After a couple of weeks of clay court tennis, it’s clear who the King of this surface is: his name is Rafael and his last name is Nadal! But, who is the Queen? And also, what about all the other players? I think that this clay court season, considering all the injuries, is set to provide us with some really unexpected winners and perhaps, this is already happening.
Steve Johnson won the tournament in Houston, Pablo Andujar in Morocco, Marco Cecchinato in Hungary, with Rafael Nadal cashing in the top prize in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona…
Let’s have a look at BetzCenter’s own power rankings for clay courts right now, starting with the ATP.
ATP Clay Courts Power Rankings 2018
- Rafael Nadal
- Rafael Nadal
- Rafael Nadal
- Kei Nishikori
- Dominik Thiem
- Marin Cilic
- David Goffin
- Alexander Zverev
- Juan Martin del Potro
- Roberto Bautista Agut
- Stefanos Tsitsipas
Yes, you read that right, no one is even close to Rafael Nadal at the moment! I personally believe that if Nadal decides to play a tournament on clay courts, he will it this season. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that anything can happen in sports, and this is something that I really like, but for this clay court season 2018 I don’t expect to see Nadal losing. For example, let’s have a look at the last 2 tournaments he played in the past weeks: Monte-Carlo and Barcelona: in his last 10 matches, where Nadal always won 2-0, the total games market line was around 18 most of the time and it was as low as 16.5 (when he played Roberto Carballes Baena). Well, Nadal scored 8 unders and 2 overs totally demolishing his opponents.
I’m not a big fan of the Japanese player, but I had to pick a number 2 and given the fact that Roger Federer will not play on clay courts and Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka are far from their top condition to say the least, I am ranking Nishikori very high. I wasn’t expecting the good run that he had in Monte-Carlo, where he defeated Berdych, Medvedev, Seppi, Cilic and Alexander Zverev before losing the final 6-3 6-2 to Nadal, but if he is fit, he is a contender!
The Austrian seemed ready to take over (especially on these slow courts) but has recently been struggling with confidence and a schedule that always seems too busy. Even even if is a little bit too defensive, his strokes are really powerful, he is a fighter and it is never easy to beat him on this surface.
Marin Cilic, David Goffin, Alexander Zverev
I’m putting these 3 together as I think their level is very similar right now and it is not easy to decide who is better than the other.
Cilic is a solid player, no matter the surface, he can rely on his big serve, his baseline strokes and his grinding mentality: it won’t be easy to play against the Croatian.
David Goffin has proven that he can be one of the best on this surface. He is coming back from a strange injury as he was hit by a ball in the eye, so we are not really sure about the speed of his recovery but he seemed ok last week in Barcelona, where he only surrendered to Rafael Nadal.
Alexander Zverev has not been impressive at all this season in general. As talented as he is, his confidence is not as high as it used to be, meaning that his skillful style of tennis is not as effective as it used to be last year. I think that form and confidence are big factors in this sport and I try to be as careful as possible when it comes to betting on the German.
Juan Martin del Potro, Roberto Bautista Agut, Stefanos Tsitsipas
I have assigned the last three spots to players that I believe have the potential to be competitive in a single week, and here is why.
Juan Martin del Potro: when he is fit he is a danger for everyone! The “only” problem is that it is pretty difficult to understand when he can be fit or not; after we see him play a couple of matches, then we can tell. But, because of his many injuries, it is not easy to speak about his conditions before the start of the tournament. Big enigma, but he surely has enough power to take everyone down.
Roberto Bautista Agut is more on the consistent side. He is one of those guys that are really tough and hard to beat. He might not be the best at anything, but he can keep up with the best!
Stefanos Tsitsipas, to me, was the surprise of the year so far. His game is brilliant, single handed backhand, strong forehand, good serve and a great fighting attitude. He made it to the final last week in Barcelona where Nadal easily defeated him, but he has proven that he can play, and beat the very best right now on clay courts. We placed a few bets on him this season already and I see no reason why we should stop.
It may look weird but some big names are not even mentioned in this ranking, here are some of them (in no particular order):
- Roger Federer: as last year he has decided that he will not play on clay.
- Novak Djokovic: he is struggling way more than expected recovering from his big injury. He seems to be getting better, but still far from his best.
- Stanislas Wawrinka: not even comparable to the player he was in the last 2 seasons. He is as well trying to recover from a big injury and it looks like he needs more time.
- Hyeon Chung: his start started to shine at this year’s Australian Open, but I don’t really think clay courts are his surface as for now. Will see if he proves me wrong or not.
Here is a screenshot of men’s outright winner odds for this year’s Roland Garros taken from Bet365, so that you can have the bookmaker’s overall point of view as well.
WTA Clay Courts Power Rankings 2018
As usual, the situation in the WTA is unclear! Right now, there is not a player that has a a margin on the rest of the field. It is a fact that we have great players, but ups and downs are always present and on a single day anything can happen. Clay courts require top form as games are long, tactical skills as stroke’s power is reduced and mental strength to fight for every single point.
Here’s my personal preference after a couple of weeks playing on this kind of surface:
- Simona Halep
- Caroline Wozniacki
- Jelena Ostapenko
- Karolina Pliskova
- Elina Svitolina
- Garbine Muguruza
- Angelique Kerber
- Caroline Garcia
- Petra Kvitova
- Daria Kasatkina
As difficult as it can be, you have to pick a number one and I decided to go with Simona Halep. The Romanian, current world number 1, is extremely solid on all surfaces and the red clay is no exception. She has powerful strokes from the baseline, her serve has improved and his physical skills are second to none. Plus, she is a fighter, which is a great quality to have on this surface. She was finalist at Roland Garros 2017 and I think that, even if she recently lost to Coco Vandeweghe in Stuttgart (but that’s a pretty fast clay court), she is the Queen of clay right now.
Caroline Wozniacki was impressive at the start of the season, winning the Australian Open, but has slowed down since then. I don’t really know what happens to wta players when they win a Grand Slam tournament: you often see that player struggling for weeks after that! Wozniacki, if fit, has to be ranked among the very best as she is consistent with both fundamentals and her serve has improved also. Always tough to beat.
I always struggle to bet on Ostapenko’s matches. She can be extremely good, like during last year’s Roland Garros, but she can also play very poorly and lose unexpectedly. She is still incredibly young (20) and especially considering that she already won a grand slam title. She deserves to be considered as one of the best, but be careful when betting on her.
Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber
The order here is just a matter of preference: these four players are very different when it comes to their style of play. Pliskova has the most powerful strokes and on a good day, she is probably favorite with most of the players, but she lacks consistency, which leads to unexpected losses. Svitolina, Muguruza and Kerber are more on the consistent side, they are fighters with solid strokes. Currently ranked 4th, 3rd and 11th in the world respectively, their physical form is often a key aspect in their game. Muguruza is probably my favorite among these 3, but her form this year hasn’t been the best so far.
Caroline Garcia, Petra Kvitova, Daria Kasatkina
These last three players are ranked a little lower than the previous ones, both in these rankings as well as in WTA rankings. I personally like Caroline Garcia a lot! Her strokes are incredibly powerful and her foot work has improved. She is often underestimated by the bookmakers, so you can find juicy odds for her. Same tennis idea behind Kvitova’s game: very powerful strokes (and left-handed). The Czech has also lost some weight and has never looked in such a good shape before. Her problem? Many ups and downs, including in the same match. Daria Kasatkina is a difficult player to decrypt: she can be very solid or a total disaster. Mental strength is not really her number one weapon but I wanted to include her: currently world’s number 15, as she has shown good improvements this season.
Excluded and worth to mention
As I said it is not easy to include all the players when it comes to WTA tennis, some were not mentioned and this is why:
- Serena Williams: back from “maternity leave”, she did not look brilliant yet and clay has never been her favorite surface.
- Victoria Azarenka: back from maternity leave as well, plus complications with her kid’s father regarding the child custody. When she is fit, she is a big danger for everyone.
- Venus Williams: she is still playing at a high level despite her age (37), but I don’t see her as a competitor on red clay.
- Maria Sharapova: very poor form, I really don’t see her as a real contender on red clay.
- Sloane Stephens: she looks out of shape and red clay is not really her element as well.
- Julia Goerges: she probably deserves to be in top 10 or close, but she has too many ups and downs
- Many other players are good but not that good. They can score the big upset in a single game but I don’t see them making it to the top 10, and I’m thinking of Mertens, Pavlyuchenkova, A. Radwanska and, maybe Bacsinszky (world number 46).
Here is a screenshot of women’s outright winner odds for this year’s Roland Garros taken from Bet365, so that you can have the bookmaker’s overall point of view as well.
That’s a wrap, looking forward for a long and hopefully rich clay court betting season, head on to BetzCenter.com for Stats and Experts’ Daily picks! ?