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Clay court tennis remains the name of the game this week on the ATP and WTA tours.
The Men continue their season in Barcelona and Belgrade, with 13x French Open Champion Rafael Nadal and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic headlining their respective home-country events. Twelve of the Top 20-ranked men in the world, and 25 of the world’s Top 50 are slated to compete this week, guaranteeing another exciting week of ATP tour action for tennis fans across the globe.
On the flipside, half of the WTA Top 10 are scheduled to play this week at the 500-level event in Stuttgart. World No. 1 and 2019 French Open Champion Ashleigh Barty will be competing in her first red clay event since winning her Roland Garros title, while 2018 French Open champ Simona Halep, 2020 Finalist Sofia Kenin, and the always dangerous Aryna Sabalenka will also be looking to find their rhythms early in the clay court season. In Istanbul, top-seeded Elise Mertens leads a field featuring 2021 Charleston Champion Veronika Kudermetova, two-time 2021 WTA title winner Daria Kasatkina, two-time clay court title winner Fiona Ferro, and countless others also looking to start their clay court seasons in the proper fashion.
With that in mind, here are my picks for Wednesday’s ATP and WTA action. To learn more about the first few weeks of the clay court season, catch up on everything that has happened of late in the tennis world, or to start following along with the day-in, day-out happenings on tour, be sure to check out all of the work being done at crackedracquets.com. Also, be sure to check-in on Thursday evening for another round of professional tennis picks.
(Small Citation note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats come from tennisabstract.com, truly the best research database for anyone aspiring to wager successfully on pro tennis)
Match of the Day: Over 2.5 sets in Stefanos Tsitsipas/Jaume Munar (Barcelona Rd of 32) – +160, 1 unit to win 1.60
Let’s start with the obvious counterarguments: Since the start of the 2019 season, World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas carries a 31-8 (.795) overall record in ATP-level clay court matches, and has cemented his status as one of the men’s games elite clay court players.
He has won two ATP titles on clay, reached two additional clay finals, and has not lost a clay court match to a player ranked outside of the ATP Top 50 during that stretch of time. In fact during that timespan, only Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have posted better win percentages than Tsitsipas on clay. As a result, Tennis Abstract’s Elo-rating system currently ranks Tsitsipas as the third-best clay court men’s player in the world, trailing only 13x French Open champion Rafael Nadal and 2x French Open Finalist Dominic Thiem (and actually slightly leading Djokovic).
Considering that five of Tsitsipas’s eight clay-court losses since 2019 have come against Top 10-ranked players, it is clear that opponents must play an elite-level match to defeat Tsitsipas on clay. Additionally, Tsitsipas just won his first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo three days ago, and despite a murderer’s row of opponents, did not drop a set on route to that title.
With those numbers in mind, why should anyone expect his opponent tomorrow, World No. 89 Jaume Munar, to give Tsitsipas a run for his money? Well, because at the 2020 French Open, that’s precisely what the 22 year-old managed to do.
While Tsitsipas ultimately defeated Munar in a 46 26 61 64 64 first-round thriller, it was the Spaniard who managed to race out to a two-sets-to-none lead just seven months ago. Additionally, and albeit primarily at the ATP Challenger Level, Munar’s also been on a tear since that September result.
He’s compiled a 39-12 (.765) record in the clay court matches he’s played since August of 2020, winning two Challenger titles, making three additional Challenger Finals, and reaching the first ATP-level Final of his career just two weeks ago on the clay courts of Marbella. Munar also won at least one set in seven of his twelve clay court losses, and despite an ATP ranking of No. 89, currently ranks as the 22nd best clay-courter in the world via Tennis Abstract’s Elo-Rating system.
Similar to their French Open match, Tsitsipas comes off of a stretch that saw him just complete five matches in seven days. While he’s had both Monday and Tuesday to recover, there’s no denying that he will continue to feel some residual physical and mental fatigue from his Monte Carlo title run. Conversely, Munar enters Barcelona coming off of his first week off since early March, and chalk full of confidence from his Marbella result. Munar also earned a straight-set victory in his first round match this week (Tsitsipas received a bye), and has had more time than Tsitsipas to adapt to the conditions in Barcelona.
I lack the gumption to pick Munar straight-up, primarily because two full days of rest should, in theory, offer Tsitsipas more than enough time to recover. Additionally, Tsitsipas still enters the match with the biggest weapons on the court (his serve + forehand), and possesses the sort of patience and aggressiveness needed to withstand and ultimately overpower Munar’s disciplined approach.
However, with all of that said, it’s also really hard to beat Munar in straight sets on clay. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see Munar wear Tsitsipas out over the course of the match, nor surprise me if he manages to upset the second-seeded young Greek star. The physicality of Munar’s gamestyle should offer quite the test for the battle-weary Tsitsipas, and regardless of the result, should lead to a fantastic contrast of styles.
As such, let’s throw one unit on the match to go over 2.5 sets (+160), then sit back and enjoy the battle that unfolds.
Double-Dipping: Nikola Mioljevic (+270) over Filip Krajinovc (Belgrade Rd of 16) – 1 unit to win 2.70
Over 2.5 sets in Milojevic/Krajinovic – +140, 1 unit to win 1.40
A quick statistical comparison between 25-year-old Nikola Milojevic and 29-year-old Filip Krajinovic
Milojevic: 24-13 overall/19-8 in clay court matches/1 ATP Challenger Title (on clay) in his last 52 weeks, 3-3 career record in ATP-Level clay court matches, 93-62 (.600) for his career in pro matches on clay
Krajinovic: 13-11 overall/5-3 in clay court matches in his last 52 weeks, 21-22 career record in ATP-Level clay court matches, 218-104 (.699) for his career in pro matches on clay
While the majority of Milojevic’s recent success has come at the ATP Challenger-level, he actually defeated Krajinovic 64 36 63 61 back in September in the 2020 French Open first round. Additionally, Milojevic coasted through his first round victory in Belgrade this week, while Krajinovic needed nearly 2.5 hours to advance to Wednesday’s Round of 16 match.
No. 134 Milojevic significantly trails No. 33 Krajinovic in the ATP Rankings, leading to the lopsided moneyline for Wednesday’s matchup. However, a deep dive into their results reveals two players who have played at relatively similar levels over the past 52 weeks. It feels like there’s value in doubling up on this match, so let’s put one unit on the over 2.5 sets + a little sprinkle (1 unit) on Milojevic to once again pull off the upset.
Parlay: Cristian Garin (-178) over Kei Nishikori (ATP Barcelona Rd of 32) + Ana Konjuh (-172) over Qiang Wang (WTA Istanbul Rd of 16) + Angelique Kerber (-340) over Ekaterine Gorgodze (Stuttgart Rd of 32) – +220, 1.50 units to win 3.29
The quick case for each player
Garin > Nishikori: Since 2019, Garin’s 41-15 overall in ATP-level clay court matches with 5 titles in 6 finals, and ranks as the No. 8 men’s clay court player in the world via Tennis Abstract’s Elo-Ratings. Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori’s just 38-25 in overall matches he’s played since 2019, and 13-9 overall on clay. Advantage Garin.
Kerber > Gorgodze: Yes, Kerber’s lost her last three WTA-level clay court matches. However, prior to last year’s French Open, Kerber hadn’t lost a clay court match to an opponent ranked outside of the Top 100 since 2011. She also hasn’t lost a round of 32 match on clay since 2017. Thus, Advantage Kerber
Konjuh > Wang: Former World Junior No. 1 and WTA No. 20 Ana Konjuh is now 22-11 in her last 52 weeks, no longer injured, and ready to once again do damage. Conversely, Wang’s 4-8 since August and just 22-22 for her career in WTA-level matches on clay. Advantage Konjuh
Plus, one’s life is always a little bit better when there’s a parlay on the line.
Others plays considered for Wednesday: Over 2.5 sets in Musetti/FAA, Over 2.5 sets in Schwartzman/Tiafoe, Over 2.5 sets in Cecchinato/Berrettini, Over 2.5 sets in Siniakova/Mladenovic, Over 2.5 sets in Kenin/Kontaveit, Over 2.5 sets in Sakkari/Kvitova, Over 2.5 sets in Delbonis/Lajovic, Over 2.5 sets in Bublik/De Minaur, Moutet over Evans, Kontaveit over Kenin, Vondrousova + Ostapenko parlay
To hear more about the logic behind these picks, tune into the daily Cracked Racquets Great Shot Podcast: Ace of the Day segment, a series singularly focused on negotiating the many wagering opportunities happening every day in the sport. Also, if you’re interested in hearing recaps of each day’s results or feel inspired to start following tennis more closely, tune into our Cracked Racquets “The Mini-Break Podcast” wherever you listen to your podcasts, or follow @crackedracquets on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Alex Gruskin is the Editor-In-Chief of Cracked Racquets, host of the Cracked Interviews Podcast/Mini-Break Podcast, and host of the “Ace of the Day” segment on the Great Shot Podcast – a Tennis Channel Podcast – which breaks down daily tennis prop bets, picks and parlays.