Madrid Masters Day Three Tips: Fitness concerns surround first-round value picks

The Madrid Masters continues on Tuesday with a mix of first and second round matches on the schedule. Dan Weston previews as some big names start their tournaments...

Berrettini favourite over Fognini for all-Italian clash

There are 15 matches on today's card in Madrid, with the first round concluding and, a little later in the schedule, round two matches taking place as well. Among the round two clashes there are several intriguing clashes.

Firstly, the all-Italian meeting between Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini, where Berrettini is the 1.41 favourite to progress.

I make this about right, with Berrettini coming off the back of a title in Belgrade several weeks ago, while Fognini has been as inconsistent as ever. We know all about Fognini, who has done that for most of his career, and he has a high upside but struggles to produce on a regular basis. The quicker conditions in Madrid are unlikely to suit the more traditional clay-courter Fognini as well.

Harris could test De Minaur

Lloyd Harris picked up a good win yesterday over Grigor Dimitrov in a tight three-setter, and today faces Alex Di Minaur in round two. Neither player has the greatest clay pedigree, and there's little evidence of them being anything more than an average clay-courter at ATP level. De Minaur is 1.48 to win, which looks short to me based on his clay record in recent years.

Thiem fitness levels worth monitoring

The other round two clash which looks interesting is Dominic Thiem versus Marcos Giron. Thiem, beaten finalist here in 2017 and 2018, has had a tricky 2021 so far with a fourth round defeat at the Australian Open before losing back-to-back matches in Doha and Dubai in March and not being seen since, due to a knee injury.

In theory, Thiem would be expected to progress and there's a huge clay ability differential between the duo, but with that injury doubt, it would take a brave person to lump on the Austrian at 1.18 this afternoon.

Fitness doubts over a number of potential first round value spots

Several of the first round matches to be played today also look worth discussing, with Jan-Lennard Struff looking slightly generously priced at 1.82 against qualifier Alexei Popyrin. Struff reached the final in Munich last week, losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final, and assuming no after-effects from his exploits in his home country, should get past a player who hasn't shown an abundance of evidence that he could become a high level clay-courter at this level.

Conditions might favour Taylor Fritz more than Albert Ramos, but they are going to have to, with the better clay-courter, Ramos, available at a current 2.22 to get the victory today. The Spaniard won in Estoril last week, beating Cameron Norrie in the final in a third-set tiebreak, and again, assuming he's not fatigued, looks reasonable value to win today.

The final spot which looks big is Casper Ruud against Felix Auger-Aliassime, with Ruud the much more competent clay-courter at this stage of their careers. However, he was thrashed by Basilashvili in the semi-final in Munich last week, and pulled out Barcelona the week before with an arm injury, so may not be fully fit.

The three first round matches discussed accurately illustrate the difficulties with picking out value in round one matches - a lot of the time, the prices highlighted as value by models will have those fitness concerns. However, they look the better spots according to my model although I would advise proceeding with caution.

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