Sports Betting Weekly

ATP World Tour

When: Sunday, 17 May 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Rome Masters
World number one Novak Djokovic will be looking to retain his Rome Masters title this weekend as the greatest players on the professional tennis circuit fine-tune their games ahead of a massive summer of events that includes the French Open and Wimbledon.

Last year, Djokovic came back from losing the first set against Spanish behemoth Rafael Nadal to ultimately win 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final, which – like all other ATP Masters events – is just three sets in length, providing spectators with a quick-fire bout of high-octane action.

The Serbian has been in great form this year, losing just twice – to Ivo Karlovic in the quarter-finals of the Qatar Open and to Roger Federer in the Dubai Tennis Championships final – while also racking up 30 wins in total. Notably, Djokovic defeated Andy Murray 3-1 in the Australian Open final, while also clocking up wins in the Miami Masters, the Indian Wells Masters and the Monte Carlo Masters.

Those results and the all-round sensational form he’s shown in the past five months have put Djokovic way ahead of everyone else in the number one spot of the global rankings, some 5,200 points ahead of second seed Federer, despite the Swiss pro having played a tournament less.

It is perhaps no real surprise, then, that Djokovic is the overwhelming favourite for this tournament, with the best odds on the Serbian winning available at 4/5. However, that isn’t to say that the Djokovic will have an easy ride in Rome, even if he is in incredible form heading into the event, as there is still a lot of clamour for ageing superstar Federer, who will fancy his chances on Italian clay.

The Swiss player – who is widely regarded as one of the best to have ever picked up a racquet – has had a fairly good year all round, with wins at the Dubai Championships, the Brisbane International and the Istanbul Open, but the Australian Open saw Federer depart early in only the third round.

One criticism levelled at Federer is that due to his age – he is now 33 years old – he isn’t able to compete as well in the five-set format as he can in three, which may go some way to explaining why he’s struggled at the Open events. As the Rome Masters is a three-set tournament, however, it could play right into the 17-time Grand Slam winner’s hands, as Federer will not be required to dip into his increasingly depleting energy reserves as much as he would need to during a major tournament.

Incredibly, Federer has never won the Rome Masters tournament, losing in the final three times – to Nadal twice in 2006 and 2013 and to another Spaniard, Felix Mantilla, back in 2003.

It is maybe because of his disappointing record that Federer is seen as such an outside bet for the Rome Masters this year, to the point that he is probably considered more dark horse than frontrunner, despite being the world number two. Federer to win the Rome Masters is available at 14/1, which seems incredible given his vast array career achievements and current ranking position.

That said, with the event being played on clay, there can only be one man who warrants the media attention of an automatic favourite – even if he has been kept from the top spot on this occasion by Djokovic’s sensational form – and tha is, of course, Nadal himself.

In recent years, facing Nadal on clay has been comparable to fighting Mike Tyson blindfolded with one arm tied behind your back in the sense that the Spanish maestro seems completely unstoppable when he gets a chance to play on the orange surface.

His record in Rome is nothing short of superb either, given he has won the tournament seven times from a possible nine – the most in the history of the event. The caveat to that incredible stat, however, is that Djokovic is the man who beat him on both occasions that he finished runner-up.

While a strong performance is again expected here, 2015 certainly hasn’t been a brilliant year for Nadal and he has consequently dropped all the way to seventh place in the world rankings. The wrist injury that he picked up last year may well have played a significant role in his recent decline too, with the Spaniard since enduring shock defeats to Michael Berrer and Fernando Verdasco.

To top it all off, Nadal has won just one tournament this year – the Argentina Open, in which he faced substandard opposition at every stage en route winning the trophy in Buenos Aires – and for a player as undoubtedly talented as he is, this in itself is rather surprising.

Nadal’s performance at the Australian Open was nothing short of farcical, as the unseeded Berrer beat him 6-1, 3-6, 4-6 to put him out in the first round. However, with a player this good, form is only temporary – and it is simply a matter of time before we again see Nadal playing to his maximum. On clay, there is a very good chance the Rome Masters will prove to be the turning point and, as such, the bookies have Nadal down as second favourite to win the tournament at 7/2.

There is also a strong case for the recent Madrid Masters winner, Andy Murray, who will be keen to add to his trophy collection on clay following the 6-3, 6-2 straight sets victory over Nadal last weekend.

There were initially some doubts over whether Murray would participate – with the Briton openly debating whether or not to take a prolonged rest before the French Open – but at the last minute, he decided to compete. It’s been a mixed year for Murray, who lost in the final of the Australian Open and in the Miami Open finals to Djokovic, but the world number three did win the Madrid Masters and the German Championships – both of which are events that are played on clay.

Despite his recent success on the orange surface, Murray is tipped as an outsider in Rome, with the bookies giving him odds of 13/1 to claim what would be his third successive clay tournament victory ahead of the second Grand Slam of the year – this summer’s French Open.