We’ve made it to this year’s version of the clay swing stopping in Rome after a few weeks of hard court tournaments in the U.S. that saw some great tennis but was missing some of the big names like Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep. FanDuel had decided to pass on the first two day’s matches, but with Novak Djokovic and plenty of other big names on the schedule (see above), they’ve decided to offer up a smaller prize pool tournament and some cash games. Regardless, we get Tennis DFS, and that’s something to be happy about, so let’s get after it.
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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, consistenc, 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 a few of my “go-to’s.”
Tennis DFS Picks | FanDuel | 9/16/20
By the Numbers | Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov ($17) | Opponent: Anna Blinkova
With this being a slate with limited entries there will be a heavy concentration of ownership on certain players, and Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov should be one of those players. Coming in through qualifiers, she’s won three straight here and defeated Alison Riske yesterday in three sets. Along with being the cheapest favorite on the slate, Zadoinov also is facing an opponent who hasn’t fared well on clay. Anna Blinkova is only 35-24 in her career coming in, while Zadoinov is 124-53 and made a run into the round of 16 last year at the French Open.
Beyond all the familiarity and experience she has, there is also going to be the supplemented bonus of opportunities for her to break and control the game with Blinkova‘s 55% hold of serve and 8% double faults — both the worst on the slate. Blinkova makes for a good ownership play on small slates without a doubt, but it’s for a reason. I like Zadoinov a lot here.
Ownership Play | Borna Coric ($21) | Opponent: Stefano Travaglia
This play has the most going for it when we want to make a splash in smaller fields. That usually means it doesn’t look so great on paper, but in terms of theory it has everything you want with a loaded top tier, including huge names and an opponent who is playing well and in his home country. Like Stefano Travaglia, Borna Coric comes in playing arguably the best tennis of his life with a quarterfinals appearance in the U.S. Open last week and a business-like handling of clay court specialist Cristian Garin in the first round here 6-4, 6-4. I love the way he’s playing, and he has even said himself that clay is his strongest surface and matches his game almost perfectly.
Travaglia could be a tough out if he keeps his service game going with a 66% rate of success of winning points when the ball is in play (Coric 63%). But I don’t think the recency bias and his current form will be enough to overcome the Croatian’s superior overall game no matter on what surface or where they are playing.
Fade Pick | Rafael Nadal ($25) | Opponent: Pablo Carreno-Busta
I know this looks absolutely crazy, but I think there is plenty of merit to fading the greatest clay court player we’ll ever know, so just hear me out. First of all, clay is the ultimate equalizer in tennis and in tennis DFS. It balances out many aspects of the game and forces players to hit lots of good shots and win gritty points. We don’t get any bonuses for 30-shot rallies and extra tough wins, so that’s already a knock on the Spaniard, who isn’t cracking 20 aces per match (4.84 per match over the last year, if you’re curious). Yo go along with that, he is running into a player who made it to the semi-finals of the U.S. Open and looked great doing it while “beating” Novak Djokovic on his way there. I think Carreno-Busta will come out strong and take advantage of the rusty Nadal in the first set and force him to come back by whatever means he has to.
I’m not calling an upset, but at $25 with tons of options on the slate, you can’t afford a 140-burger from him. Drop down to Stefanos Tsitsipas ($23) or Karolina Pliskova ($22).
Upsets I like: Amanda Anisimova ($15), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova ($15), and Marie Bouzkova ($11)
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