Rafael Nadal is a nine-time winner and the defending Monte Carlo champion … but he’s not the only man who could provide big Fantasy Tennis rewards next week.
As an in-form Rafael Nadal prepares to lay claim on a 10th title at Monte Carlo, there’s a sense that the glitzy opener to the European clay court season is about one man and the rest.
Among many delighted Nadal fans, none are happier than those who featured him in their FantasyTennisLeague team. Following three finals runs in 2017, the value of the superstar Spaniard has soared by almost six million dollars to his current worth of $16.83m.
But Nadal is not the only man who could provide big points in one of the biggest weeks in the 2017 tournament calendar. Here are some other names you might be considering as you decide whether to trade or hold in Fantasy Tennis …
Andy Murray ($20.09m)
Even as a three-time Roland Garros semifinalist and the runner-up in 2016, Andy Murray’s clay court credentials could well be one of the most underrated commodities in tennis. But in the lead-up to Monte Carlo, the question is not if the world No.1 can play on clay, but will he? Forced out of Miami and the Davis Cup quarterfinals with an elbow injury, Murray is still not certain he’ll begin his 2017 clay season in the Monaco capital. While he’s typically a reliable Monte Carlo performer, the injury cloud makes Murray a risky Fantasy Tennis prospect this time around.
Novak Djokovic ($16.28m)
On the one hand, Novak Djokovic enters the European clay swing under huge pressure, with an underwhelming first quarter of 2017 compounded by the elbow injury that forced him out of Miami. And on the other hand, it’s a fresh start for the world No.2, who was the Monte Carlo champion in 2013 and 2015. Yes, there are big rankings points for Djokovic to defend on clay – but at the same time, there’s also an opportunity to rediscover the form that delivered a first French Open title in 2016. Monte Carlo is home for the Serb; what better place to begin a turnaround?
Stan Wawrinka ($13.57m)
In the past dozen years, only three men have earned entry onto the Monte Carlo Honour Roll. One of them is Stan Wawrinka, the winner of an all-Swiss final against Roger Federer in 2014. It can be hard to gauge form of the unpredictable world No.3, who has played just five events in 2017. That said, Stan has a tendency to stand up for the big events – as evidenced by a finals run at Indian Wells and his semifinal appearance in Dubai. If you’ve been thinking about it, now could be the time to add the reigning US Open champ to your Fantasy Tennis team.
Grigor Dimitrov ($10.93m)
It was always going to be tough for Grigor Dimitrov to maintain the form that saw him amass a 16-1 record at the start of the season, boosted by title runs at Brisbane and Sofia, along with a stunning surge to the Australian Open semifinals. Early losses (to Jack Sock and Guido Pella respectively) followed at Indian Wells and Miami but neither Dimitrov nor his many fans need to panic. Despite the sense that clay is not the Bulgarian’s natural environment, you also can’t discount that he’s claimed titles on every surface.
Nick Kyrgios ($10.86m)
The only thing that’s adding up more quickly than Nick Kyrgios’ serve stats this season (228 aces and 80% of first serves won as we write) are his air miles. The fast-rising Aussie has not only travelled from Mexico to Miami and Brisbane within a matter of weeks but achieved career-defining performances at every stop – including multiple upsets of Novak Djokovic and straightforward wins over Alexander Zverev to underline his #NextGen credentials. That’s a lot of physical and mental pressure to absorb. Would anybody be surprised – or overly harsh – if whispers that Kyrgios will sit out Monte Carlo eventuate?
Saving their best form for clay is natural for players who developed their game on the red dirt, so you might want to keep an eye on the specialists. Pablo Carreno Busta ($9.2m) peaked inside the top 20 as an Indian Wells semifinalist and despite winning both career titles on hard court, lists clay as his preferred surface. Roberto Bautista Agut ($8.55m) and Albert Ramos-Vinolas ($8.3m) are other Spaniards who could step up. Also watch for Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas ($7.35m) who has won each of his six career titles – including Sao Paulo in February – on the surface.
We’ve already warned you about Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios – now let’s talk about Milos Raonic ($14.36). While the Canadian is a worthy No.6, recent events have been compromised by a hamstring injury that’s proving tough to shake. You suspect that the 2016 Wimbledon finalist will be preparing to peak on grass, not clay. There are also some French players you might think twice about: Gael Monfils ($10.14m) was the Monte Carlo runner-up in 2016 but is wildly unpredictable, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ($13.27m) is returning from a break after the birth of his son and Richard Gasquet ($8.6m) skipped Indian Wells and Miami due to an appendectomy. Similarly, Marin Cilic ($6.63m) is still in the top 10 but with just five match wins this season – and none since February – he’s hardly your best Fantasy Tennis Value.
Ready to strike
Of course, there’s always at least one player who’ll shake up the expected order, just as Tomas Berdych ($8 m) did as a runner-up in 2015. Among those who could provide Fantasy Tennis boosts next week are Dominic Thiem ($10.21m), who has steadfastly maintained his top-10 ranking and the always-dangerous David Goffin ($10.51m). Others that might feature in the final rounds are the improving Lucas Pouille ($7.07m), who loves competing on clay and Alexander Zverev ($6.79m). None are yet to thrive in Monte Carlo – but be bold and you might well be rewarded.
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