2022 Rolex Paris Masters Round of 64
Karatsev vs Nishioka :
A few seasons ago, Karatsev was not on ze tour. Now he is on ze tour. That’s progress, and that’s something he should hold to as this season comes to a close. Karatsev has been the mediocre player (capable of qualifying but not much more) for the second half of this year, and his willingness to shoot is still there but his rally ball errors are holding him back. Wherever globmode is, he’s lost it. It makes this price against Nishioka somewhat expected (since most of the public will know Karatsev is in a slump). Nishioka is -244 which is about right by the tennis model, and kinda is at the fringe of how much extra you’d really want to pay to back a guy who has to earn all his wins with his legs. He unfortunately doesn’t have the game to blow anyone off the court but he’s fared better and competed harder (this is based off perception unfortunately) in this second half of the year.
Karatsev will have ample chances to get back in this since Nishioka is playing a small but consistent version of the lefty patterns and doesn’t hit many unreturned serves at his height (4’1” and adorable by my estimation). Form heading in here favors Nishioka though, and Karatsev’s response to his errors during this stretch has been the most glaring weakness; he seems complacent out there at times. Nishioka in 2-3.
Van De Zandschulp vs Dimitrov :
These two played a weird match in Melbourne that saw Botic Van De Zandschulp win a 7-6 tb in the first, get zipped in the second, and lose 7-5 in the third. It was one of Dimitrov’s few wins in the early goings of this year but he had a good week in Vienna and should be slightly favored for this contest. Botic has had some tough draws, but the reliable underdog form he had displayed for a few seasons has been replaced by some middling performances. Dimitrov serving great last week and outdueling Rublev and Giron is a good sign that Botic will need his best tennis here, and we don’t have a ton of evidence to indicate he’ll bring it. If these two play 5 matches, I think Botic wins 3, but this is a one-off and Dimitrov is sharper. Conflicting evidence against that is Botic and Cressy making a nice run in the doubles last week. That equals a ton of serving practice and a lot of chances to execute offense that in a normal singles match it may be careless to attempt.
Good match to tune in for, but not really worth betting (Dimitrov is listed around -175 which is right based off current form). Botic is good enough to take advantage of the passivity that Dimitrov can fall into on his backhand wing, so fading him isn’t appetizing. Backing him isn’t, because Dimitrov played great last week. Why not just take Dimitrov? Well, you’re paying a premium for a guy who’s had 1-2 good weeks a year, and assuming that they come back to back. It’s just a fear of missing out type bet, although he likely will win. The more you speculate, the harder it becomes to actually realize when you know the outcome and understand the pricepoints being offered. Dimitrov in 3.
Fils vs Berrettini :
Heheheheh. Anyone who beats Fognini is a friend to me. I love the little mustachio pistachio, but watching him lose when he doesn’t want to is the reward for everyone who had to watch him tank at tournaments in the South American clay swing for a few years (I believe at one point he was threatened with not being able to enter if he didn’t start making a full effort). The non-hater news is that Arthur Fils won, and his name means Son of Bear (ty Beanz for the French lessons). Fognini was fairly motivated in the qualifying, and still lost, so Fils has a moderate chance to be effective against Berrettini. Matteo’s first round losses have made his return to the tour feel like a slump, but he’s racked up titles and won multiple matches at the majority of his tournament since his return. A quick loss last week to Musetti isn’t the best, but oddsmakers had him listed at just a pickem with Musetti which kinda pointed to that outcome. Form aside, Berrettini is always the bigger market between the two, and that price will never cross 0 at the current stages of their careers, so Musetti landing around a pickem (+110) is a position against exposure to good form from Musetti.
As a player, Fils shows promise. He has great speed, good instincts in the frontcourt, a solid serve, and he can take his backhand down the line when he has the opportunity. He’s still playing a bit of a Challenger level approach with a lot of balls down the middle, but against Berrettini he likely needs unforced errors so it won’t be a disaster if he errs on the side of passivity. On the flipside, Berrettini should be fresh for this event, and this is a rough section of the draw but one he can work his way through since Alcaraz lost to Felix last week. For now, Fils is likely not dangerous enough to win this match (it’d be easily the hugest win of his career). He’s outdueled similar serve/forehand combos like Gianluca Mager, but this is probably an exciting contest for the home crowd where Matteo will pull away as the match progresses. Berrettini in 2-3.
Hurkacz vs Mannarino :
I’ve been a fan of Hubert for a while. I still remember in that movie when Harry Potters found out he was a Hurkacz. It’s rare that someone is so large that everything they do looks like it’s casual, but that’s the case with HH’s tennis. His service motion looks easy, and his groundstrokes look like he’s playing against his nephew Gubert (sp?). This is supposed to be an easy match for him, but it was in Australia also, and Mannarino beat him in three straight sets. Indoor favors servers, so Hurkacz has a solid shot to get revenge here. Mannarino has also dropped three matches in a row, which is always tough to bounce back from against an opponent in pretty solid form. Hurkacz lost to Coric last week, but he had it pretty locked up and he got just the right amount of training/rest for Paris. He should make a run here, but backing him at -500 or whatever he’s listed as is picking up pennies in front of a steamroller, especially against a guy he showed stylistic troubles against this season. Hurkacz in a tentative 2.
Rune vs Wawrinka :
Holger Rune has started to show solidification of the form that saw him win a set against Novak at the US Open. His serve seems to have more pop on it in the past few weeks, and his groundstrokes are landing in the court. This makes him a tough out, and he’s in that stage of his career where missing isn’t really a disaster so he’s swinging a bit freer than some of his veteran opponents. Perhaps it’s strengthening his legs, but he seems to be getting higher bounces on his serve. Odd Dimitrov/Botic style price here, with Rune at only -185. Certainly he’s right to be favored given his play, but it’s a slight nod to Wawrinka having a good shot here. Arguments in that camp are Wawrinka’s cannon of a serve, and his gradual improvement in the last few weeks. Rune played two tiebreakers with RBA, and saved a number of break points to get through them. It was a similar match to the Wawrinka RBA clash, which was highly entertaining but showed that neither one could really hang at the opponents preferred pace. Rune being the only one to push FAA and him being young still bodes well for him to come in at a high level here, but the letdown after a finals appearance is something books are always hesitant about.
Stylewise, Wawrinka matches up well with Rune. Rune has been overpowering people and hitting with depth, and this doesn’t both Stan at all. In the serving department, they’re about even when fresh. This will be the usual Wawrinka equation of this season. If Rune can wear down his legs, he will win. If Wawrinka can win a sprint of a set in the first, it’s likely that he has time to regroup for a third or even snag the second. Same as Botic/Dimitrov, it’s hard to really want to bet against either of these players at this time. That’s really the case for most first rounds, and a good rule of thumb to do when evaluating stuff is to imagine if any possible outcome (2-0 Stan, 2-1 Rune, etc) would really be such an outlier. Here, with mitigating factors of Rune coming off a lot of tennis and Wawrinka nearing his old form, the books pricing makes this a good spot to avoid. Someone in 3 (if Rune does win this in 2 though, him and Hurkacz should be really interesting).
Isner vs Otte :
Protect those ankles, lest ye be crossed by Isner’s between the legs dribble. Isner hasn’t played a match since the US Open, but it doesn’t really matter. His game is predicated on his ability to be tall and serve, and he’ll be able to do both those things. The good news for haters ([ x ]I’m in this photo and I don’t like it) is that Oscar Otte has finally found a little rhythm here. Going through qualifying and beating Ivashka and Zapata Miralles means he’s had some good reps returning serve (Ivashka has a good one and BZM’s delivery is underrated) and also that he’s played some baseline rallies. Against Isner, I think Otte holds serve with no problem, and the key will be just winning a few points in the tiebreaker or getting the benefit of a few rusty misses. Isner has had some great runs in Paris, so watching his service rhythm in the first round is pretty essential to know if he’s going to win a few rounds or just crash out. He might actually have a better shot against Rublev in the second, but it seems like he’d be lucky to make it there. Otte in 2.
Korda vs De Minaur :
This should be the best match of the first round, and the even odds offered here make sense. De Minaur has been a gatekeeper on tour, rarely dropping a match against weaker opposition and seldom bating the top guys in the deciding sets. His lack of power is the main issue, and while his footspeed and focus got him on tour, it takes a lot of work to maintain that level year after year so he has had some slumps and injury issues. Korda had a solid run in Antwerp beating Thiem, Nishioka, Khachanov, and Giron, and he is probably slightly better in these conditions. His serve and easy power are the exact thing that give De Minaur trouble, but De Minaur’s ability to move his opponents and expose their lack of footspeed is where Korda struggles. He moves well for a tall guy, but his lateral movement is a tiny bit slow. This should be close, and it’s a coinflip who wins on the day. Someone in 3 competitive sets.
Draper vs Rinderknech :
It’s Rinderknech’s world, we’re just Rinderkneching in it. After a fairly middling season, Arthur Rinderkech has woken up. He won a few in a row in Gijon (Challenger, but still a solid draw of Lestienne, Taberner, and PCB), and caught fire in Basel where he beat Lestienne again to qualify and took down Cilc and Molcan before falling to Rune. Rinderknech’s serve and skillful aggression at net remind me a bit of Herbert. He makes the court small and keeps the points short, and the result is that when you are in a baseline rally with him, it’s easy to play too safe and fall victim to his forehand. Compartmentalizing tennis is a great thing for a tennis player, and it’s what Rinderknech will have to do here.
Despite the praise, Rinderknech has an issue against big hitters who can lock him into baseline rallies. Jack Draper does go big whenever he can, but he plays a pretty stable baseline game and his power will force Rinderknech into errors. His ability to go down the line on his forehand on the run is also key here since Rinderknech will have to approach more to the Draper backhand. That wing is more generic, but Draper’s compact swing and measured contact points make it difficult to read that shot and he keeps it low over the net. It sounds odd given his withdrawal issues, but I think Draper is the slightly more durable player here. Again, for wagering purposes, you don’t really want to fade either of these players right now, but this is a decent one to watch since the winner should have a decent shout to beat Sonego/Tiafoe in the next round and will likely be priced somewhat affordably since those are bigger names. Draper in 2-3.
Sonego vs Tiafoe :
Give Sonego credit for going in the qualifiers and winning. It’s hard to be in a slump (4 losses in a row) and drop down and not get snagged. The fringe tour guys watch the results and they know whose confidence is low. Sonego played decent against Joao Sousa in round one and was just a bit better than Griekspoor in the finals. Griekspoor has been puzzlingly inconsistent which is odd considering his breakout 20+ match win streak is what got him on tour. Tiafoe has been less than stellar in this late season stretch, and I think it’s fair to say Sonego is the only side of this match you’d want to consider taking. Sonego is more motivated (having a much worse season), has had a few matches already, and he has a good enough serve plus one to match Tiafoe’s powerful serve. The good news for Tiafoe is this match is on his racquet. He can elevate his level and his backhand is a lot more stable than Sonego’s. The reason he’s unbackable here is that the last few matches just haven’t shown a total commitment to getting the result. He’s watching how it goes basically and reacting, rather than insisting on how it must go and fighting to get there. Anyway, that’s overly critical considering he’s just played three with Hurkacz, but you have to be a little bit more discerning when it comes to moneys. Sonego in 3.
Fritz vs Davidovich Fokina :
ADF leads this 2-1, but those were all on clay where he’d be expected to dominate this matchup. He’s 0-5 in his last 5 indoor matches and it’s a spot where he needs to wake up and play his best tennis immediately. It’s a tough ask, and Fritz at -400ish is probably fair, I just never expect Fritz to be totally in a rhythm in an early round. He has an easy service motion and good traditional swings, but he’s not the strongest or the most coordinated guy ever to play tennis so I tend to think of him as a “wait and see” commodity. I’d expect Fritz in straights given their recent levels, but ADF and Fritz are two players whose levels vary wildly from tournament to tournament.
Murray vs Simon :
This is Gilles Simon’s farewell tour, and I’m not sure if he intends to hang it up this week or at Roland Garros in 2023. Either way, the guy has been a treat to watch in the past few seasons. He will randomly wake up one week a year and turn in a semis or finals run, and it’s rare that someone can be both the most beautiful and skillful and creative player on the court while simultaneously pushing. Simon has beaten some players this year who could beat Murray, but the particular matchup might not be so great for him. Murray has been grinding out some similar opponents like Cachin and just played RBA the week before which is a great warmup for how many balls it’ll take to beat Simon. He’s just a bit stronger at this stage of their careers, and his slightly hampered speed around the court won’t hurt him as much here since Simon’s offense is more measured (like Seppi) than explosive. Murray in 2-3.
Bublik vs Ymer :
Throw the past matches out the window for this one, because these two have the widest ranges on tour for level of play. Mikael Ymer can be absolutely infuriating to watch when he’s struggling, and can seem helpless finding the court despite not really going for shots. When he’s playing well though, his pace and constant aggression unravels some of the better players on tour for brief patches. Beating Tommy Paul, Lestienne, and Lehecka recently is a good nod to him coming in here at a solid level. For Bublik, he’s won a few matches recently but has a few losses where he was simply outworked. At his best, he’s a bit better than Ymer. The problem is that it’ll take focus and execution for 90 minutes for him to win this contest, and it’s hard to guarantee that’ll happen. Bublik is in decent form, and Ymer is playing near his best. Ymer in 3.
Schwartzman vs Cressy :
This is a bit of a puzzling line. Cressy is something like -175 here, but these conditions should really suit him. You’d expect a big server who likes to rush the net to thrive in indoor tennis, but he’s gone 2-7 in his last few matches and it doesn’t seem like switching over to hardcourt is helping him that much. Diego doesn’t usually enter a ton of events in the indoor swing, and has turned in quick losses to Rublev and Goffin in October. I’d honestly expect Cressy to be more like -200 here so imo it’s a good spot to wait and see why the line was sat there, but it’ll be interesting to see how a struggling favorite fares against a guy in his worst conditions and carrying in a 6 match losing streak. Cressy in 2.
Baez vs Khachanov :
Baez can outwork disadvantageous conditions and has a few times this year, but the indoor swing has been rough on him. Khachanov is not exactly in the USO form, but he has enough firepower to go deep here and the Paris conditions suit him. Khachanov in 2.
Huesler vs Sinner :
Tough draw for Huesler who has gone from flash in the pan Challenger prospect to tour stalwart in just a few months post-USO. Huesler arrived slightly before the Stricker/Borges wave of players and really seemed like he’d be the next Shapo style player to break onto the tour. What followed was a solid year or two of error prone impatient play on the Challenger tour that made it seem like he might become the next Klizan instead. It makes it more impressive that he’s been playing solid enough tennis to be ranked 62 heading into next season. He’s decent on clay and he has a good enough serve for grass so he’s likely to remain in the top 100. Sinner is a bad matchup for him since he trades pace better than almost everyone on tour. There are guys who reflect well like Medvedev and Nishikori, but Sinner really sends the ball back with interest and his level seems to elevate as he goes. It’ll be interesting to see Sinner’s physical development as he goes, because he seems to struggle to put guys away when he’s at his second tier, and always has to turn it up as things go. That’s a great weapon to have in your pocket, but it’s risky to always try to reel opponents back. Huesler has a shot here in the early going, but Sinner is probably the right choice. Sinner in 3.
Cilic vs Musetti :
This is a tricky one after Rinderknech dumped Cilic last week and Musetti beat Berrettini. Cilic has really had one of the more consistent years ever, but anytime he starts losing the risk of him just going on a bad streak is there. I think he wins this because of the styles of the two, but it’ll be closer. Musetti has a lot of pop on the ball and his serve has improved a bunch, but he tends to be a little passive and to use height on his shots. Cilic really only struggles when his time is taken away, and with control he can be an absolute terror. Watching him play Medvedev illustrates this, and while Musetti hits a lot more topspin than Med, the indoor courts don’t really make the ball kick up to a height that can bother Cilic. It could go either way, but I think it’s on Cilic’s racquet so we’ll either see a solid win or 30 unforced errors. Cilic in 2.
Basilashvili vs Halys :
Basilashvili is like that guy at the company that doesn’t really do anything anymore but whoever hired him is gone so he just keeps getting a paycheck. It’s a great spot for Halys who fought hard in qualifying and gave us a great battle against Coric in Vienna. If he keeps his head steady then Basil will shoot himself out of this match. The season is almost over, and it has seemed for quite some time that he’s just not focused on tennis. Basilashvili was recently cleared of domestic violence charges in his home country of Georgia, and his slump has coincided with those charges so some extra scrutiny will be on him here. Honestly, the level he’s given and the image he’s portrayed in recent seasons has me hoping Halys wins. Halys in 2.
Molcan vs Gasquet :
DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK, I’VE GASQUET’D FOR YEARS. Richard Gasquet is supposed to be losing. It has the feel of Ferrer’s retirement to it, where it was clear he was a step slow and yet won a ton of matches on his way out. His service delivery is just better than so many younger pros, and his racquet-skill is so good that his slightly slower speed around the court doesn’t really hurt him in these lower tier situations. Molcan is an exciting prospect and him being lefty does give him potential, but Gasquet was in good form in Antwerp and should be fresh for this event. Homecourt advantage doesn’t hurt either. Gasquet in 3.
Evans vs Nakashima :
I like Evans here, which means my analysis is skewed. Evans is ranked higher, but lost 7-6, 6-0 when they played in Washington. Stranger still, the first set tiebreaker was a lopsided 7-1 win for Nakashima. Not sure what happened there, but Evans is having a better indoor season than Nakashima. He’s one of the few players who’s taken a set off Felix, and has two solid wins over Khachanov and Otte. I’m a big fan of Nakashima’s stability, and I do think it’ll be tough for Evans to score quick points here, but he’s the more offensive player in this matchup. Given the h2h history, and the pickem line, it’s another (you guessed it) wait and see situation. If I have to take someone, I’ll side with Evans settling the score.
Moutet vs Coric :
Let these dudes play 3/5. Both of these players are so very passive-aggressive on the courts, with their celebrations and fist-pumps only marred by their glances to see if their opponent is upset by them. Moutet is a lefty and his dropshots and creativity are world-class. His defense is solid, and he’ll make a match of this. His weakness is his temper, and his height. He’s never going to serve out a match with ease since his delivery comes from low, and he takes losing points personal and is one of the few guys still willing to argue with hawkeye and the umpires. Coric has a similar grumpy disposition when things don’t go his way, but he’s leagues more professional. He keeps his composure, trains extremely hard off the court, and has gotten himself not just back on tour but into the upper echelon where he can contend for titles. The “Is this the next Djokovic style grinder” discussion is circling him recently, and his serving has improved so there’s potential that he does continue to improve the other holes in his game (forehand can disappear sometimes and he’s a bit too reliant on mid-match coaching/babysitting for a top player). Coric should outwork Moutet, but it’ll be entertaining. Coric in 2-3.
Kecmanovic vs Norrie :
Kecmanovic gets a lot of respect from oddsmakers, but has only backed it up a few weeks this year. It’s easy to see the promise in his game, and he had a very good quality match against Felix last week, but Cam Norrie is a very tough out. Norrie is struggling a bit in this indoor closeout to the season, and it’s possible that the pace is just a bit too much for his grinding style of tennis. He’s not winning sprints, and these indoor matches are mostly decided by offense. This is a 50/50 match and it’ll probably go to whomever serves a higher first serve percentage. I’d expect a handful of breaks in both directions, with Kecmanovic being the slightly more in form player. Kecmanovic in 3.
Carreño Busta vs Ramos :
It often seems like the Spanish federation players don’t really pull rankings upsets. ARV has won their only previous hardcourt meeting, but that was 5 years ago on outdoor courts. Pablo has had a decent indoor swing, and ARV has really only pulled one surprise win against Musetti. PCB in 2.
Shapovalov vs Cerundolo :
A few months ago I’d like Cerundolo’s side of this, but he’s struggled in this indoor swing to string wins together (some tough draws honestly getting a motivated Thiem twice), and Shapovalov has just turned in some of his best tennis since he got on tour in Vienna. Maybe it’s his buddy Felix winning, or just the pressure being off after the majors are over, but Shapovalov is playing solid. He should recover quickly enough to win this first round, and Cerundolo’s power and heavy topspin won’t be as effective on the Paris courts. New Shapovalov in 2.
Bautista-Agut vs Paul :
I like Tommy Paul here, but RBA is not really the best guy to fade. He makes his opponents work for every point, and Tommy can get a little bit impatient. RBA has lost a step though, and the explosive type of offense it takes to get through him is the exact type of tennis Paul plays. The question is how far off Rune’s current level Paul is right now. Paul lost to Thiem first round in Vienna, but he could have completely closed out that match and the Austrian crowd were hard to argue with when you looked at how much Thiem winning meant to them. In the second round Nadal is waiting, and I think Paul is the player with a better chance of beating him in his possibly rusty state. Paul in 3.
Just a half a disclaimer :
I discuss pricing of different players here because information about form/fitness is conveyed by books. Following these markets and watching the pricepoints fluctuate can tell you a great deal about the tour and the players listed. If I can help people understand this process a bit better, I’d like to so I include this info. Understanding predicted public perception matters to really interpreting them in any profitable way, but in general wagering is not a great idea in the first round of an event. You can see potential reasons for the lines, but until the matches are played it’s largely going to be speculation.
Heading into the first round the books are privy to information that the general public isn’t. Who served well/practiced well. Who is nursing an injury from the last event. Which late-stage participants from the week before are physically/emotionally fatigued. Who partied after their win. Who has family in town and is open to the week being a vacation. Who dislikes the location and is looking to leave asap. Which players thrive/struggle in these unique conditions (many surfaces are the same but environments/crowds/weather can vary wildly). Who is there picking up a check while they’re still ranked high. Who is feuding with their coaches, with their significant others, etc. These are real people, and the margins between their ability are very small. Add in this being indoor tennis (a bit of a sprint) and 2/3 set tennis (which can go extremely quickly) and it’s better to wait and see. Tennis is a unique betting market because they play on different surfaces, with different player pools, but they maintain the ranking system and format throughout the year. This means that you can always wait until you have a good amount of information each week before placing any wager. Books are an adversary, not a companion. Be patient, and avoid incurring unnecessary risk.