2013 French Open men's tournament: Advanced Baseline forecast

Mike Hewitt

The king is back, and somehow even a bigger favorite than you'd think. Tournament forecasts, draw analysis and unsolicited gambling advice below.

If you're wondering whether Advanced Baseline has some super-secret insight that flies in the face of conventional wisdom and will make a French Open pick no one sees coming, I'll save you the trouble: Rafael Nadal is the overwhelming favorite, just like he has been for the last decade or so. It's tournaments like these that make it a little disheartening to put any effort into producing quality forecasts. Why bother with advanced analytics when conventional wisdom does just fine, and the outcome seems like a foregone conclusion?

I guess that holds true to some degree for every Grand Slam in the Big Four era, but none more so than the French Open. Advanced Baseline happened to be developed in the time of the greatest men's clay court player ever, which makes its big-picture predictions a little less useful at Roland Garros. But the ATP still gives out lots of points (and prize money) for fourth-rounders and semi-finalists, which will have implications for Wimbledon in a month. And there are still plenty of great storylines in each mini-section of the draw, which Bill's got covered in the regional previews. So let's acknowledge upfront that the French Open belongs to Nadal in a way no other Slam belongs to any other player, and see what else the draw has in store.

Year in Review: Tracking the Top Four

Below is a 52-week tracking graph of the clay-adjusted AB ranks of the top four seeds from last year's French Open until now. It's a quick way to see what's changed at the top of the ladder, and how it might cause things to be different this year. And in light of Murray's withdrawal, we'll let David Ferrer sit at the big kids' table just this once with his No. 4 seed. (click to enlarge)

Menstrack_medium

Nadal's "decline" in this graph after Wimbledon isn't all that real, it's just his older results getting weighted less with no new ones to replace them as a result of his absence. That said, there were two conceivable moments this year where you could briefly put Djokovic in contention to beat Nadal at the French Open, where their lines are closest: when Nadal lost to Horacio Zeballos in February (and we weren't sure if he was fully healthy), and when Djokovic beat Nadal in Monte Carlo. However, Nadal's ranking has broken solidly upward in the last four weeks, and it's safe to say he's right back where he was a year ago. Meanwhile, Federer shows a slight but steady decline -- not enough of a fall to put him out of contention, but a decline nonetheless.

The Forecast

Generated from simulating the tournament 100,000 times, before the tournament began, using win probabilities from AB ratings.

I didn't want it to be this high for Nadal, not just for the sake of rooting interests, but also because forecasts are most often wrong when they put too much stock in the most likely outcomes. I could be missing something, like injury or cold weather, but I can't imagine it would make more than a five- to seven-percent difference at most. And I don't know any other way to interpret that graph above; there's been a sharp, late-breaking movement in Nadal's favor from his last two tournaments, and it makes him even more of a favorite than he was just a month ago. As for the rest of the field? I'm a little worried I'm overestimating Ferrer's chances in a potential matchup with Federer given their prior history (I have it at 55/45), but Federer's slight decline this past year makes me think there's reason to believe this time could be different.

Player 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Winner Expected Points
Rafael Nadal 99.5% 99.0% 97.8% 96.4% 92.4% 78.6% 69.5% 1616.6
David Ferrer 99.3% 94.1% 90.1% 85.9% 67.6% 46.3% 10.8% 874.9
Novak Djokovic 98.8% 97.0% 93.6% 88.4% 83.9% 18.8% 12.1% 820.4
Roger Federer 95.1% 93.5% 90.3% 84.7% 73.3% 36.8% 5.7% 804.9
Nicolas Almagro 95.4% 89.4% 78.0% 45.7% 14.5% 6.1% 0.6% 321.8
Stanislas Wawrinka 94.7% 87.5% 74.5% 54.0% 4.8% 1.6% 0.5% 275.6
Juan Monaco 79.9% 70.9% 52.0% 37.7% 11.0% 2.5% 0.1% 237.1
Tomas Berdych 70.8% 59.6% 47.9% 30.5% 10.9% 5.2% 0.5% 227.7
Richard Gasquet 93.5% 90.2% 74.7% 33.0% 1.5% 0.3% 0.1% 217.4
Tommy Haas 83.3% 64.7% 47.2% 29.7% 3.9% 0.1% 0.0% 179.2
Marin Cilic 91.8% 66.6% 29.3% 16.5% 3.3% 0.4% 0.0% 142.2
Jeremy Chardy 93.7% 73.0% 34.3% 13.1% 2.0% 0.2% 0.0% 138.3
Kevin Anderson 92.5% 80.4% 49.4% 5.3% 1.2% 0.2% 0.0% 138.1
Alexandr Dolgopolov 90.6% 68.0% 47.2% 5.5% 3.4% 0.1% 0.0% 137.8
Tommy Robredo 92.5% 78.4% 27.2% 10.4% 1.9% 0.5% 0.0% 130.2
Benoit Paire 91.4% 81.3% 50.9% 1.7% 0.5% 0.1% 0.0% 129.9
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 76.0% 49.3% 32.8% 15.4% 3.2% 0.4% 0.0% 129.8
Janko Tipsarevic 93.5% 52.3% 28.5% 14.7% 1.5% 0.0% 0.0% 123.8
Gilles Simon 76.6% 58.4% 37.6% 5.6% 2.2% 0.3% 0.0% 116.4
Fernando Verdasco 86.4% 44.7% 25.1% 12.8% 1.3% 0.0% 0.0% 110.8
Kei Nishikori 90.3% 65.8% 34.0% 0.8% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 104.3
Jan Hajek 83.9% 56.0% 28.8% 3.2% 1.0% 0.1% 0.0% 100.2
Milos Raonic 82.9% 54.2% 29.4% 2.6% 0.5% 0.1% 0.0% 96.5
Pablo Andujar 62.3% 40.1% 21.6% 11.8% 1.2% 0.0% 0.0% 94.9
Philipp Kohlschreiber 78.7% 56.0% 26.5% 2.2% 1.1% 0.0% 0.0% 94.6
Carlos Berlocq 65.4% 46.3% 20.8% 9.9% 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 93.5
Jarkko Nieminen 71.5% 33.9% 20.4% 8.2% 1.4% 0.2% 0.0% 89.1
Grigor Dimitrov 82.5% 74.9% 4.8% 2.2% 1.0% 0.0% 0.0% 84.6
Andreas Seppi 69.8% 59.4% 13.9% 3.5% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 81.8
Fabio Fognini 89.1% 68.2% 1.6% 0.8% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 75.7
Marcel Granollers 72.1% 62.1% 5.3% 2.8% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 75.5
Sam Querrey 83.1% 37.2% 16.0% 1.4% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 74.2
Nikolay Davydenko 84.4% 45.4% 11.0% 1.8% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 73.2
Radek Stepanek 93.5% 31.3% 8.1% 2.9% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 70.6
Julian Reister 67.9% 30.2% 12.9% 5.5% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 70.3
G. Garcia-Lopez 77.1% 24.8% 12.5% 4.8% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 69.1
Florian Mayer 74.4% 42.8% 10.8% 2.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 69.1
Pablo Cuevas 87.0% 29.5% 12.4% 1.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 67.4
A. Ramos-Vinolas 54.9% 41.2% 10.4% 4.4% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 65.6
Ernests Gulbis 88.2% 19.5% 9.6% 3.0% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 65.6
Andrey Kuznetsov 72.6% 28.8% 8.8% 2.9% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 62.1
Victor Hanescu 72.3% 24.6% 12.1% 0.7% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 59.7
Santiago Giraldo 76.5% 27.8% 10.4% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 59.0
Gael Monfils 29.2% 20.4% 13.1% 5.9% 1.3% 0.4% 0.0% 58.7
Simone Bolelli 72.5% 28.9% 9.3% 0.5% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 58.2
Julien Benneteau 69.1% 36.9% 2.6% 1.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 56.0
Robin Haase 78.4% 24.4% 3.6% 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 53.2
Steve Darcis 58.0% 25.6% 10.5% 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 53.0
Albert Montanes 88.1% 5.7% 3.5% 2.0% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 52.0
Jerzy Janowicz 45.1% 32.1% 7.3% 2.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 51.7
R. Bautista-Agut 69.3% 20.5% 5.0% 0.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 49.9
Mikhail Youzhny 37.7% 21.4% 9.4% 4.1% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 49.9
Horacio Zeballos 85.7% 9.7% 3.5% 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 49.1
Paolo Lorenzi 56.9% 32.1% 2.3% 1.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 49.0
Viktor Troicki 70.5% 13.3% 4.2% 1.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 47.2
Joao Souza 77.7% 16.3% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 45.0
Lukasz Kubot 73.3% 12.1% 2.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 43.5
Martin Klizan 88.1% 0.7% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 41.6
Alex Kuznetsov 74.7% 11.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 41.3
Lukas Rosol 61.9% 19.7% 0.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 40.8
John Isner 34.6% 19.4% 6.4% 2.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 40.6
Blaz Kavcic 64.6% 14.2% 1.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 40.2
Michael Llodra 42.0% 15.4% 5.8% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 37.5
Tobias Kamke 43.1% 20.6% 1.2% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 36.4
Igor Sijsling 55.3% 11.6% 1.3% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 36.1
E. Roger-Vasselin 56.7% 5.3% 2.1% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 34.6
D. Gimeno-Traver 20.1% 13.6% 5.8% 2.4% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 34.1
Jan-Lennard Struff 51.7% 9.0% 2.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 34.0
Leonardo Mayer 30.2% 21.7% 2.9% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 33.8
Rhyne Williams 58.1% 3.6% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 32.6
D. Munoz-De La Nava 57.6% 1.8% 0.7% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 32.0
Evgeny Donskoy 48.3% 8.0% 1.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 32.0
Ivan Dodig 56.4% 1.6% 0.7% 0.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 31.7
Jurgen Melzer 44.7% 7.7% 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 29.9
Feliciano Lopez 27.9% 20.0% 0.7% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 29.8
Federico Delbonis 32.1% 8.3% 2.1% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 28.0
Martin Alund 43.3% 3.4% 1.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 27.9
Aljaz Bedene 24.0% 9.0% 3.7% 0.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 27.8
Paul-Henri Mathieu 28.5% 7.8% 3.0% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 27.6
Pere Riba 38.1% 8.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 27.4
Lleyton Hewitt 23.4% 10.9% 3.8% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 27.2
Guido Pella 43.6% 0.9% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 26.2
Richard Berankis 30.9% 10.4% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 26.1
Michal Przysiezny 41.9% 1.9% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 25.8
Somdev Devvarman 42.4% 1.0% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 25.7
James Duckworth 35.4% 4.8% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 24.8
Denis Istomin 25.6% 8.8% 1.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 24.2
Gilles Muller 30.7% 4.8% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 23.6
Yen-Hsun Lu 27.5% 6.5% 1.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 23.5
Bernard Tomic 27.7% 5.0% 1.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 23.4
Jiri Vesely 21.3% 8.7% 1.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 23.2
Ryan Harrison 27.4% 5.5% 0.9% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 23.1
Guillaume Rufin 16.7% 7.4% 2.7% 0.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 23.0
Alejandro Falla 17.5% 12.3% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 21.9
James Blake 29.5% 2.3% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 21.8
Grega Zemlja 23.5% 4.0% 0.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 20.7
Maxime Teixeira 26.7% 2.0% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 20.5
Jack Sock 22.9% 3.1% 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 20.3
Lucas Pouille 25.3% 1.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 19.6
Xavier Malisse 17.1% 4.7% 1.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 19.1
Kenny de Schepper 21.6% 2.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 18.8
Go Soeda 22.3% 1.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 18.6
Pablo Carreno-Busta 4.9% 3.7% 2.2% 1.1% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 18.5
Denis Kudla 16.2% 4.4% 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 18.5
Lukas Lacko 16.9% 2.5% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 17.3
Florent Serra 15.6% 2.9% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 17.0
Marc Gicquel 13.6% 2.4% 0.4% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 16.3
Marcos Baghdatis 8.6% 4.5% 0.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 15.8
Sergiy Stakhovsky 6.5% 4.3% 1.1% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 15.3
Andreas Beck 10.9% 3.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 15.3
Adrian Mannarino 13.0% 1.2% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 15.2
Vasek Pospisil 14.3% 0.4% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 15.2
Dmitry Tursunov 9.4% 2.4% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14.9
Jesse Levine 9.7% 2.3% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14.7
R. Dutra da Silva 11.8% 0.5% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14.4
Steve Johnson 12.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14.3
Michael Russell 11.9% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14.2
Illya Marchenko 7.5% 2.6% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 14.1
Philipp Petzschner 8.2% 1.8% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.9
Jurgen Zopp 7.5% 2.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.8
Thiemo de Bakker 5.3% 2.4% 0.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.7
Benjamin Becker 6.3% 1.6% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.0
A. Haider-Maurer 4.6% 1.9% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 13.0
Nicolas Mahut 6.5% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 12.6
Nick Kyrgios 6.5% 0.3% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 12.4
David Goffin 1.2% 0.5% 0.2% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 10.9
Daniel Brands 0.5% 0.3% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 10.5
Marinko Matosevic 0.7% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 10.3

Winners and Losers of the Draw

Comparing the expected points for each player from their specific draw to all possible draws. Full explanation here.

Poor Gael Monfils. He was all set to make his triumphant return at his home slam (currently a top 25 AB player). Then he drew a gauntlet of Tomas Berdych in round 1 and Ernests Gulbis in round 2, which just sucks for all three. Interestingly, Gulbis loses the least expected points out of the three by far. That's because the increase in points from first to second round is proportionately higher than all other rounds, so unlucky first-round matchups have a bigger effect on your expected points. As for the winners, everyone's been commenting on Federer's easy draw, but his gain in expected points isn't necessarily from where you think. Here's a breakdown of where his change in expected points comes from broken down by each round:

1st Round 2nd Round 3rd Round 4th Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals Winner
Specific Draw 0.5 0.7 2.9 10.0 40.9 263.2 3733 113.4
General Draw 0.3 1.8 6.1 15.1 51.8 300.8 184 78.2
Specific Minus General 0.2 -1.0 -3.2 -5.1 -18.8 -37.6 189.2 35.2

His potential draw up to the semifinals is actually a little unlucky, but his expected points are more sensitive to when he drew Nadal, hence the gain in the last two rounds. Jan Hajek is the other big winner of the draw with a solid clay rating and a clear early path, making him the most likely unseeded player to make a deep run. Full luck scores for each player below:

Player Change in Expected Points from Draw
Roger Federer 158.8
Juan Monaco 60.3
Jeremy Chardy 56.0
Jan Hajek 48.4
Fernando Verdasco 43.2
Kevin Anderson 35.2
Carlos Berlocq 33.8
Pablo Cuevas 31.6
Radek Stepanek 27.0
Nikolay Davydenko 25.6
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 22.7
Andrey Kuznetsov 22.6
Tommy Haas 22.4
Alex Kuznetsov 21.7
Pablo Andujar 21.6
Gilles Simon 21.2
Jarkko Nieminen 20.4
Joao Souza 20.2
Nicolas Almagro 16.8
Roberto Bautista-Agut 16.8
Julian Reister 16.2
Blaz Kavcic 14.7
Sam Querrey 13.7
Lukasz Kubot 13.6
Simone Bolelli 13.3
Rhyne Williams 12.6
David Ferrer 10.6
Paolo Lorenzi 10.1
Jan-Lennard Struff 9.8
Robin Haase 9.1
Evgeny Donskoy 8.8
Viktor Troicki 8.7
Steve Darcis 8.2
Michal Przysiezny 8.0
Janko Tipsarevic 7.6
Milos Raonic 7.4
Santiago Giraldo 7.0
Victor Hanescu 7.0
Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 6.0
Marin Cilic 5.9
Lucas Pouille 5.7
James Duckworth 4.9
Horacio Zeballos 4.4
Tommy Robredo 4.2
Julien Benneteau 4.2
Tobias Kamke 4.0
Grigor Dimitrov 4.0
Somdev Devvarman 3.5
Alexandr Dolgopolov 3.2
Go Soeda 3.1
Gilles Muller 1.8
Maxime Teixeira 1.4
Richard Berankis 1.1
Florian Mayer 0.7
Michael Llodra 0.2
Igor Sijsling -0.3
Edouard Roger-Vasselin -0.4
Lukas Rosol -0.4
Ryan Harrison -0.8
Lukas Lacko -1.2
Adrian Mannarino -1.3
Nick Kyrgios -1.3
Jurgen Melzer -1.9
James Blake -2.2
Martin Alund -2.6
Denis Kudla -3.0
Florent Serra -3.0
Vasek Pospisil -3.2
Alejandro Falla -3.3
Jack Sock -3.3
Denis Istomin -3.5
Yen-Hsun Lu -3.5
Kenny de Schepper -3.5
Lleyton Hewitt -3.9
Michael Russell -3.9
Illya Marchenko -3.9
Nicolas Mahut -4.0
Martin Klizan -4.1
Benjamin Becker -4.2
Philipp Kohlschreiber -4.5
Pere Riba -5.1
Leonardo Mayer -5.1
Federico Delbonis -5.3
Grega Zemlja -5.4
Feliciano Lopez -5.4
Xavier Malisse -5.6
Philipp Petzschner -6.0
Marc Gicquel -6.6
Guido Pella -7.4
Ivan Dodig -7.4
Benoit Paire -7.8
Marcel Granollers -7.8
Jesse Levine -7.8
Jiri Vesely -7.8
Andreas Beck -8.1
Bernard Tomic -8.1
Steve Johnson -8.3
Jurgen Zopp -9.1
Rogerio Dutra da Silva -9.2
Richard Gasquet -9.6
Sergiy Stakhovsky -9.9
Paul-Henri Mathieu -10.1
Dmitry Tursunov -10.7
Guillaume Rufin -10.8
Marcos Baghdatis -11.3
Marinko Matosevic -11.9
Kei Nishikori -12.4
Aljaz Bedene -12.8
Andreas Seppi -13.1
Ernests Gulbis -13.3
Andreas Haider-Maurer -13.9
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga -14.3
Albert Montanes -16.8
Albert Ramos-Vinolas -17.4
Daniel Gimeno-Traver -18.2
David Goffin -18.2
John Isner -18.3
Thiemo de Bakker -19.2
Mikhail Youzhny -21.8
Pablo Carreno-Busta -27.7
Fabio Fognini -28.1
Novak Djokovic -30.3
Daniel Brands -32.6
Jerzy Janowicz -49.2
Stanislas Wawrinka -63.5
Rafael Nadal -65.3
Gael Monfils -73.9
Tomas Berdych -115.8

Food For Thought

Nadal's prolonged absence means he hasn't had as much of a chance to accumulate points this year, so he's the fourth overall seed. A lot of people disagree with his placement, claiming he deserves the No. 1 overall because he's clearly the best clay-court player in the field and that putting him at No. 3 could result in a potential Nadal/Federer or Nadal/Djokovic matchup earlier than it "should." And I put "should" in quotation marks, because that implies a value judgment on the purpose of seeding that's not nearly as clear-cut as some people are making it out to be.

There are roughly two philosophies on how to seed players in a tournament. To most, they should be based on either prediction, where you seed the players in order of their likelihood of winning the tournament and thereby ensure a "balanced" bracket, or on accomplishment, where your seed is based on your regular season performance. Seeding a tennis tournament based on prediction, i.e. putting Nadal at No. 1, is more problematic than you might think in a sport where participation in tournaments is voluntary.

As a hypothetical, ask yourself: If Nadal wins the French Open this year, where would you seed him next year if he didn't play another tournament until the 2014 French Open? He'd have done everything in his power to prove he's the best clay player and is therefore deserving of another No. 1 overall seed, but would it still be "fair" for him to sit out the whole year and be handed a No. 1 seed just because he's the most likely to win? This deserves a lot more discussion down the road, because there are good arguments for seeding on both prediction and accomplishment, but Nadal getting a No. 3 isn't as offensive as you might think.

Favorite Bets

Your Bovada account that you haven't looked at since football season ended? It has a tennis section too. Instant rooting interest! Here are my favorite bets:

Head-to-head, round 1:

Alex Kuznetsov (-150) over Lucas Pouille
Carlos Berlocq (-120) over John Isner
Pablo Andujar (-103) over Mikhail Youzhny
Simone Bolelli (-150) vs. Yen-Hsun Lu
Paolo Lorenzi (+116) over Tobias Kamke

Favorite futures:

Rafael Nadal (-125) to win outright (sigh...)
David Ferrer (25-1) to win outright

Final Thoughts

How much of a sure thing can you ever be in a tournament where you have to win seven matches in a row? Seventy percent is ridiculously high, enough to the point where I'm worried about putting all of my eggs in one basket, even if that basket is the best clay-court player of all time. As potentially irresponsible as it may be to put that much faith in the favorite, though, I think it's even more irresponsible to not reconcile that with the evidence the rest of the field has shown as of late. Djokovic's stumbled on clay, Federer's declined and Ferrer remains a peg below. Shouldn't that information influence the forecast?

Maybe you buy into the narrative of contenders elevating their game for Big Moments, shaking off their prior losses and bringing their best. It's certainly something Advanced Baseline doesn't account for, and maybe it's real enough where the model is flawed for forecasting Grand Slams. But given the choice, I'll always defer to the evidence over the narrative, and the evidence says Nadal has surged when others have faltered, making him the dominant favorite. So go watch all the other matches instead; if you need me, I'll be rooting for Kevin Anderson to keep the Big Ten's lead in the BCS standings.

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