Day 3 in Rome was nice to the article as we went 4-1, so let’s hope that Day 4 has some spillover and we nail it again. Just like yesterday we get another 12-match slate from DraftKings with six matches from each side of the tour. They’ve downsized to $5,000 up top, but the structure is much more friendly and pretty standard for tennis DFS when it’s not a major or we have other sports going. Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep and Novak Djokovic were all on the slate yesterday, but this slate is quite a bit different with only one player above $10,000. Slates like these can make for a lot of tough decisions, so good luck to you single-line guys — let’s dig in to the red dirt.
Before I get into it, we should probably address the massive difference in clay court tennis versus hard court. With hard court tennis being fast, you can look at aces and service game metrics to get a good gauge if a player can control a match or make them worth the risk of rostering for Tennis DFS. The game on clay isn’t so clear to make simple upside picks because points are usually won with long rallies, consistent shots and stamina. I usually start by looking at the success the player has had on clay and their playing style then go with a few relative metrics — service points won/in play and return points won are just a few of my “go-to’s.”
Tennis DFS Picks | DraftKings | Sept. 17
By the Numbers | Casper Ruud ($9200) | Opponent: Lorenzo Sonego
This is not an easy draw by any means for Casper Ruud but one I’m pretty confident he can handle with success on clay since 2019. Over that span Ruud has reached three finals (1-2) and six quarterfinals or better, amassing a 37-18 record (132-77 career). Ruud also has a lot more quality wins on clay compared to Lorenzo Sonego, even as recent as this tournament with his takedown of Karen Khachanov, where he put up 70.4 DraftKings points.
Beyond what I think is a superior game on this surface, Ruud also has a better game overall with the advantage in many major stats, including: set points won/in play, break points converted, return points won and double fault percentage. I think it’s the most lopsided match up top, and he should make quick work of Sonego.
By the Numbers | Garbine Muguruza ($9300) | Opponent: Coco Gauff
I like this pick for a lot of reasons, but I think experience will be the biggest advantage Garbine Muguruza has to defeat the young American, Coco Gauff. Muguruza was at one point in her career the world’s No. 1 WTA player for a reason — her success on clay. Since becoming a full-time pro, she has not failed once to reach the third round at Roland Garros and highlighted one of those runs with a French Open title, defeating Serena Williams in 2016. She has had to face some injuries since then, which have hindered her game some, but Gauff has played fewer games in total on clay for her career than Muguruza has played in Rome alone, so the difference is glaring.
To throw more dirt on the pile, Muguruza also has a statistical advantage over Gauff in about every category possible over the last year. That includes ace percentage, hold percentage, return points won percentage and double fault percentage. There honestly isn’t much to dislike here, and for that reason I wouldn’t blame anyone for running tons of the Spaniard.
Odds vs. Pricing | Kei Nishikori ($7600) | Opponent: Lorenzo Musetti
It’s not often you get the 35th-ranked player in the world versus the 249th at near even odds, with leverage, for $600 less than his opponent in tennis DFS, but that is exactly what we get here in Kei Nishikori. Now in his third match back from a year off from elbow surgery, Nishikori is looking to regain his clay form for the French Open in two weeks’ time. A staple in the quarterfinals or better since 2015 at Roland Garros, Nishikori has a big edge in playing meaningful matches on clay compared to the up-and-coming Italian. Not having a crowd could help Musetti out, but Nishikori has shown he can hang tough since coming back, so the motivation to get healthy for the big one seems to be driving him.
With Nishikori taking much of the last year off, and Lorenzo Musetti having just six ATP matches under his belt, it’s tough to compare stats for these two, but Nishikori still carries the advantage in set points won/in play and return points won percentage. Musetti was able to surprise Stan Wawrinka, but now that people are aware, I don’t see a repeat performance happening.
Fade Pick | Gael Monfils ($9500) | Opponent: Dominik Koepfer
Gael Monfils has not played a meaningful match since February in Dubai and gets a tough draw in Germany’s Dominik Koepfer. Never having great success on clay, just 19-18 over the last three years, I wouldn’t be surprised if Monfils fails to make it to the second round in Rome. And even if he does survive against Koepfer, I don’t suspect he’ll pay off his inflated tag.
Upset Picks: Johanna Konta ($7200), Sofia Kenin ($7100), Dusan Lajovic ($6300)
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