The clay series is up and running but it did not go the traditional way in Monte-Carlo last time out, as Rafael Nadal was stunned 6-4 6-2 by Fabio Fognini and the Italian won his first Masters title, beating Dusan Lajovic in the final. He has the chance to bounce back this week in Barcelona, a tournament he has perennially dominated in recent years and remains the overwhelming favourite to win once again.
However, he does have some stiff competition here in the form of Dominic Thiem, Karen Khachanov, veteran David Ferrer, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jan-Lennard Struff, all of whom are still in the competition. Below, we preview the contenders that remain heading into the third round and their chances of success over the rest of the week in the three-set games.
Rafael Nadal is once again a huge favourite to win this event for the 12th time. He said his loss to Fognini was his ‘’worst ever performance on clay.’’ It was his first match since he had to pull out of Indian Wells and the 32 year-old is possibly still not 100% fit. Nadal is in a tough side of the draw with Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov.
Dominic Thiem remains in the tournament and is second favourite behind Rafael Nadal to win it. The Austrian defeated Diego Schwartzman in straight sets to reach the last-16 and he’ll be hoping to better last week’s efforts in Monte Carlo when he was knocked out by eventual finalist Dusan Lajovic.
Daniil Medvedev had his best clay week of his career last week and it will be interesting to see whether it was just an anomaly. The Russian reached the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters after a shock win over Novak Djokovic. His tournament ended in disappointing circumstances – losing meekly to Dusan Lajovic.
Fourth seed Kei Nishikori was surprisingly beaten in the first round last week by Pierre Hugues Herbert and the Japanese will be desperate to perform better in Barcelona. He saw off Taylor Fritz in the round of 32 and faces Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Third Round Draw:
Daniil Medvedev vs Mackenzie McDonald
Felix Auger Aliassime vs Kei Nishikori
Dominic Thiem vs Jaume Munar
Grigor Dimitrov vs Nicolas Jarry
Rafael Nadal vs David Ferrer
Roberto Carballes Baena vs Cristian Garin
Jan-Lennard Struff vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
Benoit Paire vs Guido Pella
Rafael Nadal is hot favourite once again but there are some doubts over him after his display against Fognini. He is in a tough section and it’d be better to look elsewhere, especially when it comes to value. Dominic Thiem can flatter to deceive but he has the tools on clay and we like him to go all the way.
Recommended Bet: Dominic Thiem EW at 5/1 with Bet365