I picked the wrong flaky tennis player to back and the wrong flaky tennis player to fade. Monfils, amazingly, no-showed and was destroyed by an aging ARV (the Spaniard has plummeted from #19 to #88 in the last year) while Fognini showed up and routined Tsonga. Picked the wrong side of the coin, I did, in those two matches.
Lots of overs and lots of breaks of serve on some slow, wet courts. So, that is something to watch as the week progresses - especially considering more rain is expected Tuesday and Wednesday.
The outright article is up at BangtheBook and the BallBoyz podcast is out. Go read and listen; one of my outrights gets underway on Tuesday, while the other gets to rest up till Wednesday.
Back on a normal schedule, so let’s dig into all THIRTEEN matches on Tuesdays slate.
What a weird one we have, right off the top. Look, Kyrgios is good on any surface…. when he wants to be. The stats bear that out. His combined hold/break numbers on clay in the last two years has gone from merely average to top class. But, be aware of the devil in the details - namely, small sample size. Kyrgios played all of two matches on clay in 2018. He beat Bjorn Fratangelp, big deal, and lost to Ivo Karlovic, which shouldn’t happen. Kyrgios is an Aussie, raised on grass and fast hardcourts - and if you take some time to search out his Instagram or Twitter pages you can find him actually publicly bemoaning playing on clay. Now, as I state above, he CAN play on clay - in 2016 he beat Wawrinka and Raonic, both top ten at the time, as well as Pablo Cuevas, a red dirt stalwart. The issue is, he doesn’t appear to like it. A year ago you would have said the same about Medvedev, who was atrocious on this surface. He has apparently spent considerable time trying to adapt to it and has had remarkable success in 2019. A semi-final in Monte Carlo, beating Djokovic along the way, and a final in Barcelona, beating Nishikori along the way, are both shockingly good results. And the stats bear out that they are not fluky results - his combined hold/break numbers are 111% so far in 2019 on clay and the fun part of that number is breaking serve 34% of the time. Those are very similar numbers to the ones he was posting in Winston-Salem and Tokyo last year when he was bringing home hardware. This is the first meeting between these two and I expect Medvedev to win, probably not because he is any better and not because of any statistical dominance but, just because he’ll care more.
Wawrinka is starting to round back into form - a final in Rotterdam, a nice run in Acapulco before a tough three set loss to Kyrgios, and a couple of nice dominating wins in Madrid before he ran into Rafa. His combined hold/break numbers in 2019, with a decent enough sample size now, look much better than Goffin’s and crucially it’s not just all serve. Stan is breaking at a 29% clip, even better than Goffin on clay. Stan is also spacing his court time out properly this year, and focusing on the big events, while not running around Europe. He has only played two 250 level events in 2019 and he exited both early. His last six events have been either 500s or 1000s and he is even skipping Geneva next week, in his home country (something he has NOT done in the past). Focused. Goffin, conversely, is on his fifth straight week of tennis. Stan all the way.
Schwartzman has beaten Nishioka both times they have played before, including once on clay. He also has dramatic hold/break advantages over Nishioka on clay. But, that story is slightly reversed in 2019 because DSS has been pretty terrible. Additionally, this is Schwartzman’s fifth straight week on court. The conditions in Rome are sufficiently slow enough that I think they may actually help Nishioka and I’ll therefore pass on this.
Cilic may have pulled out of Madrid last week with “food poisoning” but I’m not buying that. It is much more likely that, knowing, he was in such bad form (having struggled basically all season, including two three setters in Madrid) he just didn’t want to get trucked by the Serb. I’ll think he’ll be fine on Tuesday. And looking to get some ass-kicking in. Prior to the last two seasons Cilic had struggled in Rome but, he shows up this year on the heels of a quarter-final and a semi in his last two visits - with the losses being to Zverev and a tiebreak filled affair with Isner. Nothing wrong with either of those. He’s also made short work of all his wins here in the last two years with only one going over the 19.5 game mark. Sometimes the local wildcard is an up-and-coming kid you have to watch out for, like Basso’s compatriot this year, Jannik Sinner, who beat Steve Johnson on Sunday. Basso is 25 though, a known commodity. And he has beaten one top 200 player in the last 18 months. I expect Cilic to smack him.
Struff upset Kyrgios last week in Madrid, in a serve fest. The issue for Struff being that his serve won’t play half so well here in Rome. This is also Struff’s fifth straight week playing and he’s lined up to play in Lyon next week, where he probably has a better chance to make a dent. Dimitrov is struggling in 2019 and his combined hold/break stats on clay aren’t blowing anyone away. In fact, Dimitrov and Struff are separated by 4% or less in each of the last three years. If you have to bet this, bet the over. I’ll pass.
Pella is having a magical 2019. But, is he out of gas? He has played a ton of tennis and he got run over by Stan last week. Fritz has also attended a ton of events on the Euro clay tour and neither guy has any history of success here in Rome. I’ll pass on this.
I don’t usually want to back guys who have travelled as much as Paire has. But, Paire doesn’t spend long at each venue, given he was out in the first round each of the last two weeks. So, he should be relatively fresh. He has some history of winning here in Rome - he’s made a semi and the third round last year and all five of his losses here have been respectful (Stan twice, Fed, DSS and Cilic). Paire also carries an advantage in combined hold/break numbers over Albot on clay in every year I have on record. Additionally, well, Albot just isn’t that good on clay, winning around 40% of the time on this surface at the ATP level and he has never been to Rome before. I’ll chance the Frenchman here.
Tiafoe. Cross your fingers that he wins. Avoid the match.
Kohl and Cecchinato have remarkably similar hold/break stats the last two years on clay, since Cecchinato’s emergence as a tour player. They have the same travel schedule and they both LOVE to play three setters. Nine of Cecchinato’s last fifteen matches have cleared the total and five of his last seven matches, including his first match here in Rome, have gone three sets. Only four of Kohl’s ten clay matches this year have gone three sets but, seven of the ten have cleared the total. I’ll close my eyes and bet the over here.
Zverev is on his fifth straight week, his hold/break numbers are so depressed in 2019 that they are actually below Berrettini’s and the odds are so low here that everyone should be suspicious. I’m going to break all three rules here - over look the travel because really, he hasn’t gone deep at any of the events, over look the hold/break numbers because previous years are so hugely in his favour we know he is capable of bouncing back and over look the line because the market must just be so enamoured with Berrettini coming off two finals in a row. Berretini’s two finals were great but, they were both 250’s where the highest ranked guy he beat (and only top 30 opponent) was RBA, in a rain delayed match that RBA obviously tanked to get to Madrid. Zverev is a big step up. I’m ignoring all evidence presented and going purely on gut here.
Coric is taking heavy money. Since I printed up the graphic he has moved from -350 to -450. I don’t see that price being supported. He is better in every category, for sure. But, not by huge margins. Their combined hold/break numbers in 2018 are only 5% apart and in 2019, it’s only 8%. Clay is Norrie’s best surface and Coric has had some interesting defeats lately - namely, dropping a match to a struggling Pouille last week, and losing to a barely-in-the-top-100 Krajinovic in Budapest. I’ll pass on this.
RBA and Pocket Kings have almost identical hold/break numbers across the last three years and nearly identical win percentages on clay in their careers. They are both hovering near .500 in tiebreaks and they’ve both registered wins against the other recently. In fact, three of their four matches have gone the distance and they both played three setters in round one. This feels like another over.
Djere has better hold/break numbers in all three years I look at, he has a better career winning percentage on the surface, he’s beaten Basil on this surface twice in the last nine months, resoundingly, and he’s been to two semi-finals on clay this year plus won a title (Rio, clay). Basil is having a bit of a struggle in 2019 . He hasn’t strung together more than two wins in a row yet and he was gifted a first round win here yesterday when Fucsovics no-showed after playing five straight weeks on clay. This line seems amazingly low and I’ll jump all over Djere.
Medvedev/Djere ml, +109
Wawrinka/Zverev ml, +125
Cilic/Basso u19.5, -120
Paire -3.5, +100
Kohl/Cecchinato o22.5, -120
RBA/Khachanov o22.5, -120