Tennis Picks: Nadal to Defend Title in Rome Masters

Nila Amerova

Thursday, May 15, 2014 2:02 PM GMT

Gilles Simon sorely tested Rafael Nadal in his Rome title defence opener, but the Spaniard persevered in three sets. Join us as we rate both Nadal, and the rest of the field’s odds to win the Rome Masters title, the last major ATP stop before the French Open.

On the Road to Paris
Rafael Nadal claimed his second straight title in Madrid last week, successfully bouncing back from back-to-back disappointments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. But the Spaniard’s title defence campaign in his nation’s capital left much to be desired, so much so that his odds to win the French Open, which were slashed from -150 to +100 ahead of Madrid, improved only to -110, marking a marginal improvement at best.

By Nadal’s lofty standards as an eight-time French Open champion that price tag is the equivalent of doubt. Doubt because he’s lost back-to-back events on clay for the first time in ages. Doubt because he struggled mightily to beat Nishikori in the Madrid final, only for the Japanese starlet to tap out in the third set with an injury. Still many tennis bettors like Nadal for the French Open, not to mention his price tag too, which only makes him the value tennis pick.

It’s a ways yet to the French Open. Nadal’s price tag may yet move back towards the -150 range but that will depend on several factors, one of which is his Rome title defence campaign that is currently underway. However, if you like him in Rome this week, and then Paris at the end of the month, now is the perfect time to pound his 2014 French Open tennis odds before they swell.

Nadal opened his bid for the Rome title as the -110 favourite as well. Since getting his bid underway in a second round thriller against Gilles Simon, and prevailing to advance into the third round, his odds have swelled to -138 – a clear sign of things to come in French Open markets upon a successful stint in Rome, if any.

Next up for Nadal is Mikhail Youzhny, a long shot at +15000 to win the title and to win the quarter at +1800. In the quarterfinals, Nadal would face either Murray or Melzer – both set at large odds to win the title as well. The Scot is trading at +2800 in futures betting markets, which is a generous price tag considering his non-existent clay-court prowess. Melzer meanwhile is a wily veteran who could do damage, and emerge into the quarterfinals at Murray’s expense, but getting past Nadal will be a tough ask for him. Put another way, to look at Nadal’s -1000 odds to win his quarter is to get the best sense of this section. 

Novak Djokovic emerges as the second favourite at +275 to win the title in Rome. And why wouldn’t he? He’s won this event twice (2008 and 2011), and since his breakout season in 2011 he’s been the player to spot in French Open markets as that with the best shot to dethrone the Clay Scion.

However, there are lingering questions hanging over Djokovic, namely surrounding the wrist/arm injury that impeded his ability against Federer in the Monte Carlo semis and subsequently forced him to withdraw from Madrid. His camp is being unusually tight-lipped about the nature and severity of the injury, and, as such, tennis-betting enthusiasts are unsure about his value. If you still fancy the Serbian starlet in Rome, half your usual stake would be the safest betting tactic where he’s concerned. That way if he doesn’t come through in Rome you minimise your losses. Conversely, if he comes through for you then you’ll have that much more to stake on his French Open odds.

Djokovic’s draw is no picnic with tricky Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round and either Ernests Gulbis or David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. In particular, the latter pair is the most dangerous as both are on good form and enjoying good results on clay. Djokovic remains the favourite at -300 to win his quarter but David Ferrer makes a strong case with his +275 odds and Gulbis could potentially have something to say about it all with his +800 tennis odds.

Stanislas Wawrinka is this season’s surprise package and (you could say) Nadal party-crasher – by beating Nadal in Oz and then pinching his beloved Monte Carlo title. The Swiss No.1 is in the top half of the draw and, thus, could yet party crash some more this week by beating Nadal in the semis. Perhaps even go a step further to win the title.

Wawrinka is listed as the third favourite at +650 to win outright ahead of the third round, marking a significant drop from his opening Rome odds of +800. Wawrinka’s corner however is the toughest with veteran Tommy Haas in his immediate path and then a potential matchup with either Dimitrov or Berdych (both tipped at +2800) in the quarterfinals. What’s more, it’s worth considering this caveat: if Wawrinka could fall to an unheralded qualifier Dominic Thiem in Madrid last week, one has to consider this standout triplet has just as good a shot to mastermind the upset.

What would have been Federer’s quarter is now the province of Tsonga, Raonic, Dodig and Jeremy Chardy – the latter of which the giant-slayer himself. Although it was evident that Federer, who skipped Madrid to serve on nappy duty, lacked match play and was rusty.

Sans Federer this section is wide-open, up for grabs by the lot. Tsonga, who’s been struggling of late, seems to be finding form in Rome and he could be the top tennis pick to win this quarter. But big-serving Raonic will not be easy to get past, even if the Canadian’s least favourite surface is clay. Expectation runs high on Chardy to back-up his big win over Federer given his next opponent is a beatable Dodig. However, it’s typical to have the dreaded hangover effect follow a big win. Perhaps then (by process of elimination) Dodig is the value tennis pick of this lot. It’s worth mentioning that Dodig has a top ten win of note: he beat Nadal in Montreal a few years back.

Tennis Free Picks: This week’s Rome Masters should be an interesting tennis-betting event to follow particularly for its French Open implications. If Nadal underscores his Madrid victory with a convincing Rome title defence campaign he’ll be the runaway favourite going into Paris. Should he falter, French Open betting could be turned on its head. Mon Dieu!

Tennis Free Picks: Nadal to win outright at -138