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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Monte Carlo Master Tennis Picks 2017 (April 16th)

The next few weeks are all about the build towards the French Open and the first big tournament of this European clay court season comes at the Monte Carlo Masters which begins on Sunday.

This is the one Masters event which is not considered 'compulsory' on the Tour but the big names on the ATP are going to be involved this week and it looks an open tournament when you think of some of the doubts that surround the likes of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. One player who was showing form at the two hard court Masters events in North America and who will be welcoming a move onto the clay courts is Rafael Nadal and I don't think anyone should be surprised he is the joint favourite with Novak Djokovic to win the event here.

Nadal is the defending Champion, but it is Djokovic who has won two of the last four Monte Carlo titles with Stan Wawrinka winning the other and this does feel like it could be a very interesting week to take in some form ahead of the bigger events leading up to the French Open.

This week I should be looking to have at least one pick from the matches to be played on each day after little between Indian Wells and the start of the event here. On Sunday we have four First Round matches to get the tournament underway and there will be a lot of tennis scheduled for the next few days with players looking to show they are ready to pick up some big Ranking points to give them confidence for the next two months of clay court tennis.

David Goffin - 4.5 games v Steve Darcis: David Goffin and Steve Darcis have got together many times over the last couple of years to help Belgium overachieve in the Davis Cup and they have guided their nation through to yet another Semi Final in that competition. Both are likely to be close off the court and will know what the other brings on the court which should aid them in putting together a game plan for this First Round match at the Monte Carlo Masters.

You would have to point out that Darcis is the one who favours the clay courts more out of the two players, but David Goffin has produced a solid run at the French Open in the past. Goffin reached the Quarter Final at the Rome Masters and French Open in 2016 and he was a fairly comfortable winner over Darcis when they met in Sofia earlier this season.

The problem Darcis will have is that he has a similar kind of game as Goffin, but the latter is the more consistent which should mean he wins the unforced error count during the course of the match. The serve can be a problem for both players but Goffin plays at a higher level than Darcis on a more regular basis which should help him earn the edge in this one.

Darcis' success at the Davis Cup level is more impressive when you think of his fairly disappointing success at the main ATP level with his best recent results coming in Challengers. I think he will cause some problems in this one, but Goffin should ultimately have a little too much all-around quality for him which can see him earn at least a couple more breaks of serve over the course of the match.

A first match back on the clay courts is always going to be tough, but Goffin should be able to come through with a 7-5, 6-3 win as he begins to feel more and more comfortable in the match.

Gilles Simon - 3.5 games v Malek Jaziri: It was a decision from Yannick Noah that meant Gilles Simon was not going to represent France in the Davis Cup tie against Great Britain, but the Frenchman should have gotten some good practice on the clay courts over the last two weeks. He is not having the best start to the 2017 season as the veteran perhaps has lost half a step around the court, but Simon can still be a tough opponent to break down.

The clay courts have proven to be an effective surface for Simon in recent years and he should be very confident in the match up against Malek Jaziri who has beaten four times out of four on the main ATP Tour.

This is also not a surface that Jaziri has enjoyed playing on through his career and I expect the next few weeks to be difficult for him. He was beaten in three sets by Jeremy Chardy last week in Marrakech which has dropped Jaziri to 5-8 on the clay courts in main ATP Tour matches, but he is also not someone who spends a lot of time on this surface at the Challenger or Qualifier level.

Jaziri did produce a surprisingly good run to the Quarter Final in Barcelona last season where he won three matches as a big underdog so you don't want to underestimate him. However Jaziri has the game that sees mistakes being extracted from him on the clay where patience and consistency are rewarded and Simon has both of those qualities in abundance.

It might take Simon some time to get to grips with the match being the first on the clay in 2017, but he should have gotten used to the surface over the last two weeks. I think that will lead to a 7-5, 6-4 win for Simon as he moves into the Second Round here.

MY PICKS: David Goffin - 4.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Simon - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

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