Will title player syndrome affect Lorenzo Sonego? The Italian is the first Italian to win a title on home soil in 15 years. In the process, he won his first ATP Tour title on clay and climbed to 32nd in the world. For his debut in Monte Carlo, he could have hoped for a better draw than Marton Fucsovics, who is in the best form of his life in 2021 with a final in Rotterdam and two quarters in Doha and Dubai. On each occasion, Rublev blocked his path, including one by forfeit. Fucsovics, despite his 55% win rate, is not a clay court specialist. He has won a title in Geneva and two quarters in Munich, but these two ochres are much faster than the one in Monte Carlo. He will be the favourite in this match against the Italian who has lost two matches on clay to his opponent. But both matches were very competitive. (Photo credits: Giampiero Sposito) Rodolphe Gilbert's view: I don't understand why Sonego has such a high rating. You can imagine that he is tired of course but it is not a certainty that he will break down in this match. In his two losses to Fucsovics, he was not far from victory except that the context of this match is totally different. He has just lifted his first trophy on earth. His confidence is at its peak. I think he has all the weapons to win and create a surprise, which would not be a surprise for me.
Stefano Travaglia vs Pablo Carreno Busta
He too just won a title on Sunday. But it was in Marbella and it was his second on clay after Estoril. The Spaniard showed a good level of play even if he is scary against Ramos and Munar. The world number 12 will not have an easy start against an Italian who is comfortable on clay (+ 500 matches played in his career). Travaglia reached his best career ranking after his first ATP final in Melbourne on hard court. However, it is on clay that he won 4 Challenger tournaments and 18 ITF tournaments. How will the Spaniard have recovered from his week in Spain against a qualifier who won't be bothered by the heavy conditions? We can expect a closer match than the odds suggest. Although Carreno never really shone here in Monaco at the start of his career on this clay, which does not give him an advantage, it must be said that his last appearance in 2017 was very satisfying with two wins over Fognini and Khachanov and a three-set loss to Djokovic. Over time, Carreno should come out on top with a more complete game and a consistency in the exchange that is on a different level to Travaglia.
Federico Delbonis vs Adrian Mannarino
Left-handed duels in this first round. Mannarino leads in head-to-head matches with a 2015 win on hard court in Auckland but this time the Argentine, a pure clay player with 553 matches played since the start of his career, will play on his favourite surface. His last title on clay was in 2019 at the Perugia Challenger but this year he reached the last four in Santiago with good wins over Andrej Martin and Jaume Munar. After that, he struggled on hard court in Miami and in the second round in Marbella. He went through the qualifiers to reach the main draw and dominated Marcora and Martinez. Mannarino is not in the picture at the beginning of the season. He had already had a good Australian Open with a third round loss to Zverev. Since then, he has only won two of his last six matches. Let's put it in perspective, he has played against better ranked players like Hurkacz, Dimitrov or even more recently Schwartzman. Having only played on hard court since the beginning of the season, he will have to adapt to the transition to clay. Especially since he doesn't appreciate this surface with only 25% of wins. Apart from a 3rd round here in 2017, he has lost 4 times in 4 appearances in the first round of this tournament. Logically, he will not be the favourite in this match but the odds on Delbonis are not very interesting except for a two-set victory which would be very risky given the profile of the Argentine.
Albert Ramos vs Jannick Sinner
This is the first meeting between these two players who have done well in recent weeks. Since the end of February, Ramos has been playing on clay and will have some experience (12 matches) and confidence. With two titles and six finals, including one here in Monte Carlo, the Spaniard is clearly playing on his favourite surface. At the beginning of the season, he reached the final in Córdoba against Cerundolo, then a semi-final in Buenos Aires. Last week, he was in Marbella. He showed a very good level of play and served for the match against Carreno-Busta. As for Sinner, he won a title in Melbourne, played in the quarter finals in Marseille and Dubai, before making a final in Miami. All in all, excellent performances for a young player who never ceases to impress. He was able to rest but facing Ramos in his first match of the clay court season is no gift. He has been performing well on this surface with 60% of his wins coming against Zverev, Tsitsipas, Khachanov or Bautista Agut. The Italian will logically be the favourite for this match but his odds seem too low because he will have to find his feet on this heavy and wet clay against a player who will prevent him from putting his game down and pushing him to the foul.
Laslo Djere vs Karen Khachanov
The Serbian has been boosting his confidence by reaching the final in Cagliari and goes into this Masters 1000, despite the disappointment of defeat, with a dozen clay court matches in his legs. Djere is an earthy retoudable with two tournaments won including the ATP 500 in Rio de Janeiro in 2019. Khachanov is a powerful player with a big forehand whose game adapts well to these heavy conditions. Djere is a strong underdog and will certainly have something to play for if he doesn't suffer too much from his efforts in Cagliari. In any case, it should be a close match. Khachanov obviously has the weapons to win since he will have time to arm his heavy shots. Mentally, Djere could be affected by this defeat in the final.
Roberto Bautista Agut vs Taylor Fritz
Roberto Bautista Agut has been putting in a string of strong performances over the past month. In the space of three tournaments, he has won the scalps of Dominic Thiem, Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev. This season, the Spaniard has reached two finals (Open Sud de France and Doha) and a Masters semi-final (Miami) on hard court. On clay, RBA is a little less comfortable (only one of his seven titles won) and has not won against a player ranked higher than him since 2014. However, his talent often makes the difference when he is favoured and underachievement is rare for him. For his first match, he will be facing a player who is also having a good start to the season in the person of Taylor Fritz. The American has had a string of good results on hard court (semi-final in Doha, eighth in Miami) with a few good wins in between (against Shapovalov or Sonego for example). Unlike his compatriots, Fritz is a good clay court player and showed it again last week in Cagliari by reaching the semis, falling in three sets to Lorenzo Sonego. As proof, the American has an almost positive ratio (8 wins in 17 matches) against higher ranked players on ochre, including a victory over a certain Roberto Bautista Agut in 2019 in Lyon (6-7, 6-3, 6-4), who had his revenge the following week at Roland Garros (6-2, 6-3, 6-2). Rodolphe Gilbert's view: It's not easy for Bautista to start his season on clay against Fritz with heavy playing conditions. The American is going to send him some big shots that could bother RBA. The difference in odds seems unjustified to me, even if Bautista's status as a favourite is logical. With these playing conditions, Fritz's service quality will be limited and at the exchange, RBA is above his opponent. Fritz has certainly progressed on clay but more on fast ground.
Alexei Popyrin vs Pablo Andujar
A tricky first round for the Australian? Facing the experienced Pablo Andujar (35), Popyrin will try to continue his good momentum. He is having the best start of his career with a first ATP title and some great wins. Popyrin is coming out of the qualifiers and will have a bit more automatism than Andujar who hasn't been seen since a month ago and a first round defeat in Santiago against Galan. But beware, the Australian lacks experience on this surface, especially on a heavy and humid clay court which will give the Spaniard an advantage, as he is used to these conditions and will be able to better return Popyrin's serves to set up the exchange.
Holger Vitus Rune vs Casper Ruud
Bis repetita for Casper Ruud? After losing to Alcaraz in Marbella, the Norwegian faces another teenager, 17-year-old Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune of Denmark, already ranked 322nd in the world. Casper Ruud won his first ATP title in Buenos Aires in 2020. A wildcard here in Monte Carlo, Rune did not have the best of draws on his Masters 1000 debut. Ruud's favourite status makes sense but his odds are far too low to take any chances.
Filip Krajinovic vs Nikoloz Basilashvili
A truly unbalanced duel? The bookmakers' favourite, Serbian Filip Krajinovic, is one of the many players who have not played on clay since the French Open, unlike his opponent, Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, who has just reached the last four in Cagliari. Basilashvili has been in good form since the Doha tournament a month ago, which he won after a long losing streak. While he didn't impress in Sardinia, far from it, he was able to get his bearings on a surface that takes time to get used to. This heavy clay will give him an advantage with the power he exudes from the baseline. Although the Serb has had an average start to the season with wins over Haase, Andujar and Davidovich, he is the favourite according to the bookmakers. Rodolphe Gilbert's view: What justifies Krajinovic being the favourite against Basilashvili? I don't understand. Is the Serb more talented? No. Has he had better results on this surface? No, it is the Georgian who has two titles in Hamburg. Does he dominate him in matches? No, and the last one was in 2015. Is he in better shape this season? Not really as Basilashvili won Doha while Krajinovic has done nothing this season. With such good odds (around 2.80), it's impossible not to put a small coin on the Georgian even if his level of play in Sardinia was not dazzling.
Editor's opinion ⭐️⭐️⭐️--- ⭐️⭐️ Set Sonego ✅/ Set Basilashvili 🔄/ Set Andujar✅ / Over 20.5 games Ramos vs Sinner❌ ⭐️ Victory Sonego ✅/ Over 20.5 games Carreno vs Travaglia ✅/ Victory Basilashvili🔄 / Victory Andujar❌
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