Paris Masters Outright Tips: Rublev the form player in the field

Rafa Nadal is strong favourite for this week's Paris Masters after the withdrawal of Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem but Dan Weston has his eye on a bigger priced player for his outright selection...

No Djokovic or Thiem this week in Paris

Following quarter-final defeats in Vienna last week, both Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem have pulled out of this week's Paris Masters 1000 tournament, and this has had a major impact on the outright market. Rafa Nadal, who hasn't played since the French Open on his preferred slow clay, is now the 3.05 tournament favourite, with the likes of Daniil Medvedev 8.6, Andrey Rublev 10.0, Alexander Zverev 11.0 and Stefanos Tsitsipas 12.0 being a coterie of contenders at the next tier of pricing down from Nadal.

Conditions likely to be medium-fast in the coming week

Before we examine the contenders, it's important to look at the anticipated conditions in Paris. Service points won percentages in the French capital are around 1% higher than the ATP Tour indoor mean over the last three years, while aces per game are also higher than the surface average, running at a shade over 0.6 aces per game. This should indicate that the conditions are expected to be on the quicker side of medium, and should yield a slight benefit for the more serve-orientated players in the field.

A few players fitting this serve-orientated dynamic have done well in the tournament in recent years often at pretty big prices, with Karen Khachanov winning in 2018 and Jack Sock in 2017, while the likes of John Isner, Milos Raonic, Jerzy Janowicz (as a qualifier) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have been runners up in the previous decade as well.

Nadal unlikely to find conditions to his liking

This brings me back to Nadal, who certainly doesn't come under that big-server description. He has a much better record in slower conditions and has never made the final here in his career. His record indoors in his career is strong (around 67% win percentage) but far from as spectacular as it is even on outdoor hard, and of course, on clay, and I'm struggling to see the logic behind him being chalked up as market favourite here.

Such pricing is even more curious given that there is one player in the field - in Nadal's half of the draw - who could give the King of Clay a real headache...

Rublev playing at an extremely high level

That man is Andrey Rublev, who won in Vienna and has now won two indoor hard tournaments in a row (with a week's rest between them). In these, he's dropped just two sets in 10 matches and is without doubt the form player on the surface coming into the tournament.

There's an old mantra which suggests 'form is temporary, class is permanent' but I think Rublev has the potential to fall in both the 'form' and 'class' brackets. This has been a real breakthrough year for the Russian, who turned 23 several weeks ago, and his numbers suggest that this is no fluke whatsoever - he has demonstrated huge ability levels this year with a combined service/return points won percentage of almost 110% across hard/indoor hard combined. This 110% benchmark is the statistical requirement to be considered elite level on a surface and Rublev looks to have the potential to be real force on tour in the coming years.

At 10.0, Rublev looks a better proposition than any of Medvedev (recent relative inconsistency on the surface), Zverev (struggled to kick on in the last 12-18 months) and Tsitsipas (return limitations) at a similar price, and he's my pick for the coming week. There's probably a slight concern about fatigue after winning Vienna, but with a first round bye, he's unlikely to be on court until Wednesday, so he'll have a few rest days first which will be of benefit.

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