This is the fifth installment of the series, which features fantasy tips and rankings for Racket Rally. You can find a more detailed explanation of the series here.
The clay season is upon us, which means it is time for some serious retooling be done. The hard court specialists won't be very valuable during this nine-week period, while the Europeans and Latin Americans that grew up on the red clay are now suddenly very valuable. There are lots of big events in a short period of time all leading up to Roland Garros, and the faster you transform your portfolio into a clay-friendly lineup, the more you are going to benefit from the clay season. Also, women are not in action next week outside of a small 50-point event. The WTA schedule is fairly light for the next few weeks, so having shares on the ATP side is going to be beneficial in the short term.
Tip of the Week: Rebuilding mode is a real thing.
In team sports, what franchises do sometimes is start selling all of their expensive veterans to make room for lots of young talented players to start to flourish. Instead of sticking with the same known players who have diminishing returns, they invest in a large number of players, figuring that out of that group a few will stand out. The same goes for Racket Rally. Don't get stuck with just a few shares of the known top 10 players on the WTA and ATP. If someone isn't playing well enough considering their price, ditch them. You may miss their guaranteed 360 or so points every week, but gambling on a player that has the possibility of finishing high on the MVP list isn't as risky when you have a large number of shares in a variety of players. Take the momentary loss for the chance at big gains in the long run. We're playing to win - not just to finish in the middle of the pack.
Top Prospects vs. Drop Prospects
1. Rafael Nadal, 28, ESP
Price per share: $5,255
Talking about retooling for clay, how about buying the King of Clay? And for only $5,255! Those of you who have been patient with Nadal are about to see the rewards. Even if Nadal has the worst clay season of his career, he will be worth way more than he costs. This is one quarter of the season, so for Nadal to be worth the price, he would have to earn around 1300 ranking points. He's going to be playing five events, so he will likely get about double that amount, and that would be his worst clay season in a decade arguably. There has never been a safer bet in this game. Time to buy in on Nadal.
2. David Goffin, 24, BEL
Price per share: $1, 695
I've been raving about Goffin in this series for a while, and the deal on Goffin has never been better. He loves the clay, and currently has a 20-match winning streak on clay. Also, he is defending almost nothing during this portion of the season, which means that it is now or never with Goffin. He is planning to play Munich along with all the main clay tournaments, so he won't be sitting in your portfolio doing nothing.
3. Alexandr Dolgopolov, 26, UKR
Price per share: $670
To get an in form player like Dolgopolov at this price is a great deal. He has just recently plummeted in price, which is a delayed reaction to him missing the US Open Series and the US Open as well. It is not a reflection of his current form. He has reached the third round or better at four consecutive tournaments nearly defeated Djokovic to reach the Miami quarterfinals. He hasn't been as successful on the clay in his career, but this is a buy for the rest of the season, not just the clay. The one potential risk is that he may have to go through qualifying in Madrid and Rome, and nobody is worse to own in Racket Rally than a qualifier.
4. Yoshihito Nishioka, 19, JAP
Price per share: $345
At just 19 years of age, Nishioka is certainly younger than the players I typically recommend in the top prospects. Buying on cheap teenagers can be a very risky move, but Nishioka has separated himself from other teenagers by showing that he isn't so vulnerable to upsets. He will be playing in the American green clay swing on the Challenger Tour. He won three clay titles on the futures tour, showing that his level doesn't dip between the hard and clay courts. He'll likely be unseeded at all three tournaments, which does make this a bit of a risk, but he comes at such a low price that you won't lose much even if he falls in the first round at all three, which isn't going to happen.
5. Simone Bolelli, 29, ITA
Price per share: $931
I guess this is the week to make a debut on this series. Bolelli as an Italian is one of the few true clay specialists on tour, and he comes at a decent price. He is still making his comeback from when he dropped out of the top 300, continuing to raise his ranking. This time last year, he didn't have the ranking to get into the tour-level clay events, so even though he tore it up on the Challenger Tour, he still comes at a good price. Like Dolgopolov, he may have to go through qualifying in Madrid, but he is sure to get a wild card in Rome if necessary. He has a packed clay schedule, playing every week other than the possibility that he takes the week after Rome off. Keep him for the clay season and then drop him. That's what it means to be a clay specialist, right?
I decided to do this section a little differently than normal, because there is no way to limit this section to just five people. Everyone just received three court coins and it couldn't have come at a better time, because there are some big switches that need to be made. It's time to consider selling your most expensive players - going into rebuilding mode as mentioned in the Tip of the Week.
Players to consider dropping are players on the WTA, who are taking this portion of the season as more of an off-season, which is everyone in the top 100. Also, drop players like Stan Wawrinka, Novak Djokovic, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Kei Nishikori, who have unreasonable amounts of points to defend. Make sure you don't have injured players like Richard Gasquet, Nick Kyrgios, Juan Martin del Potro, or Ernests Gulbis. It's also definitely time to bail out on that slumping player of whom you have 50 shares. The last group is those who might as well be allergic to clay. Check their career records on clay. If less than 20 percent of their futures events were on clay, they have less than 10 tour-level clay wins, or have won less than 40 percent of clay matches, you don't want them on your portfolio.
*All photos are from the racketrally.com site and are credited there.