The ATP World Tour moves on to the beautiful scenery of Monte-Carlo in week 16, as the first Masters 1000 tournament of the clay swing gets underway.
The Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, played on one of the most picturesque centre courts in tennis at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, will welcome the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic et al over the next seven days, as many play their first matches of the year on the red dirt.
Playing conditions are generally on the slow side here in Monaco and with the local weather forecast set to be for a rather grey, damp, rainy week the courts should be quite paceless again.
The transition from hard to clay certainly made for a tough betting week in Casablanca last week, as we saw 13 underdogs prevail in 27 main draw matches (48%) and as a comparison there were 18 betting underdog winners from 55 main draw matches (33%) in Monte-Carlo 12 months ago.
There were some big-priced victors here last year though, with Jarkko Nieminen providing the biggest return with a 6.26 success over Juan Martin Del Potro and the Finn looks to be a great price again today against much lesser opposition.
Albert Ramos 1.78 vs Jarkko Nieminen 1.98 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 12.05
I’m surprised that Jarkko is available to back at around the 1.98 mark today, all things considered.
I assume it’s down to Ramos having played considerably more matches on the clay this year than Nieminen, who hasn’t played any on the red dirt since last spring, but that was also the case last year and the Finn made the quarter-finals here in Monte-Carlo.
According to his blog, Jarkko recovered well last week from Davis Cup and the claims to have made the transition to clay very quickly and has been playing well in practice.
A man of his experience knows how to manage his schedule and he’ll be fully prepared and ready to try and defend the 180 ranking points he earned here 12 months ago; a match against Ramos may be a decent start.
The Spaniard has shown me nothing this year to make him favourite for this match and last week in Casablanca he was poor against the tubby world number 248 Lamine Ouahab and also didn’t create a break point against Marcel Granollers.
Here in qualifying he’s scrapped his way past an out of form Carlos Berlocq and Lukasz Kubot, saving 20 break points in the process and although this will probably be another long battle the value has to lie with Jarkko here.
The pair of left-handers have never met on tour and neither has a good recent record against fellow southpaws, with Ramos being 2-4 in his last half dozen matches, while Nieminen is 1-5, but the Finn still looks a good bet at the prices today.
Back Nieminen to beat Ramos at 1.98