Tuesday’s ATP Daily Hitter: Rolling the Dice in Monte Carlo
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The first clay Masters of the season kicked off on Sunday (with a limited slate) in Monte Carlo. On Tuesday, we’ll have 15 more matches, getting underway at 5 a.m. ET. Make sure you set your alarms (or just stay awake) if you plan on watching any off the early action in Monaco.
Dominic Thiem will be back in action after missing the last month with an ankle injury that forced him to pull out early from Indian Wells. I actually see a touch of value at -330 for the second-best clay-courter on the planet (after Rafael Nadal). Thiem could serve as a nice potential piece tomorrow. In a recent interview, the Austrian said he feels “98%” ahead of this tournament. I think he sees his way through, but I’m going to err on the side of caution against a dangerous young gun in Andrey Rublev.
The affair between Stefanos Tsitsipas (+100) and David Goffin (-130) also caught my eye. This line came out lower than I anticipated, but Tsitsipas did beat the Belgian in their previous match — last year indoors at Antwerp. Goffin has also struggled lately with his form after recovering from injury. If you think Goffin returns to form in Monte Carlo, you can’t deny the value with Le Goff at just a shade over a buck and a quarter.
Finally, I took a hard look at Yuichi Sugita at +140 against Jan-Lennard Struff, who comes into this one out of form. The German has lost his last four matches, including one against Sugita in Dubai. He really hasn’t posted overly-impressive clay results over the past two years, either, at just 16-17 at the Tour level. Sugita is far from what you’d call a clay-courter, but he’s had some decent results on the dirt. He showed his clay ability last year n Barcelona, where he beat Pablo Carreno-Busta and Richard Gasquet. I price this closer to a pick ’em, especially considering Sugita owns a 2-0 H2H record vs. Struff. I still want to mull it over, but Sugita looks to have plenty of value at +140 at first glance.
Enough talk about potential plays. Let’s get into Tuesday’s daily hitter.
ATP DAILY HITTER
Pablo Cuevas (+100) vs. Fernando Verdasco (-120)
Where: Monte Carlo, Monaco
When: 6 a.m. ET
After slumping for most of the second half of last season, Cuevas looks to finally have hit his stride again. He has now posted back-to-back-to-back impressive runs in Rio (QF), Sao Paulo (SF), and Indian Wells (4R). Tomorrow, he’ll return to the dirt of Monte Carlo — where he made the QF in 2017 — and will surely feel comfortable on his favorite surface.
Over the past two seasons (2016 and 2017), Cuevas posted much better clay results than Verdasco (pictured above) at the Tour level: 35-14 record vs. 24-15, respectively. Form-wise, I also give the edge to Cuevas. Verdasco looked really unimpressive last week on the clay in Houston, where he lost in the first round to Denis Kudla, who nobody will ever confuse for Rafael Nadal.
Over the years (at Tour level), these two have split four meetings on the dirt. Verdasco dogged Cuevas last year at the French Open, but that result is deceiving. I believe Cuevas was dealing with something — either physical or confidence-based — around that part of the tennis calendar. Bottom line, he clearly wasn’t playing at his typical level. Following that Roland Garros defeat, Cuevas went on to drop his next three clay-court matches against inferior opponents before dropping down to the Challenger level.
With Cuevas looking like himself again, I’m comfortable backing the Uruguayan in this spot.
THE PICK: Pablo Cuevas +100