With just a week to go till the French Open it’s interesting that Dominic Thiem has chosen to contest the low key ATP 250 event in Lyon this week.
Thiem is the man most pundits (and all bookmakers) see as the main threat to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, so it’s something of a surprise to see him in tournament action so close to the French.
On paper, in this field, Thiem would be a knocking bet this week. But you have to factor in how motivated he will be to go deep here with a gruelling fortnight on the unforgiving Parisian red dirt ahead of him.
The week before last Thiem was on a mission in Spain. Rolling world No 1 Nadal en route, the Austrian put on a real show once again inside the Caja Mágica before eventually finishing runner-up to Alexander Zverev. Things didn’t go his way in Rome (lost to Fabio Fognini) and at the prices I would rather be laying than backing him this week.
The man himself says it will not be an issue playing one week before the start of the French Open, and that he will spend the time making a few tweaks while trying to build some momentum. Hmmm.
If not him then who? John Isner is the second seed and might fancy the job. He’s reached No 9 in the world and won his first Masters 1000 event this year. However he’s also looked very laboured on clay this season and if his serve doesn’t click Big John backers (he’s 10/1 to win it) have got a problem.
Hyeon Chung is up to 20 in the world now and the young Korean, who took the Australian Open by storm in January, could be the play at 8/1. Chung looked terrible in Madrid last week but before that made a semi-final in Munich, only losing to eventual winner Zverev.
He looked sharp at both Indian Wells and in Miami this year too, and is no mug on clay. Speed? Check. Power? Check. Ability? Absolutely.
The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion is very comfortable defensively and has an engine that can go all day. He’s able to do more with his serve than he was last season and tactically looks more aware under coach Neville Godwin. Chung is in the same half of the draw as Isner and Big John aside, there’s not a lot of quality opposition lurking there so all things considered 8/1 looks tidy.
Over in Geneva and Fabio Fognini looks the logical shout to claim a first win on Swiss soil.
Home favourite Stan Wawrinka is a two-time defending champion here and is 9-1 at the venue lifetime. However, Geneva will also mark just his sixth event of the year.
The 33-year-old returned last week in Rome, making his first appearance on the tour since Marseille in February. But in truth he’s looked out of sorts all season and even at 9/1 can’t tempt us.
Not so Fognini, who like Wawrinka has accepted a wild card into the event. The Italian’s game is in great order, as demonstrated last week in Rome where as well as beating Thiem he also took a set off Nadal. If he brings that type of level, and crucially consistency, to Geneva there’s nobody in the draw who could hang with him.
When he’s ‘on’ he’s some player on clay. Chest out and swaggering like a young Liam Gallagher, let’s hope he ‘casts no shadow’ for punters jumping on at 7/2 this week.
Bilko’s Banker: Hyeon Chung to win the Lyon Open at 8/1 (Betfred/Coral)
Best of the Rest: Fabio Fognini to win Geneva Open at 7/2 (Bet Victor/Paddy Power)
Rafael Nadal set to play at Madrid Open.
Kevin Palmer on Andy Murray’s relationship with the Wimbledon crowd.
Alexander Zverev hands David Ferrer a trial period.
Retirement may have crossed his mind in…
Tweaks to ATP Rankings system.
Former British No 1 Annabel Croft on the US Open.
End finally in sight for Federer?
Verbals between Corentin Moutet and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Roland Garros vows not to make same mistakes.
Dominic Thiem is eager to play in the US Open.