This article is part of our Tennis Picks series.
Monte Carlo rolls on Thursday with Round of 16 action at the first clay-court ATP Masters 1000 tournament of 2022. The top eight seeds finally got their feet wet in the Round of 32, though only four moved on through. All the other players still in the tournament have had to win two main-draw matches to get to this point. Upsets have been plentiful thus far, but the top few remaining seeds have pretty clear paths to the quarterfinals here, while a pair of young up-and-comers have opportunities to announce their presence as contenders on the big stage.
Since it's so early in the clay-court season, there's a delicate balance between weighing a player's form in recent tournaments on other surfaces and their historical results on clay. Finding that balance isn't easy, but some enticing options still stand out, both among favorites likely to cruise to victory and underdogs ready to pull off upsets. The aforementioned underdogs are highlighted in the Upset Alert section, the Lock It In section covers players who can safely be considered overwhelming favorites, while the Value Bet section recommends enticing options in matchups that are considered closer to toss-ups.
Musetti hasn't developed quite as quickly or impressively as fellow youngster Carlos Alcaraz — though Alcaraz is really one of a kind — but the 20-year-old Italian is still one of the game's most exciting young players. He's especially dangerous on clay, where Musetti beat Hubert Hurkacz and Felix Auger-Aliassime last year in addition to taking the first two sets against Novak Djokovic in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros. Musetti notched another win over Auger-Aliassime on Wednesday, and his shotmaking ability should be on full display against Schwartzman. While the diminutive Argentine is a battler, he doesn't have the ability to steamroll opponents like most top-20 players can, and letting the talented Musetti hang around is a recipe for an upset.
Sebastian Korda (+1800) to win the title
In lieu of an honorable mention, here's a futures bet. Alcaraz's title in Miami was the official announcement that his generation has made it, and it should fuel some more belief in his peers in the later stages of events such as this one. With a win over Alcaraz in the Round of 32, Korda once again showed that he's capable of the type of performance it takes to hang with and even beat the top players on the biggest stages. Unlike his doubles partner in this tournament Taylor Fritz, whom he'll play next, Korda has played some of his best tennis to date on clay. The winner of that All-American clash will face an unseeded opponent in the quarterfinals. After that, the draw will likely get tougher, though the vast majority of the talent is concentrated in the bottom half with the likes of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev all down there. If you bet on Korda now and he reaches the semis or final, you could also opt to cash out at that point and take a profit.
Lock It In
Dimitrov can be a tricky opponent, but Ruud's accurately pegged as a comfortable favorite on the fourth-seeded Norwegian's favorite surface and Dimitrov's least favorite. Ruud's run to the final in Miami shows he has been in excellent form heading into the clay-court season, and he's 5-0 on the slow stuff in 2022. Meanwhile, it's no secret that Dimitrov prefers faster surfaces, as he's reached the semifinals at three of the four slams but has never even made the quarters at the French Open, with a career record of just 12-11 at Roland Garros.
Carreno Busta is one of the rare Spaniards that actually plays his best tennis on hard courts rather than clay, which is why Zverev's all-court prowess should shine through here. Both of Carreno Busta's career Grand Slam semifinals have come at the US Open, including 2020, when he lost to Zverev as part of the German's 2-0 edge in their head-to-head. Carreno Busta was also 0-4 against top-40 opponents this season before finally notching his first such win in bizarre fashion Wednesday when Alexander Bublik called it quits for no apparent reason in the third set after blowing a match point in the second. Given Zverev's excellent results at the Masters 1000 level and Carreno Busta's pedestrian play this season, this should be a straightforward result for the favorite.
Beating a top player often provides a tangible confidence boost, especially when you take down one of the all-time greats. Davidovich Fokina's flying high after knocking off Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the Round of 32. Goffin has rounded into form lately and comes in on a seven-match winning streak — all on clay — but Davidovich Fokina will have the edge in freshness, having played Tuesday while Goffin took the court Wednesday. Only one spot separates these two in the rankings, making this a true toss-up, so the slight underdog offers the better value here, and that's Davidovich Fokina.