Rome Masters Day Five Tips: Delbonis clay ability makes him a surprise underdog
There's third round action at ATP Rome today with eight matches on the schedule. After a day four winner, Dan Weston returns to discuss the day ahead...
Medvedev with yet another loss on clay
Lorenzo Sonego helped us to a straight-set winner yesterday in Rome, and the Italian joined the likes of Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Rafa Nadal in progressing to today's round three.
Failing to join that big-name trio with a win yesterday was Daniil Medvedev, whose poor run on clay continued with a 2-0 loss to countryman Aslan Karatsev in a defeat where the higher-ranked Russian only won 43% of points in the match. The world number two has now lost eight of his last nine on clay, in a run which includes being pre-match favourite (often a very strong pre-match favourite as well) in six of those eight defeats, and there is little current expectation that he will challenge for the French Open in a few weeks time.
Big names all heavy favourites on day five
Moving on to day five today, there are a number of strong favourites to make tomorrow's quarter-finals and these prices all look justified - these include the aforementioned trio of Thiem, Zverev and Nadal plus Novak Djokovic and Aslan Karatsev and if any of these get beaten, it would be a reasonable surprise (however, of course their accumulated odds suggest that at least one defeat is more likely than all five winning).
Several other matches feature favourites around the 1.65 mark, though, and these matches are a little more interesting to discuss.
Delbonis more proven on the surface
Felix Auger-Aliassime hasn't got a great record on clay, running at 5-6 since the tour resumed last summer, but he's had a couple of decent wins of late over Diego Schwartzman and Denis Shapovalov, among others.
Is that sign of upside on the surface? Possibly, but he is still rather difficult to be confident about currently.
Opponent Federico Delbonis is lower-ranked and has far less long-term career upside, but does possess clay ability and competence on the surface - his preferred surface - and has over 200 clay court matches experience on the main tour, plus marginally better clay data this year so far.
Having qualified to get to the main draw, he's had good wins over David Goffin and Karen Khachanov, both as underdog, and I think he's some cautious value at 2.46 to get another underdog victory today.
Rublev with slight edge over Bautista-Agut
The other match I want to mention is an interesting clash between Roberto Bautista-Agut and Andrey Rublev. It's Rublev, who is 10 years Bautista-Agut's junior, who is the 1.63 favourite, and this isn't miles out of line in my view although perhaps a little on the short side.
The Russian has won three of their last four meetings - he was shorter at around 1.50 just under a month ago in Monte Carlo in a close three-set victory - and has better service numbers than Bautista-Agut, although the Spaniard has an edge on return.
My expectations are that Rublev should be favourite here, but the match should be pretty competitive between two players who are both strong all-courters. Both players were defeated by John Isner in more serve-orientated conditions last week, and will be looking for a stronger showing in Rome in advance of the French Open - this could be their last competitive tournament before then.
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