The top 4 seeds at this year’s Monte Carlo Rolex Masters are all in action today and will all play on the main court, Court Rainier III. In their second round matches, Djokovic, Wawrinka and Nadal all dropped a set, whereas Murray had to come from a break down in both sets to win 2-0.
As I wrote the other day, Murray is returning from a month’s absence from the tour, due to an elbow injury, but managed to defeat Gilles Muller 7-5 7-5 in their second round encounter, after an understandably slow start. After his win he reported that he wasn’t feeling in his best rythymn and had only started practice his serve just a few days ago, which would explain his 2 aces and a 60% first serve rate.
Today he faces Spaniard Albert Ramos (ATP: 24) for the first time in his career. Ramos is yet to drop a set in Monte Carlo, defeating Olivo and Berlocq in the first and second rounds respectively, and could be a huge danger to Murray today.
If Murray starts off slowly again today, as he did in his previous match, Ramos will be quick to take advantage. Considering Murray’s previous match and his return due to injury, he is a very short favourite, priced up at 1.16. I think Murray will prevail against Ramos today but I’d imagine him to start off slowly, especially if he isn’t serving at his best. Therefore, Ramos to win the first set at 3.75 offers great value.
Novak Djokovic (ATP: 2)
Like Murray, an elbow injury has also plagued Djokovic and resulted in him being absent from the tour for almost a month. Djokovic had to twice come from a break down in the third set to defeat Gilles Simon (ATP: 32) in their second round encounter.
Djokovic’s opponent today is Pablo Carreno-Busta (ATP: 19) in what will be their second meeting on the tour. Their first meeting was an overwhelming defeat for Carreno-Busta, winning only 1 game in a best of 3 set match, here in Monte Carlo 3 years ago. However, things have changed since then and Djokovic hasn’t been at his best all season.
It is likely that Carreno-Busta will put up more a fight here than he did 3 years ago and may fancy his chances against a possibly injured Djokovic, especially after victories aginst Khachanov and Fognini. Carreno-Busta has a chance of winning this match if Djokovic, like Murray, isn’t match fit and still struggling with an elbow injury. With this in mind, I’d recommend backing Carreno-Busta to win with a handicap of +4.5 games at a price of 2.10.
Stan Wawrinka (ATP: 3)
Stan Wawrinka, champion here in 2014, is due to play clay court enthusiast Pablo Cuevas (ATP: 27) at around 11:45 UK time, in what will be their first career clash.
Cuevas has won his first and second round matches pretty comfortably against Troicki and Sousa respectively, only dropping 9 games in the process. Meanwhile, Wawrinka was given a bye in the first round and was taken the distance by Jiri Vesely in the second round.
On clay last year, Wawrinka won the Gstaad Open in his home country and reached the semi-finals of the French Open, losing 3-1 to Andy Murray. Whereas Pablo Cuevas has won 6 titles in his career, all on clay. His most recent title was earlier this year on the clay courts of Sao Paulo.
This is likely to be a feisty affair between two players who enjoy the red dirt and I’d expect this to be a longer match, possibly going the distance again.
Rafa Nadal (ATP: 7)
Nadal is in search of his 10th Monte Carlo title this year. He won this title 8 years in a row from 2005 to 2012, and after a few years of poor results, he claimed his 9th title last season.
This season Nadal looks back at his best and has been unlucky not to win a title. He has lost two finals to Roger Federer, one in the Australian Open and the other in Miami, and one final to Jack sock in Acapulco.
After his match against Briton Kyle Edmund, Nadal was straight back onto the practice courts due to being unhappy with his performance. Nadal started particularly well, winning the first set 6-0. But Edmund bounced back and Nadal was taken the distance.
Today he plays birthday boy Alexander Zverev (ATP: 20) who leads the ATP Singles Race to Milan. The pair have met twice already on the tour, with Nadal winning both by a single set. Last year he beat Zverev 2-1 in Indian Wells, and earlier this year he came back from 2-1 down to beat him 3-2 in the Australian Open. Zverev has won both of his matches so far in Monte Carlo 2-0 and is likely to test Nadal today. I expect a tough match for Nadal today and wouldn’t be too surprised to see Zverev nick a win.
Albert Ramos-Vinolas to win set one @ 3.75
Carreno-Busta to win with handicap +4.5 @ 2.10