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Paris Masters 1000 preview

The ATP season is drawing to a close and the last large draw event of note is the Paris Masters 1000. This time of year is a tricky one for punters - most players have their mind on a long overdue break before they get back into heavy training aiming at the Australian Open, the elite few have to keep something up their sleeve for London and those around the 30-50 mark will be doing their best to lock in a seeding in Melbourne. But mostly, players are knackered and needing a holiday.

Time to bring in a top class tennis analyst, Dan Weston, @tennisratings. Follow his work on his website - Tennisratings and make sure you take a look at his magnificent new piece of work, the 'Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet'. I wish I had the time and dedication to produce something like that!

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Paris Masters preview

The Masters 1000 event in Paris is the final event on the regular ATP calendar each year and with many players’ eyes on a beach somewhere there’s plenty of potential for upsets and for more motivated players to pick up some cheap ranking points on offer in a 48 man field.

The courts in Bercy had marginally above average service holds in 2012 (81.3% compared to the ATP Indoor Hard average of 80.2%), marginally below in 2011 (79.4% holds) and above average in 2010 (83.6%). So there may not be as many breaks of serve as expected this week. Opposing servers will have to be done in select circumstances.

As my resource ‘set percentages by venue, surface, season and tournament category’ shows, Paris has a slightly above average percentage for matches ended in 2 sets (66.7% from 2010-2012) and also for retirements (5.7% 2010-2012) and this is unsurprising considering motivation is frequently low in this tournament so the potential for fightbacks is low – something both over/under backers and in-play traders would do well to bear in mind.

It’s also very telling in this respect that favourites do not do well here, particularly those priced 1.50 to 1.99. If you had backed every favourite for £100 level stakes you’d have accumulated a huge loss of £1554 (based on the best prices available on oddsportal.com) from 2010-2012 from 140 completed matches (ROI of -11.10%) so be very careful about backing favourites in this odds range, particularly in the early rounds.

Going along with the above statistics, it cannot be ignored that in the last ten years, the top or second seed has never won the event, and between those, they’ve only made one final (Rafael Nadal in 2007). So anyone backing Nadal or Novak Djokovic this week has history against them. However, with an excellent record in the latter stages of the season, (4 defeats in 35 matches September-November since 2011, 1 defeat in 26 matches in 2012/2013) I’d much rather have the Serb onside than Nadal. Djokovic had a shock defeat to Sam Querrey in the first round last year and gave a walkover to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011 suffering from a shoulder injury so hasn’t had great recent success here.

With those historical stats seemingly very prevalent, there could be excellent potential for picking out some long-priced players who can be backed each-way or backed with a view to lay at a later point in the tournament on the exchanges. A player not seeded in the top 10 has made the final in the last ten years so having a portfolio of long-odds players appears very sensible.

Jerzy Janowicz was the shock runner-up last year, having entered as a qualifier, but will find things hard this year with a scheduled clash in the round of 16 against Nadal. A defeat here will ensure his ranking plummets to a more realistic level than his current over-rated 15 in the world.

Having looked at the players around the top 10-15 who could make a big impact here, I have made a shortlist of players that could impress with a nice draw. Although the top two seeds have historically struggled here, there is no doubt a player would rather be in a quarter without Nadal or Djokovic in it, so the two middle quarters which have David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro in them as the top seeds could be an area to identify for success. With Roger Federer and Del Potro having made the final in Basel this week, fatigue could be an issue later on next week for them, but Fabio Fognini and Tommy Haas are the other seeded players in that quarter. Fognini is a highly unstable player that I would never have faith in to perform consistently in a week away from clay, whilst I’ve noticed a bit of a drop off in level from Haas in the last couple of months – perhaps age is finally catching up with him – so I’m not especially keen to have the German on-side either.

The second quarter with David Ferrer as the top seed could have potential, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see either Milos Raonic or Tomas Berdych get through to the semi-final from it. Whilst Ferrer is considered a clay-courter, he is the defending champion here and has an excellent 17-3 record on indoor-hard in the past year so it’s far from a foregone conclusion he won’t challenge again. But again, fatigue may be a factor with him in the Valencia final on Sunday. He’s another player who hasn’t consistently shown his best in recent months.

It can be considered that Tomas Berdych’s serve is more effective on indoor-hard than outdoor hard with the Czech boasting much better service stats on the surface (90.6% average holds in the past year compared to 85.1% on outdoor hard) but he seems to have major problems on his opponent’s serve indoors, breaking only 19.5% compared to 30.5% outdoors. Based on those stats a position on the Czech world number seven cannot be considered.

Perhaps it’s Raonic that can impress. After a very disappointing grass court season, the Canadian has really stepped up his level with an increase in his opponent break percentages and a much improved tie-break record (critical for a big server who naturally ends sets with a lot of tiebreaks) and has taken titles in Bangkok and Tokyo in the last two months. Raonic is starting to live up to his huge potential but at odds of 40/1 for the outright victory I feel those prices are fairly skinny.

Long shots who are ranked outside the top 10 who have ability include Gael Monfils, Mikhail Youzhny, Kei Nishikori, John Isner and Ernests Gulbis but out of those I cannot consider Isner, who has an atrocious record in Europe in the last couple of years, and I feel Nishikori and Youzhny (who has a terrible record against top players) are very unlikely to cause a shock. Monfils and Gulbis have little fear against top players but it’s just a question of consistency with them.

I always like the chances of Gulbis to progress in a tournament at long odds, but he has a tough draw. He starts with a winnable clash against the over-rated Fernando Verdasco, before a clash with Richard Gasquet, who looked far from fit in his defeat against Michael Llodra this week. He then would face tough matches against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (who along with Gasquet needs the ranking points in a bid to capture a late World Tour Finals spot) before potentially taking on Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals.

Monfils has Vasek Pospisil in the first round with the Canadian likely to be fatigued after a superb run in Basel (I feel he can make a big impact in 2014) but the enigmatic Frenchman would probably then face Berdych then Raonic on his way to the quarter finals and that’s a pretty big ask to get past all three.

I’m going to chance a small recommendation on the Frenchman at 80/1, and chance two other home players at very long odds too.

Both Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra are 250/1 and have excellent indoor hard records with Benneteau winning 14 out of his 21 matches on the surface in the past year, holding 81.9% and breaking 27.6% on the surface – stats which would definitely put him in the top 20 on the surface. He faces Kei Nishikori in the first round who couldn’t have been more disinterested in defeat to Ivan Dodig last week. Llodra loves this tournament having made the semi-finals in 2010 and 2012 and could find Grigor Dimitrov a non-too-tough opponent after a long couple of weeks for the over-rated Bulgarian. Llodra is 9-4 on indoor hard in the last 12 months holding a superb 92.8% of the time, and breaking 16.1^% of the time – a very similar combined sum to Benneteau and for a ‘big server’ those surface stats are highly impressive.

Recommendations:-

Back to lay Gael Monfils
Back to lay Julien Benneteau
Back to lay Michael Llodra
Lay Rafael Nadal

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