Nov 02, 2022

2022 Rolex Paris Masters Round of 32

Hola. This morning my laptop charger died, so I watched today’s matches on my phone. As such, all my analysis of today’s matches is based off very tiny versions of these players. Enjoy.

Alcaraz vs Nishioka :

Oh sweet tiny Alcaraz, and your tiny little muscles. Your tiny little generic haircut, and your tiny little fistpumps. Carlos will have a bit of extra scrutiny on his play here since he was dispatched fairly easily by Felix Auger-Alliassime last week. This is a very winnable match, as Nishioka doesn’t overpower anyone and wins most of his points by outlasting his opponents from the baseline, but Alcaraz has had some mild problems with left-handed opponents in the past. Carls can win this match in a few ways, with good serving, with solid defending, and with his forehand. He can really only lose it by forcing the issue and coughing up errors. It’s tricky to have the ability to inject pace because it always feels like one big swing can net you the point, but Alcaraz’s insistence on pushing the pace has given him the ability to play at a level that most people can’t. This should be close in stretches because Nishioka is so durable and quick around the court, but it will be tough for Nishioka to score on Alcaraz so tiny Carlos should win in the end. Again, everyone is a flight risk in a first round, and paying -455 to back Alcaraz is too much, but Alcaraz in 2-3 is what should happen if he plays at his normal level.

Dimitrov vs Fognini :

Tiny Dimitrov was down a break in both sets against tiny Botic, but he was able to pull things back with some athletic play. Dimitrov’s speed added extra pressure to Botic’s offense and he got the benefit of a few uncharacteristic errors, including two double faults in the second set tiebreak. This has been a great two weeks for Dimitrov considering how rough his season has been (bunch of injury withdrawals and early losses), and he has a good chance to keep it going here. Fognini, so small, so volatile, played a great match with Arthur Fils in the first round. Fils lost the first but kept fighting in the second, at one point serving down 0-40 and stopping play on a break point to challenge a line call (he was right!). He eventually got the job done in a tiny tiebreaker, but some errors early in the third cost him this match. His play was good quality this week and I think he’ll get onto the tour in the next two years, but for now we get Fognini and Dimitrov. They’ve played a bunch of matches on tour, but Dimitrov has won all their hardcourt meetings. Add in that Dimitrov is actually playing solid tennis this week, and it looks like he should get to a third round. Dimitrov in 2.

Hurkacz vs Rune :

Ya boy Vitus barely hung on today, but it was a great fight considering how tiny he is. Wawrinka played solid, and Rune looked a bit fatigued at times, but the big points just went his way. One thing I really am impressed with is his ability to hit big T serves on break points. Even on second serve offerings he’s had great success with this serve. Tiny Wawrinka has had some very big almosts this year, and another one slipped away today. Rune went behind Wawrinka frequently at the end of the match, and it yielded great results as Stan missed or was forced to open the racquet face. This next match is a big step up but will likely be similarly close. Rune looks like he is running on fumes but they are darn good fumes. Wawrinka is struggling but he still plays top tier tennis. Hurkacz will be a much tougher ask as far as returning, and his own height will probably allow him to deal with Rune’s T serves better. Smol Hurkacz had a really tricky spot today against Mannarino and was able to navigate it safely. He saved all his break points and converted the first one he saw from Mannarino for a 7-6, 6-4 win. It’d be hard to point to a clear favorite in this next contest; Rune is at the top of the game right now and that is exactly the sort of player that Hurkacz tends to show up against. I’m going to assume that Rune’s physical edge against Wawrinka won’t be as impactful against Hurkacz’s huge serving. Hurkacz in 3.

Medvedev vs De Minaur :

Alex De Minaur put on a great performance against Korda, and it seems wasted to have him play Medvedev here. Korda lost the first and made a solid push to win the second, and it seemed like De Minaur lost some pop on his serve. Playing a big server in a decider is always tricky, but somehow Alex was able to fight through. His big weapon in this match was his ability to push the pace, and this just won’t be as effective against Medvedev because he moves so much better than Korda. Korda had a tough time scoring, and couldn’t really defend the long points well enough to impose himself. Medvedev can do all these things, and at this stage in their careers it seems like De Minaur has plateau’d at a PCB/RBA level whereas Medvedev is looking like one of the only players here who can legitimately challenge Djokovic. ADM is a baller and has great spirit, so this will take quite some time, but Medvedev in 2.

Draper vs Tiafoe :

Tricky spot for Tiafoe here. He was able to win every single rally against Sonego where the patterns were unique. Every dropshot exchange, every lob/tweener competition, every crosscourt angle scramble. Tiafoe’s racquet-skill is just next level, and the more confident he gets (real confidence, not ego) the more comfortable he is showing that on the court. More importantly, the more comfortable he is, the better his choices in these spots. Sonego felt a lot of pressure in the neutral rallies here, and forced some shots he didn’t need to. That won’t really be the case with Draper, since his groundstrokes are pretty consistent. This should be a solid serving battle (Tiafoe wasn’t dropping bombs but he was able to get an easy forehand off most of his first serves) with the edges being very small. Edges for Draper are in the stylistic approach. Draper’s game is very simple and he hits pretty big on every stroke. This will take away Tiafoe’s ability to create with finesse shots at times. Tiafoe also has the less direct path to victory, since he scores in a variety of ways and has to do a bit more thinking on the court. Draper’s health is a dark cloud hovering over him, but he should be a tiny bit better here. Draper in 3.

Fritz vs Simon :

Andy Murray is a good dude. I’m not always his biggest fan because he’s a child when he’s losing, but that match with Simon was a lot of fun, and he took the loss well. There were some less than stellar calls (the Tennistv highlight video has one that looks pretty clearly out that wasn’t called on break point for Simon) and Murray didn’t implode. Simon is retiring by most reports here, so it’s hard to gauge when his run will end. He doesn’t really have the serve or power to hit through Fritz, but he still is able to cover the court extremely well so if he can get this into the 5-5 territory I would almost expect him to win that set. Getting there will be tough. Fritz served well against Fokina, and was the more solid player from the baseline in most sections of this match. This has Mahut RG retirement vibes for me, where I predicted him losing 3 in a row and watched him march out his best tennis at the end of his career, but Fritz is supposed to beat Simon here, and he’d have to do what Murray did and really play Simon’s game in order to lose. Fritz in 2.

Ymer vs Auger-Alliassime :

Bublik and Ymer started off their match with 3 breaks in a row, and they continued to play a very tight but streaky match throughout. Ymer ended up being slightly better in the end, and he’s really made progress on tour over the past two seasons. He’s slowly building into having the offense to put matches away (he struggled in the past to serve things out), and he’ll have a good opportunity here to test his game against the top level of the tour. Speaking of how things have changed, look at how quickly opinions have shifted on FAA. This is a kid whose finals losses had him labelled as a choke artist, as if making the finals was not enough. Two wins and suddenly people are looking at him as a favorite for a Masters 1000. I agree, and he has a simple one here. Ymer is a great defender and can tire out an opponent, but Felix is serving well enough to hold serve easily, and Ymer’s pace isn’t enough here to rush FAA into errors. Auger-Alliassime in 2.

Musetti vs Basilashvili :

Bit surprised that this line is so high (something like -455 for Musetti) but I guess it’s around the same equation as Alcaraz Nishioka where one player would post the win of their season if they did get across the finish line. Musetti returned well against Cilic and was fairly clinical in getting through. There’s never an easy win against Cilic on hardcourt but Musetti was able to break and hold in each of the two sets they played. It looked comfortable. Basilashvili won in straight sets also, but it wasn’t exactly simple. This was one of the first matches I watched in full and I came back from it saying “the courts are playing stupid fast”. Watching the next match on the docket, I quickly realized it was just Basil. Halys was serving great, and looked a bit too impatient to go for offense from the baseline. In hindsight, it wasn’t impatience but Basil’s pace that forced him to make decisions a bit quicker than he’s used to. I don’t like Basilashvili outright here because he had to save a number of break points and it’s his first win in a while, but he crushed his backhand in the first round and pushed the pace exceptionally well. A slow hardcourt and fast clay have been his best surfaces, and he has the potential to push Musetti here. As a bettor, it’s the Benoit Paire equation. Yes I know the guy hasn’t been performing at this level, but no I don’t think I can just rule him out, and I don’t want to pay a premium when his level this week is best quantified by watching this match. Musetti in 3.

Tsitsipas vs Evans :

I might be a bit off here, but Tsitsipas listed at -270 for this match seems a tiny bit low. He’s beaten Evans every time they’ve played, has never dropped a set, and Evans hasn’t really gotten close to winning either (only 12 games won in the three matches). Tsitsipas is ranked 22 spots higher, and is one of the more prominent names on tour. He had a strugglebus loss last week, but Coric is a fighter and has had good success against Stefanos in the past. This, the price, and Evans having pushed FAA to 3 in Antwerp make me think we may get treated to a thrilling contest here. When it comes to one-handed backhands, the player with the better one tends to win. The only outlier to this seems to be Dimitrov’s dominance against Thiem. Tsitsipas’ backhand is just a lot stronger than Evans, who employs a very slice-heavy game on that wing. His serve is a lot better, and his forehand is more inconsistent but heavier. I’d be cautious simply because Evans is priced a bit closer than I’d normally expect, but Tsitsipas should win. Tsitsipas in 2.

Moutet vs Norrie :

Big win for Moutet in round one. He tore things up in the qualifiers, and he beat one of the hotter names on tour in Borna Coric. It puts him in the conversation to compete with Norrie. Norrie was efficient in round one against Kecmanovic, and it’s refreshing to see Norrie winning matches again but I’m not entirely sold on his resurgence until he wins multiple matches. This is a great test. Norrie’s speed and the slightly slow court will make it tough for Moutet to score, and having played 8 sets vs Norrie’s 2 should pay dividends as long as Norrie can keep his first serve percentage decent. Moutet’s dropshots, speed, and the Paris crowd can get this almost to even, and it will come down to who executes on the day. Norrie in 3.

Carreño-Busta vs Shapovalov :

Things will get tricky this week as last week’s heros hit a slight wall physically and emotionally. The line for Shapovalov opened at -375 which is fair given the recent performance, but it went to almost -460 by the start of the match which is absurd. Shapovalolov can play great tennis, but he’s not -460 against anyone on tour as long as he is visibly reactive to mistakes on the court. Cerundolo won the first set in a tiebreaker and his forehand was really making impact. Denis seems to be playing a more reserved and fluid style this week, but the errors were making him talk to himself, to his box, and almost out of this match. Lucky for Shapo, he was very tiny today so his rage was not large enough to impact his overall result. It is the type of lapse in judgement/patience that he can’t survive against PCB though. Pablo had a pretty simple first round against ARV and took care of business. He’ll have the fresher legs here and he’s beaten Shapovalov in 3 of their last 4 hardcourt meetings. The most recent one did go to Denis, but this should be a very close contest. Judging by the Cerundolo match, PCB should have a good look at the win here. PCB in PC3.

Paul vs Nadal :

RIP my inbox because Tommy Paul might win this one. Tiny Tommy Paul played solid today. When it comes to consistency, tiny RBA is one of the best, but Paul was able to freeze him with his forehand power. I always like to see a talented offense play against a great defensive test because it really preps them for the task ahead. The task ahead is one of the greatest competitors of all time, and there will be a number of question marks surrounding this match. One is answered by the price offered. Nadal has opened at -333 for this match, and that’s very much near the low end for his price range. If he were in the -250 range, it would almost be like the books were expecting him to lose. The equation is difficult when pricing a potentially rusty Nadal because people are going to blindly back him anyway. Nadal -333 will go in a number of parlays, and when the match with Paul is close everyone will have incurred unnecessary stress.

Part of the reason I recommend watching the prices even if you’re not betting on a certain week is just to establish a certain range. If Nadal is playing good hardcourt, he’s more around -455 against Tommy Paul. The factors at play here that would keep him down are a myriad of hard to gauge “what ifs”. The Paris courts aren’t terribly quick, but indoor hardcourt is one of the only places you’ll ever seen Nadal looked rushed. Rushed on returns, and he also can be a bit late with his backhand slice at times. Another question mark is his foot. He’s struggled with foot pain all season, and it has been a heroic effort to have the kind of results he has. If he’s playing, you can guess he’s physically ready to ball, but that leads into the last question. Paris has long been a warmup event for some of the big 3 leading into the ATP finals. Nadal and his team may be okay with an early exit because at least he’ll get the reps he needs.

All that aside, Nadal is still in good shape to beat Tommy if he can win the first set. He gets into tremendous rhythms and he can always break down his opponents’ backhands. He won 0,6 against Paul in Acapulco, and barely beating RBA doesn’t exactly guarantee that Paul’s offense will hit through one of the best strategic defenders the tour has ever seen. This is a sprint for Paul, and a marathon for Nadal. If Tommy can serve well early, he’ll get the benefit of some Nadal errors. If he loses the first, I don’t think he can win this match, but these are the perfect conditons for Tommy and he’ll be the sharper player. Paul in 2.