Alcaraz and Rublev show French Open intent
Andrey Rublev and Carlos Alcaraz lifted last week’s titles in Belgrade and Barcelona, respectively, sending out a marker ahead of the French Open. Alcaraz looks the real deal and a huge contender ahead of two weeks in Paris, while Rublev stunned Novak Djokovic with a final set bagel in front of the Serb’s home crowd.
Alexander Zverev will be hoping to send out a similar message as he leads the seeds in Munich, although this week’s fields in general look a little weaker than last week’s. Reilly Opelka, Nikoloz Basilashvili and Casper Ruud are the other seeds with first round byes in Germany, and are likely to get their tournaments underway in several days time.
Tournament favourite Zverev with kind draw
Basilashvili is the defending champion, while Zverev has also won twice previously before. Looking through the list of winners over the last decade or so, only Cristian Garin in 2019 fits the traditional clay-courter dynamic, so the historical data illustrating that conditions aren’t likely to be particularly slow for clay courts makes logical sense as well.
Zverev has a pretty kind draw. Dan Evans is the seed in his quarter, with the Brit not really renowned for his clay prowess, although I’d be very interested to see Zverev’s opening game against the talented wild card Holger Rune, who needs to defeat qualifier Jiri Lehecka to meet Zverev in round two. I also don’t perceive Reilly Opelka to be a major threat, even in non-slow clay conditions, and maybe previous winner Garin might be the biggest hurdle for Zverev to overcome to make the final. It’s not a surprise at all to see him chalked up as the 2.8615/8 favourite on the Exchange.
Ruud offering threat to Zverev
In the bottom half of the draw, Miomir Kecmanovic and defending champion Basilashvili look likely to be fighting out quarter three, while Casper Ruud should have little issue in the bottom quarter and looks a solid favourite to make the final from that section. The market, again though, looks reasonably accurate by making the Norwegian second favourite at 3.953/1.
Schwartzman favourite in Estoril
Over in Estoril, conditions should be a little on the slower side with aces per game, service points won and service hold percentage all below the ATP mean across the last three years, and it’s not a surprise to see a few more return-oriented players make the final than in Munich, including Albert Ramos, Pablo Cuevas and Joao Sousa in recent years.
Felix Auger-Aliassime takes the top seed honours, with recent shock Monte Carlo finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Marin Cilic and Diego Schwartzman completing the list of seeded players with first-round byes.
The Argentine, Schwartzman – the definition of a return-oriented clay-courter – looks logical favourite at a current 5.49/2.
Thiem continues return to main tour
An interesting unseeded player is Dominic Thiem, whose return to the main tour in Belgrade didn’t go to plan as he lost in three sets to John Millman, although the match stats showed a very even match. Anyone who thinks that Thiem can get back to winning ways can back the Austrian at around 17.016/1, based on general market pricing.
Another hurdle in Thiem’s path is Sebastian Korda, who despite a brutal loss to Carlos Taberner in Barcelona last week has shown some ability on clay – inflicting defeat on Alcaraz in Monte Carlo – and that first bracket looks tough to call with Thiem, Korda and Auger-Aliassime all fighting to earn one semi-final berth.
Schwartzman ticking a few boxes
Schwartzman looks a very justified favourite to get through quarter four, with a pretty kind draw overall, and quarter three hardly looks stacked either. Marin Cilic is the main seed but hasn’t won back-to-back matches since the Australian Open in January, and the Croatian veteran has pretty uninspiring clay-court data over the last year.
Considering this, Schwartzman looks a very justified favourite to lift the trophy. He has a nice draw and should fit the drivers for success in the tournament, although whether he represents value at prices is another debate entirely. He’ll likely be a slight favourite over potential semi-final and final opponents, so the market looks pretty accurate with the current pricing.
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