ATP Tour: Monte Carlo Masters | Selected Round of 32 Matches

Monte Carlo Masters | Selected Round of 32 Matches

The Round of 32 gets underway at the Monte Carlo Masters and Damien Kayat previews selected fixtures.

2019 ATP Tour | Masters 1000 Series
Monte Carlo Masters
Monte Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Selected Round of 32 Matches - 17 April 2019

Stefanos Tsitsipas (1/4) vs Mikhail Kukushkin (28/10)
Stefanos Tsitsipas has emerged as perhaps the most credible pretender to the top three since Alex Zverev emerged a few years ago. Perhaps what’s been most impressive about the Greek’s rise to prominence has been his all-court abilities. He reached the final of the Barcelona event on clay last season and has a game that seems perfectly suited to the rigours of clay.  But his year hasn’t been all roses. He won the Open 13 and reached the Dubai final, but there have also been a fair amount of early tournament exits: he only won one match in two events entered in February. It’s all part of the evolution of a player as their profile heightens. Other players will know more about his relative strengths and weaknesses, meaning that the next year could prove vital for the Greek.

We all know Mikhail Kukushkin as an extremely competent professional, especially effective on indoor hardcourts. He breezed past experienced clay-court player Jeremy Chardy in the opening round and he enters this event with some decent form under his belt. He reached the final of the Open 13 event already this season - more about that later - and also recently lost in the final of the Phoenix Challenger event. The 31-year-old is an extremely durable opponent who will take down far more illustrious foes on his day. He reached the semi-finals in Vienna and Eastbourne last season, highlighting his ability to succeed on a multitude of surfaces. He will clearly be the underdog going into this match, but a few cracks in the Tsitsipas game of late should give the journeyman pro ample room for optimism.

That optimism may be somewhat scuppered by their head-to-head record. Tsitsipas leads 3-0, which included victory in that Open 13 final. But as I said, Tsitsipas has had some surprise defeats this season and Kukushkin may represent decent value as a surprise winner. 

Rafael Nadal (1/16) vs Roberto Bautista Agut (13/2)
Rafael Nadal is a Monte Carlo legend, aiming to win his 12th title this year in an event that he has utterly dominated over the years. He hasn’t played too much tennis this season with several flare-ups of his knee issues. He reached the final at Melbourne before a humbling defeat to Novak Djokovic. He then lost surprisingly to Nick Kyrgios in Mexico prior to that Indian Wells withdrawal. But we are talking about Rafael Nadal and the European clay-court season won. His only blemish on clay last season came in his quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem in Madrid. He otherwise won the titles in Monte Carlo, Rome, Barcelona and obviously Paris.

Roberto Bautista Agut will know the magnitude of the task awaiting him this week. He is not your stereotypical Spanish player, which makes this task all the more difficult. He is a hardcourt specialist - much like Pablo Carreno Busta - who feels more confident with the ball coming onto the racquet. But he has enjoyed some decent success this season, including a victory in Qatar to open the season. He then enjoyed a deep run in the first Slam of the season, making it to the final eight in Melbourne. He also picked up one of the biggest upsets of the season in Miami, defeating Novak Djokovic en route to a quarter-final showing. But for all that, it’s hard to see any other result than a Nadal victory here. The best that the pugnacious Bautista Agut can hope for is that Nadal may experience some reoccurrences of his chronic knee issues.

I was fairly surprised given the experience of these two players that this will only be the third ever meeting between these compatriots. Nadal unsurprisingly leads the head-to-head 2-0, winning both of their matches on clay and in straight sets. And that seems the most plausible option here. But perhaps there may be more value in opting for a three sets Nadal victory at 31/10, perhaps banking on complacency and ring-rust as factors aiding Bautista Agut. 

Written by Damien Kayat for Hollywoodbets. 

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