The ATP tour heads to its most glamorous venue of all this week for the Monte Carlo Masters. Situated in the millionaire’s playground, this event is a favourite for the players, and an undoubted highlight of any season.
In the build-up to Roland Garros, this clay court, 56-competitor tournament is a key checkpoint in the season. Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, has a dominant record here, having won a remarkable 10 titles. The Spaniard enters the draw again – unsurprisingly as the top seed – and with the added bonus of a bye in the first round.
Nadal is the 4/6 favourite to make it 11 and record his third title in a row. Betting against a player of his calibre is a hard task on any surface; its almost impossible on clay. The price is a little on the low side, however, with a strong field heading to Monte Carlo. While a slip up in the early rounds seems improbable, a matchup with Novak Djokovic or Dominic Thiem will be a real challenge for Nadal.
He remains my favourite to win the title, of course, but I am wary of the 4/6 price heading into the tournament.
Such is the competitiveness this week, the second favourite, Alexander Zverev, is out at 9/1. The German had success on the clay last season, though that was mixed in with the odd upset, like his last 16 defeat in Barcelona to Hyeon Chung.
Again, his 2018 campaign has been littered with inconsistency. There’s no doubt he has the talent to be a real threat this week, and that 9/1 might just be long enough to make Zverev worth a punt.
The number two seed, veteran Marin Cilic, is at 12/1. Cilic benefits from a first round bye just like Zverev and Nadal but has struggled since his Australian Open final defeat to Roger Federer.
Aside from a tournament win in Istanbul, Cilic had an indifferent time on the clay in 2017. A three-set defeat to Albert Ramos Vinolas meant a quarter-final exit in Monte Carlo last season. I don’t see much value in the 12/1 on Cilic, even with the supposed advantage of his second seeding.
A pair of players follow at 14/1. Novak Djokovic is one of that duo. The Serbian has a first round date with a qualifier (yet to be decided at the time of writing). Djokovic has had a poor year thus far, winning three and losing three. His last outing was a straight sets loss to Benoit Paire, which hardly bodes well for a draw that could see him face Dominic Thiem in the third round.
Handily, Thiem is the other player at 14/1. The Austrian is a force to be reckoned with on clay. Last season, though, Thiem suffered the fate of so many before him, falling to Nadal twice during the clay season. A defeat to David Goffin at this tournament last year was the low point for Thiem, but I expect him to go deep into the draw this time around. Something to bare in mind come semi-final time: he did beat Nadal on the clay last season.
Thiem presents the best value in this draw for me. This is a packed market, however, meaning there are decent longshot options out there, like Richard Gasquet at 50/1 and Lucas Pouille at 25s. It remains hard to see anyone beating Nadal should he remain fit, mind.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*