Musetti was injured during that match, and that’s my concern about backing the Italian at what are tempting odds of 35-1 (Bet Victor).
I’m not sure he’s got the physical stamina yet to win a tournament in a field like this – and more so on what will be damp clay and likely a tough slog, with a high likelihood of having to play back-to-back matches due to rain delays.
Goffin is the other option, but he’s so hard to predict, and last week in Rome I took him at 200-1 and the draw worked out nicely for him, however he was woeful against Federico Delbonis in a section where he should have made the semis.
It’ll surely be too slow for Pierre Hugues-Herbert this week, while Gilles Simon looks well past his best these days and Aljaz Bedene’s level lately has been pretty poor, as has that of Seb Korda on the clay.
Assuming that Tsitsipas is here to win it he looks a strong favourite with the best of the draw and a better level lately (much better some might say) than Schwartzman (definitely), Thiem, Karatsev and Sinner.
I’m interested to see who comes through qualies in Geneva, but with the weather looking bad for the week there I’m just going to take the 33-1 about Fucsovics and possibly add one or two more when qualies complete.
I’ll also wait and see on the big prices in Lyon, with nothing appealing at the moment at the current odds, but that might change when qualifying has finished.
For now I’ll go away from my norm a little bit this week and take Tsitsipas in Lyon and Casper Ruud in Geneva in a 16-1 double, with that pair looking to have very nice draws and they really should both be winning their respective tournaments.
0.5 points each-way Fucsovics to win Geneva at 33-1 (Bet 365)
1 point double Ruud/Tsitsipas at 16-1 (Bet Victor)