SO who wins at Roland Garros? We asked tennis punter and trader Mark Stinchombe (@markstinchcombe).
French Open Men’s Outright | 24th May – 7th June
The French Open begins on Sunday and World number 1 Novak Djokovic heads into Paris after winning clay titles in Rome and Monte Carlo on an unbeaten streak of 22 matches and is 36-2 overall for the year.
This is very much reflected in his price however with him being odds-on across the board and best price at 10/11. Runner-up twice, for a man who has never won Roland Garros in 10 attempts it’s very short.
Even in 2011 when Novak came here on the back of a 41-match unbeaten run (which became three short of the record in the open era) he ran into an inspired Roger Federer who served magnificently and lost in four.
Djokovic has been drawn in the same quarter as 6th seed Rafael Nadal, against whom he is 0-6 here in Paris, and faces a potential semi-final v Andy Murray and final v Federer. At odds-on it’s difficult to say that’s value.
Despite being the greatest clay court player of all-time with a record nine French Open titles, people are still writing off defending champion Rafael Nadal.
Ok he’s lost to Djokovic, Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka and Fabio Fognini (twice) on clay this year and cited a lack of confidence. But remember in the build up last year Djokovic, Ferrer and Almagro all beat him, but he still went on to win the title.
I’ll ask the same question as I did this time last year; Who’s going to beat him over five sets here at Roland Garros?
Rafa’s record here is 66-1. Yes he’s lost once in 67 matches to a man who twice made a French Open final, Robin Soderling. Other than that defeat only two of those matches have gone the distance; the 2013 semi v Djokovic where he was always a set ahead before winning the decider 9-7 and v John Isner in the 1st round in 2011.
The conditions here suit Rafa’s game to a tee with the sun on his back and the slow Roland Garros courts, it gives him much more time to run around his backhand and hit his favoured topspin forehand.
I’ve already alluded to his key 6-0 record here v Djokovic, he was 6/4 last year; 9/2 with Paddy Power this year is a big price.
After winning his first ATP clay-court title with victory in Munich, Andy Murray followed that up with an impressive title in Madrid beating all of Nadal (four times winner), Kei Nishikori (last year’s runner-up and winner of previous tournament in Barcelona) and big-serving Milos Raonic in straight sets.
It was the first week since his back surgery in 2013 that he’d recorded back-to-back wins over the top 10. Ok Raonic had a nerve problem in his foot (which he misses here with) and Rafa obviously isn’t at his best, but Andy still had to beat them.
And whilst it was impressive to take his first clay title in Munich, he was never bigger than 1/3 to win any of his matches and took the title on a deciding set tie-break. After his win in altitude in Madrid, Murray only played one match in Rome, so it may take him time to adjust to the conditions in Paris.
In terms of Paris, Murray is getting there. In his last five visits he’s made the semi’s and quarter’s twice, losing in both of the semi’s to Nadal.
The early rounds appear daunting with potential matches against big-servers Vasek Pospisil, Nick Kyrgios then John Isner. Although Murray has a good record against big servers (he’s beaten all of these in straights this year), these could contain some energy sapping tie-breaks which wouldn’t be ideal with a potential quarter with David Ferrer who leads him 4-0 on clay, including here in 2012, followed by Djokovic/Nadal in the semi.
With Murray never having beaten a top 10 player here before and his aforementioned draw, it would be difficult to back him at 10/1.
In the other half of the draw is World number 2, 2009 winner and four-time previous finalist Roger Federer. Federer’s not had a bad year, picking up titles in Dubai with a straight sets win over Djokovic and on the clay of Istanbul (although cumulative odds for his four wins were only 1/2), as well as making the final of Rome last week, with wins over Tomas Berdych and Wawrinka en-route, and Dubai.
Being in the opposite half to rest of the ‘big four’ will tempt some at 12/1, but he’s not made a Grand Slam final outside of Wimbledon since here in 2011, with defeats to Andreas Seppi (Australia), Marin Cilic (US) and Ernests Gulbis (French).
He had what was perceived as a nice draw in 2013 but lost in straights to Wilfried Tsonga and has a potential 4th round draw here with Gael Monfils. The Frenchman has beaten him in straight sets in their previous two meetings, both on clay, having won the previous four against the flamboyant Parisien.
So who else does that leave in the bottom half? Continuing in the betting are Nishikori, Wawrinka and Berdych. Kei doesn’t have a great record here having only made the 4th round once and exits twice in the 2nd round as well as the 1st round last year.
He’s also had some very disappointing defeats this year, losing as odds on favourite no fewer than seven times with five of those occasions priced 1/2 or lower.
Stan has had a tough year with his personal life, and is difficult to rely on with his play going from the sublime to poor one day to the next. He powered past Nadal in Rome only to go down to Federer in straights after being 3-0 up, then suffered a defeat to Federico Delbonis when priced 1/4 in his home country earlier in the week.
With defeats to Robin Haase, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Adrian Mannarino this year as well as the loss in the 1st round to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez here last year, he’s one to avoid.
Last year’s quarter-finalist Berdych may go close but in the latter stages of tournaments he can’t be relied upon. He’s only ever made a slam final once, five years ago at Wimbledon, and he’s failed to win any of his last eight completed matches this year against the top 10.
The aforementioned Gael Monfils is an interesting prospect. In the same quarter as Federer and Wawrinka, he’s made the semi’s here before where he lost to Roger and twice before lost in the quarters to the Swiss. He took Murray to five again in the quarters last year and he should fancy his chances in this section.
Elsewhere the mercurial Fabio Fognini could be worth chancing. In the 3rd quarter with Nishikori and Berdych, the volatile Italian has all the clay court weapons to be a threat, it’s just whether he’s there mentally.
He’s beaten Nadal twice on clay this year and Murray in straight sets last year but lost seven times as favourite in 2015 as well as being bagelled four times.
Along a similar line, last year’s semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis is a huge 500/1 but he’s won just two matches this year and is just 1-6 on clay.
Men’s French Open – Rafael Nadal to win (9/2 Paddy Power)
Men’s French Open – Gael Monfils each way (100/1 BWin)
Men’s French Open – Fabio Fognini each way (150/1 Boylesports)
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