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Monday, 12 April 2021

Monte Carlo Tennis Day 3 Picks 2021 (April 12th)

The clay court season has arrived, but I think it was a good time to also just take a moment and put a week between any Tennis Picks and the Miami Masters.

The tournament was progressing exactly as I would have wanted, but a pretty unbelievable 0-8 run over the last four days obliterated the foundations and ended the week with a losing record. It is frustrating with at least three players letting me down from winning positions (and I am not going to ignore the fact that five selections were poor selections).

If those three had won from the position they had been in, the tournament would have been a solid one with the returns made, but bad luck coupled with bad selections meant a poor ending to the opening hard court portion of the 2021 season.

The majority of the clay court tournaments being played through to the French Open are still looking to begin as scheduled, but news arrived this week that the second Grand Slam of the season will be delayed one week after rising infections of Covid-19 in France.

I am not sure how I feel about this- one it means encroaching on the grass court season, but I am simply not sure a one week delay will make such a difference to a nation that has been struggling to deal with a third wave of infections. It certainly is something we will have to keep an eye on going forward and I do think the clay court events that are scheduled before the French Open will also be keen for the tournament to avoid having further delays as it will surely impact which players wish to take part in those events if the Grand Slam is in danger of another major move.

The remaining Grand Slams scheduled to be played in 2021 offered support to Roland Garros, although Wimbledon and the US Open will be hoping the organisers do not make the rash decision they did twelve months ago when moving the French Open to the Autumn without any indication to the rest of the Tour.

I am hoping some of my pessimism surrounding the slight delay to the tournament is unfounded and that things begin to improve in Europe in general, but it seems a strange move to make in April with the French Open not due to begin until the end of May.

One real shame for the tournament is that the Finals are now scheduled to be played on the opening weekend of the Euro 2020 Finals and the Men's Final will be clashing with England's first Group game.

Before we get to the French Open, the clay court run up is usually very competitive with some big events and a number of Masters 1000 tournaments set to be played. We begin those Masters events in Monte Carlo where Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are both back in action having not been seen since the Australian Open, while a loaded draw looks competitive right from the off.

It is a busy week in Monte Carlo with the first few days seeing plenty of matches scheduled to be played.

Sunday has a couple of First Round matches to open the tournament, but the majority of the Singles scheduled are the final Qualifiers. On Monday a large portion of the First Round will be set to be played, and the Second Round will get going on Tuesday along with the remainder of the First Round in what is a busy one week event to really get the clay court season going.

There is also a secondary WTA event being held in Charleston this week having seen a much stronger field take part on the green clay there last week.

However the Billie Jean King Cup Play Offs are played this week which features some of the elite WTA players and that means the next really big tournament will be played in Stuttgart in a few days time.

The first three days are going to see some markets produced a little later than I would like for the threads I have putting together and that may mean I cannot write out full thoughts for some of the selections.

However, others that fit the criteria will hopefully become clear early enough to put together fuller posts throughout the week as I look for a good start to the clay court campaign heading towards the French Open.

Salvatore Caruso - 5.5 games v Lucas Catarina: On the face of things it is hard to really look to back a player that is favoured by this many games who has not really reached the heights on the ATP Tour as you would hope. Salvatore Caruso has had to win a couple of Qualifiers to enter the main draw of the Monte Carlo Masters and he is slowly moving back towards his career best World Ranking of Number 76.

However, the Italian has won those two matches in the Qualifiers which will offer some encouragement and confidence. And you cannot ignore the fact that Caruso is facing Lucas Catarina who has been given a Wild Card in his home tournament and who has not played on the main Tour too often.

The 24 year old has lost all four previous matches he has played in Monte Carlo and Lucas Catarina has struggled with his numbers across the board and now has to take on an opponent who will be comfortable in the conditions after the back to back wins secured over this past weekend.

Lucas Catarina has been winning matches on the hard courts at a lower level than the main ATP Tour, but he is going to be playing on the red dirt for the first time since August 2019. I have to expect he will be pretty comfortable playing at home, but going up against a competent clay court player who is considerably higher up the World Rankings looks like another difficult challenge for Catarina and a gap that is unlikely to be bridged over two hours on the court.

I am not really expecting too many deep runs from Salvatore Caruso on the clay courts in the next couple of months, but I do think he is someone who can play well enough to beat a certain level of opponent. He has served well in his two Qualifying wins, but most impressive has been the return against Martin Klizan and Bernard Tomic and I do think Caruso will be able to use that part of his game to put Lucas Catarina under pressure and eventually earn the breaks that see him cover a big looking handicap on Monday in this Masters event.

Jan-Lennard Struff + 3.5 games v Grigor Dimitrov: The overall beginning to the 2021 season has seen Grigor Dimitrov playing at a higher level than Jan-Lennard Struff, but there have been some poor losses suffered by the former too. It has perhaps seen Dimitrov fail to take advantage of some of the draws he has been presented with and now the Bulgarian will move into the clay court season where has regularly found life more difficult than on the other surfaces on the Tour.

This is the first time Grigor Dimitrov will play in a clay court tournament in 2021 and it won't be easy for him to match the kind of level he showed in his 2020 clay court matches. For starters he only played in two tournaments on the surface last year and so it is hard to really believe in the strong numbers considering his fairly consistent level previously which Dimitrov had over-performed by a wide margin.

We will get to learn plenty about Grigor Dimitrov when he takes on Jan-Lennard Struff who has a losing record in the 2021 season, but who reached the Quarter Final in Cagliari last week. The German player has just had a difficult couple of months to open this season, but Struff has a game that has been pretty solid on the clay courts and one that is perhaps even marginally stronger than Grigor Dimitrov's.

Playing a couple of clay court matches last week should stand Jan-Lennard Struff in good stead and he looks like an underdog that can make life very tough for his higher Ranked opponent.

That has played out between these players in the past with Grigor Dimitrov holding a narrow 3-2 advantage, although they have split the previous four played on the clay. The two players have met twice at the Monte Carlo Masters (1-1) and once at the Rome Masters where Jan-Lennard Struff was able to pick up the win and the numbers from those matches are heavily favouring the underdog.

Jan-Lennard Struff has held in 87% of service games played in those matches compared with Grigor Dimitrov's 79% mark and the former also wins a slightly higher percentage of service points in those matches. The German has also created a lot more break points than Grigor Dimitrov in the three Masters clay court matches and I do think Jan-Lennard Struff can do enough to keep this competitive at the least.

I think he is capable of winning this match outright, but Jan-Lennard Struff would have covered in all three Masters clay court matches with this number of games behind him. The handicap mark looks just high enough to get behind the underdog in this First Round Monte Carlo match.

MY PICKS: Salvatore Caruso - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Jan-Lennard Struff + 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)

Season 2021: - 6.98 Units (507.5 Units Staked, - 1.37% Yield)

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