Classy Zverev can take advantage of favourable draw in Madrid Open
Rafael Nadal may still prove too strong
Starts 11.30am Sunday
Rafael Nadal has not lost a set on a clay since last year's Rome Masters. The Majorcan powerhouse has won 46 in a row on his beloved red dirt and there will be punters willing to take short odds about the king of clay picking up another title at the ATP Madrid Open.
It's hard to see anyone troubling Nadal in his current form and, after a week off, he should be refreshed as he eyes victory in the Spanish capital for the sixth time.
Yet of all the key European clay tournaments, Nadal has struggled in Madrid more than anywhere else. He's won 11 titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, ten at the French Open and seven in Rome, although he'd almost certainly have won more had this tournament not been played on hard courts until 2009.
There's no great desire to take on the 16-time Grand Slam champion despite his short odds. Clay specialist Dominic Thiem is housed in the same quarter but Nadal dismantled the Austrian in Monaco.
Juan Martin del Potro will arguably pose the biggest threat to the favourite and could meet him in the semi-finals but the Tower of Tandil, who dealt Roger Federer his first defeat of the season in the Indian Wells final before reaching the semis in Miami, is bound to be rusty on his first clay appearance of the season.
With Nadal looking unstoppable, outright punters should focus on the bottom half of the draw, where Munich finalist Alexander Zverev is the top seed and worth a bet.
The young German won his first Masters 1000 title at the Italian Open last year and has rediscovered top form after a slow start to the 2018 campaign.
He reached the final of the Miami Open and followed up with a semi-final appearance in Monte Carlo before despatching Hyeon Chung in some style to make the final in Bavaria.
A first-round bye will help Zverev to recover and, despite a likely second-round meeting with exciting Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas, he looks to have a favourable enough route to the quarter-finals.
The 21-year-old will then face the winner of a stacked third quarter which includes David Goffin, Chung, Kyle Edmund, Kei Nishikori, Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov.
Picking a winner from that section look devilishly difficult with many question marks over virtually all of those big names so Zverev looks the one worth siding with.
He is a best-priced 16-1 with Paddy Power but Betfred's 14-1 makes more appeal as they offer half the odds each-way rather than a third.
1pt each-way 14-1 Betfred
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