Andy Schooler brings you his Paris Masters betting tips and, at a tournament which has a history of big-priced winners, he’s backing 33/1 and 50/1 shots.
Rolex Paris Masters
Paris, France (indoor hard)
The ninth and final Masters 1000 tournament of the season has long been the one most likely to produce a surprise result.
While these Masters events have been dominated by the ATP’s ‘Big Four’ for some time – messrs Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray have won 106 of the last 134 – just six of the last 14 Paris titles in that run have gone to the famous quartet.
The reason is fairly obvious – it’s the tournament’s position in the calendar.
Big guns opposable
It comes towards the end of a long, hard season and just two weeks before the ATP Finals, a bigger prize for the game’s top players (at times over the last 14 years it has actually come the week before). It is also played the week after Roger Federer’s home tournament in Basel, a factor which has undoubtedly played a part in the Swiss’ relatively disappointing record at the Bercy Arena.
He’s won the title just once (in 2011) and in his other 12 appearances has managed a best of the semi-finals (twice).
With the 38-year-old having reached another final in Basel at time of writing, don’t be at all surprised if he fails to show in Paris – the event isn’t on his schedule on his official website which I suspect says much. Certainly I won’t be backing him at 9/2.
Federer’s record at the Paris Masters is still arguably better than Rafael Nadal’s.
The Spaniard has never lifted the famous ‘tree’ trophy, playing in the final only once and that was back in 2007. He’s appeared only six times and has pulled out mid-tournament in two of those.
This year he is due to play in what will be his latest comeback from injury – Nadal missed the Shanghai Masters with a wrist problem.
With those ATP Finals looming, he’ll likely be keen to get matches under his belt but all things considered backing him at 11/2 looks the road to the poorhouse.
Novak Djokovic, a four-time champion here, is clearly the most likely winner of the big guns but the market knows that and he’s the 13/8 favourite.
He’s made the event a key part of his ATP Finals preparation over the years, only missing it in 2017 when he was out with a long-term injury.
Still, while Djokovic has won two Grand Slam titles in 2019, he hasn’t shown the sort of consistency of his best days, something that’s reflected by the fact he’ll lose his world number one spot to Nadal following this event, regardless of how either man performs in the French capital.
The Serb’s latest stutter came in Shanghai where he was beaten in the last eight by Stefanos Tsitsipas. He’s also lost to Daniil Medvedev and Stan Wawrinka (retiring through injury) since his Wimbledon triumph.
While I can’t argue about his position as favourite, 13/8 isn’t a tempting price.
Instead I’ll take the usual approach of trying to sniff out some value at a tournament which has produced more than its fair share of big-priced winners and finalists.
Last year Karen Khachanov emerged triumphant and that followed on from a 2017 final which saw Jack Sock defeat Filip Krajinovic in what must go down as one of the most unlikely Masters finals of recent times.
Isner can shine again in Paris
I’ll start my approach by turning to a player who I’ve backed on several occasions in Paris in the past, John Isner.
Conditions here were sped up a few years ago and that’s played into the hands of the big-serving American, who has just become a father to his second child.
Isner made the final here in 2016 when he lost narrowly to Andy Murray and he followed that up 12 months later by reaching the semi-finals and losing 7-6 in the third to the aforementioned Krajinovic.
Last season it took eventual champion Khachanov to defeat him – again in a final-set tie-break.
Isner hasn’t been at his best for much of this season but there were some encouraging signs during the recent Asian swing where he beat Gael Monfils, Alex de Minaur and Lucas Pouille. In each of those matches he held serve throughout.
Medvedev’s position in the draw is the concern – his form has been well documented. However, the Russian, who will certainly be one of those with at least one eye on those forthcoming ATP Finals, is now half the price he was when we successfully backed him in Shanghai just three weeks ago.
He’s also shown a little frailty against the biggest servers – he’s lost twice to Nick Kyrgios this season and only just scraped past Reilly Opelka. He’s also lost his only career meeting with Ivo Karlovic.
It can be argued that Isner’s family responsibilities mean he could produce a half-hearted effort this week but I find it interesting that he is playing here and not in the Davis Cup Finals in a few weeks’ time. I suspect he fancies his chances.
It also worth noting that Isner is one of several players vying for one of two remaining places in the ATP Finals field.
Victory would give him a good chance of returning to the lucrative London event so I’ll give him a try at 50/1.
Lots to like about Berrettini
Alex Zverev looks pretty likely to reach those ATP Finals but the final spot looks sure to be fought over hard.
Matteo Berrettini is the man currently ‘in possession’ so he knows the title here gets him in.
That’s just one of several good reasons to back the Italian.
He’s been one of the top stories of the 2019 ATP Tour with his rise up the rankings and he’s featured regularly in this column, delivering a profit in Munich while only a few weeks ago he was an agonising near miss when he lost in the semi-finals at the Shanghai Masters.
I was sceptical about how his form would hold up indoors but last week in Vienna he again made the last four, only losing narrowly to home favourite Dominic Thiem.
— ROLEX PARIS MASTERS (@RolexPMasters) October 25, 2019
Another with a beefy serve and plenty of power off the ground, the conditions should suit Berrettini’s game.
The seeds in his section of the draw are Khachanov, Wawrinka and Nadal.
Khachanov is under big pressure to defend his points of last season and has only won back-to-back matches in one of his last seven tournaments; Wawrinka withdrew from Basel with injury only a few days ago; and the case against Nadal has already been made.
Federer is seeded to reach the semis in this half of the draw – again doubts already mentioned there – so I’m more than happy to go with Berrettini at 33/1.
Humbert has long-shot chance
Finally I’ll give a mention to Ugo Humbert, another who has the tools to go well in slick conditions.
The young Frenchman has played some of his best tennis on indoor hardcourts this season, reaching the last four in Marseille where you find some of the fastest courts on the tour. That week his first serve won him a high percentage of points and it could be a real weapon again this week.
More recently he’s been to the semis in Antwerp, losing only in a final set to eventual champion Andy Murray and, at time of writing, he’s due to contest a Challenger final in Brest.
He’s clearly in good nick and shouldn’t be fazed by an opening match with Grigor Dimitrov or a second-round meeting with David Goffin, who he thrashed in Antwerp.
The problem is the following rounds could bring Dominic Thiem and then Medvedev (or Isner) so I was hoping for a little bigger than 125/1.
I’ll therefore stick with one from the top and one from the bottom half in Isner and Berrettini in the hope that the big guns again fail to fully fire in Paris.