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We're winding down the joint event in Rome, where the winner of each draw will get 1000 coveted ranking points. Saturday will see the semifinals go off, and with so much excitement I'm delighted to share my plays.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (-164) vs. Alexander Zverev (+135)
One of the great budding rivalries we have in the game today is between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. While the two have played some epics, though, Tsitsipas has owned Zverev over the course of their careers. The Greek is 7-3 all-time over Zverev with just one loss coming on clay.
Zverev did beat Tsitsipas last week in Madrid, but those were picture-perfect conditions for the big-serving Zverev. If he were to choose one court to play on for the rest of his life, it may be Madrid. Anyway, I'm looking past that match and getting excited to take advantage of the discount on Tsitsipas.
After a win in Monte Carlo, Tsitsipas didn't quite look as sharp as we are used to seeing him in Madrid. He's been far more focused and on his game this week and looked phenomenal against Jannik Sinner. I love buying low here, particularly with Zverev looking towards Roland Garros.
Edge: Tsitsipas -164
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Novak Djokovic (-500) vs. Casper Ruud (+350)
If this were 2021, I'd be hammering the game spread on Casper Ruud. The fact of the matter is, he hasn't been too good this season.
Sure, Ruud has still been playing at a top-30 level, but it's hard to say he is playing the top-10 tennis we saw a year ago. That's particularly true on the clay, where he used to pick up almost all of his ranking points. In an effort to improve on hardcourts, it seems Ruud and his team have sacrificed a but on the dirt.
Ruud's forehands haven't been as accurate as they were a year ago, and his backhand is still a massive liability. We saw Denis Shapovalov trade forehands for Ruud backhands to great success on Friday and could have won the match if not for an unfortunate net cord in the first-set tiebreak and a poor service game in the second. There was little Ruud did to win that one, and he had a somewhat puzzling moment at 5-5 in the second where he refused to change up his returning tactics despite five straight serve and volleys from Shapovalov on the ad side.
Djokovic has a world-class backhand and should look to trade with Ruud's weak backhand all match long. He also will do a much better job of returning the Ruud serve than Shapovalov, who is a crummy returner of serve. This is going to be a real struggle, and I see Ruud losing by more than two breaks.
Edge: Djokovic -4.5
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