Rafael Nadal will seek to bounce back from one of the biggest shock losses of his career when he returns to action at the 2019 Barcelona Open this week.
Nadal was widely expected to win the Monte Carlo Masters last week but instead fell to a shock defeat in the semi-finals at the hands of Fabio Fognini, who went on to lift the trophy.
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“It was this kind of day that everything went wrong. I probably played one of the worst matches on clay in 14 years,” Nadal said after losing to Fognini. “And today I deserved to lose because I played against a player that was better than me.”
International bookmakers still have Nadal as an overwhelming favourite to triumph at the Barcelona Open, where he has been the champion an incredible 11 times in his career.
But losing to Fognini indicates Nadal could be more vulnerable on clay this year than perhaps ever before, while the draw for the tournament has put him in the same half as both Dominic Thiem and the rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev are the other players backed to go a long way at the Barcelona Open, but where can the best value be found in the betting odds this week?
All Eyes on Nadal
In Monte Carlo last week, Rafael Nadal was a short-priced favourite but anyone backing the Spaniard was left disappointed after he found himself completely outplayed by Fognini.
He is a runaway favourite again for one of his home tournaments, with the bookmakers offering a best price of 8/11 for Nadal to collect what would be his 12th Barcelona Open title.
Either Marius Copil or Leonardo Mayer will be up first for Nadal, who also has 15th seed Lucas Pouille among the players in his path if he is to get through to the latter stages of the event.
The draw suggests it could be Tsitsipas who Nadal comes up against in the quarter-finals before meeting Thiem in the semis, with both players having lost to him at this tournament before.
Last year it was Tsitsipas who was crushed by Nadal in straight sets and Thiem was the man who lost to the Spaniard in the 2017 final. Both men will be looking for the chance to get revenge this week, with Tsitsipas offered at a best price of 25/1 while Thiem is much shorter at 8/1.
Tsitsipas also lost to Nadal at the semi-final stage at the Australian Open earlier in the year, while in 2018 Thiem found King of Clay Nadal to be too good in the French Open final.
Nishikori Out to Win Third Barcelona Open Title
Nadal’s dominance of this event in recent years means there is only really one other former champion to be aware of this week, with Kei Nishikori having triumphed in 2014 and 2015.
The Japanese player even went close to making it three titles in a row, reaching the final once more in 2016, only to lose to that man Nadal. Nishikori’s price of 22/1 is definitely interesting.
Made the fourth seed for this year’s Barcelona Open, Nishikori will get his campaign under way in the second round against either Taylor Fritz or Reilly Opelka.
There are a lot of excellent young players in his section of the draw, including teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime who has earned the right to be seeded for the first time in an ATP tour event.
Fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov is another name to look out for in this quarter and he is offered at 66/1, the same price in the Barcelona Open betting odds as Auger-Aliassime.
Tough Tests Ahead for Thiem
Even though the Austrian is the third seed this year, Dominic Thiem can certainly not afford to take a place in the latter stages of the Barcelona Open for granted.
He has been given a very tough draw with home hope Pablo Carreno Busta among the players placed in his quarter, along with sixth seed Karen Khachanov. Another man Thiem might have to beat if he is to compete in the semi-finals is Frances Tiafoe, a star of the Next Gen tour.
Still, Thiem’s talent on clay courts is not in doubt and at 8/1 to win the Barcelona Open he is certainly a name worth considering for tennis fans this week, having shown what he can do on this surface in his run to the final at Roland Garros a year ago.
Thiem’s experience of getting to the final of the Barcelona Open a year ago gives him an advantage over some of the other players in the draw for the event this year as well.
Medvedev Among Men in Form
Fognini’s triumph at the Monte Carlo Masters proves it is far from impossible for there to be a surprise winner at the Barcelona Open despite Nadal’s place at the top of the betting odds.
One player who could therefore be of interest is Daniil Medvedev, who beat Novak Djokovic – the world number one in the rankings – on his way to the semi-finals in Monte Carlo.
At a best price of around the 20/1 mark, Medvedev has every chance of giving backers a good run for their money over the course of the week’s action at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona.
Barcelona Open Best Bets
Betting against Rafael Nadal is often not the wisest of decisions for clay court tournaments but last week at the Monte Carlo Masters showed he is perhaps not as frightening as previously.
Fognini’s success at that tournament last week should also inspire some players who are yet to triumph at Masters 1000 level – it is never too late to record the biggest wins of your career.
Dominic Thiem’s 8/1 makes him a very intriguing proposition while the mixed form of second seed Alexander Zverev means he can probably be discounted, with the German offered at about 9/1.
Daniil Medvedev looks an interesting option here, with the Russian available to back at 20/1. He showed good form at the Monte Carlo Masters and can go deep into this event as well.
Going back-to-back is likely to be a challenge too big for Fabio Fognini (25/1) but the 50/1 on offer for sixth seed Karen Khachanov could prove to be outstanding value. He is a player with more than enough talent to win a tournament such as the Barcelona Open.
Thiem is the main recommendation this week, but Medvedev, Nishikori and Khachanov are all certainly worthy of consideration on an each way basis at small stakes only.