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ATP Tennis Betting: Back to form Djokovic hard to oppose in Rome

ATP Tennis Betting: Back to form Djokovic hard to oppose in Rome

The second of the back-to-back Masters 1000 events in May takes place in week 20 of the ATP World Tour as the Internazionali BNL d’Italia takes centre stage. Sean Calvert is back with his outright preview.


Dominic Thiem lost out in two tie breaks in the semi final in Madrid last week to world number one Novak Djokovic chalk up our sixth semi final or final loser of the season so far – five of whom were priced up as either favourite or around an even money underdog.

The title went the way of Djokovic and he looks in good shape now to go on and complete the Madrid/Rome double.

Conditions and trends

We’re back at the Foro Italico in Rome this week on the outdoor clay and the recent trend as far as court pace is concerned is that it seems to be getting slower year-on-year, but much depends on the weather.

The CPI was clocked at just 18.9 last year and prior to that it was 22 (2017) and 24 (2018) and the weather forecast looks very unsettled for the first few days of the week, so I’m expecting it to be rather slow, at least early on in the tournament.

It’s one of those tournaments where conditions are different at night to the day session, with the clay playing much slower for those scheduled in the evening.

The top seed has only won here twice in the last nine years and as with most M1000 events it’s not a great one for qualifiers historically, with only one (a lucky loser) making it past the third round in the last nine years.

Only Alexander Zverev in the last 15 years has made the final here without at some point in his career (so far) having contested a Grand Slam final, while Novak Djokovic made the Rome final eight times in the 10 years between 2008 and 2017 inclusive.

Quarter one

Top seed Novak Djokovic looks to have finally kick-started his spring, with a strong performance in Madrid and having played only eight sets to win the tournament the Serb should still have plenty left in the tank.

And with a fine record in Rome to his name as well and drawn in the best half in terms of the strength, or lack of it, of the opposition Djokovic looks pretty likely to chalk up another title match at the Foro Italico.

Juan Martin Del Potro needs plenty more court time after his latest injury by the looks of it, as does Pablo Carreno Busta, while Daniil Medvedev has a groin injury, although the severity of that isn’t clear at the moment.

Marco Cecchinato has been rather up and down lately, with the Italian suffering from a virus in recent weeks, but he’s hard to fancy on the form of his poor loss to Diego Schwartzman last week and he has a weak record here in Rome, too.

So, it could be down to Stan Wawrinka to be the one to test out Djokovic the most in Q1 if he’s able to come through a very tough section of the draw that includes a round one against David Goffin, round two against Del Potro, then a last-16 probably against Medvedev or maybe even Nick Kyrgios.

That looks too tough a route for the price that Stan is and I can’t see him or any of the others being up to the job of knocking out Djokovic, who should progress here.

Quarter two

Alexander Zverev may be the answer for those seeking a bit of a risky one at a double figure price, with the out of form German showing signs in Madrid that he might just be getting over the worst of his recent slump.

Zverev comes back to Rome having made the last two finals here and that could be just the boost he needs after a torrid time lately.

We know he’s capable of shaking off a funk quickly and turning the form on its head, as we saw it as recently as the World Tour Finals when he suddenly clicked into gear after losing to Djokovic in straight sets, beating Federer and Djokovic back-to-back to take the title.

His confidence has looked very low, but for me it’s either Zverev or Gael Monfils in this quarter of the draw and I much prefer the big price on Monfils.

We saw some classic Monfils last week in Madrid, losing from a winning position against Federer, having been bagelled in the opening set, but generally the signs have been good from him this season and his stats are excellent in 2019.

The days where I was prepared to back him at big prices to win a major have long gone, but if Fabio Fognini can win a M1000 this clay swing then why not Monfils, too?

What worries me about Monfils (apart from his awful decision making and injury record) is his weak record in Rome that has seen him win only one of five matches since making the semis here way back in 2006.

He’s only played here four times in the last eight years, but this time he he’s not down to play the week before the French Open, so we may see something better from Gael this week.

Others to consider in what looks a very open quarter include Kei Nishikori, Guido Pella, and Marin Cilic, while Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov have claims on some of their older form and Matteo Berrettini could upset a few with his confidence high.

Nishikori still seems to be struggling and probably needs quicker conditions than this, but Cilic made the semis here a year ago and the lack of altitude here will help him, as you have to hit harder in Rome than Madrid and that should suit the Croat.

He’s another one that’s been struggling for form, but he battled hard in Madrid and was unlucky to have to withdraw ahead of his last eight clash with Djokovic, but it’s hard to see him beating the Serb in a potential semi final on clay.

Quarter three

Roger Federer made a late decision to play here in Rome after his return to the red dirt following a three-year absence in Madrid and he has every chance in Q3, although it’s probably not quick enough here for him to make the final.

The main opposition for the Swiss veteran in this quarter is likely to be Stefanos Tsitsipas, Fabio Fognini, and perhaps Borna Coric and of course, all of these are fighting for a likely semi final spot against Rafael Nadal.

On that basis none of them appeal as potential title winners and surely Fognini isn’t going to beat Nadal en route to a Masters title on clay twice in the same swing – and in his home tournament at that?

If it is a bit damp that’ll help Fog’s chances, as he’s often been hindered here by the organisers putting him on in the heat of the day, which he’s said on many occasions doesn’t suit him.

Who can forget the drubbing that Fogna handed out to Andy Murray here in a night match and then, much to his annoyance, they gave him a day session against Zverev next up.

“I would have liked to play at night, but here in Rome when you ask a thing they always do the contrary,” Fog said. “The truth is that the condition facilitated Zverev, as at this time the court is faster.”

Maybe with Fabio on the brink of the top-10 and a M1000 champion now they’ll give him some help this year, but while a Q3 win is quite possible it’s questionable if he’d get quite such a poor performance out of Rafa again.

Coric has never won a match here and it’s probably too slow for him in Rome, but I wouldn’t count him out, while Tsitsipas may have played too much tennis lately to be able to win this title after a tough fortnight and is little value now at 16-1.

“I’m so tired right now that my mind is not working,” Tsitsipas said after his loss to Djokovic in the Madrid final on Sunday.

Nadal’s lack of form (by his standards on clay) this swing will give plenty of players some hope though and Fognini is perhaps the one to be on in this section of the draw.

Quarter four

Rafa Nadal has only won one Rome title since 2013 and has only made the final twice in the last five years, while he doesn’t look the player he used to be just at the moment, so he appears vulnerable to Dominic Thiem among others in quarter four of the draw.

Neither Thiem nor Nadal will enjoy it if it’s damp, which will nullify much of each man’s top spin game and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that one of the sluggers in this section of the draw could cause a major shock.

Either Karen Khachanov or Nikoloz Basilashvili could possibly ‘do a Soderling’ on Nadal if it does turn out to be damp and heavy, but neither are in form at all and there’s no guarantee at all that they’ll get that far.

Basil is in wretched form at the moment, but could spring back to his best at any time, while Khachanov looked better in Madrid and although I didn’t fancy him much there due to the altitude his style of play should be better suited to Rome.

It’s a tricky section for most players, with several others that are able to hit through damp conditions, if that’s what we end up getting this week.

Fernando Verdasco, Jeremy Chardy and Kyle Edmund can all do it on their days, while Laslo Djere has been in good form on the dirt, but it’ll take something special, I feel, to prevent another Thiem vs Nadal showdown in Q4.

Khachanov looks the best one if we are taking a real punt in this part of the draw, but it’s a bit of a long shot.


As ever in these M1000 events it’s trying to find viable alternatives to the likes of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal and the world number one looks the man to beat again right now.

If anything Nadal looks worth opposing on what we’ve seen from him this clay swing and Tsitsipas showed what’s possible against him over a maximum of three sets on Saturday in Madrid.

If it stays damp it’s perhaps worth thinking about a couple of small wagers opposing Nadal and Thiem at huge prices in Q4, but now that Djokovic has found his clay feet this swing he looks the man to beat rather than Nadal.

Best Bets

3 points win Djokovic to win Rome at 4.0




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Sean Calvert
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