Ace Tennis Previews: French Open Tips

The French Open is the biggest clay tournament and the only clay Grand Slam on the Pro Tour. This year, our resident tennis expert, Ace, previews both sides of the draw as well as providing us with daily French Open Tips.

Scroll across in the menus below to see all the previews.


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Djokovic v Tsitsipas

The second and third tournament favourites square off in a rare Roland Garros final that doesn’t include the name, Rafael Nadal. It was Novak Djokovic who was able to do the work on behalf of the rest of the field, taking down the man with a statue at Roland Garros in 4 sets, some of which was the best tennis in recent memory (highly recommend the third set!)

Whilst Djokovic has ended up playing another grand slam where he has tuned in and out of early matches, you cannot help but have respect for his ability to lock in and get the job done when the best of the best are at the other end of the court. You look at his grand slam final record, and the fact he has now reached the final of each grand slam at least 6 times, and it becomes clear just how impressive he is when he is locked in with everything to play for.

He faced a scare down 2 tiebreaks to Lorenzo Musetti, however, he was able to overcome that in flying colours, to the point where Musetti wasn’t even injured, he had just had enough of not being able to win points. He dropped a set to Matteo Berrettini in a tiebreak, however again never really looked threatened on serve in the 4th set, setting up that clash with Nadal. It is hard to put into words just how incredible some of the tennis Nadal and Novak were able to produce, however, it became clear in that 4th set that Djokovic had broken the will of Nadal physically, much like we saw Tsitsipas achieve at the Australian Open in February.

After failing to serve out the third set, then failing to convert breakpoints on the Nadal serve at 5-5, the ability to Djokovic to save a set point and go on to take the tiebreak is a testament to the level he can produce at times.

Tsitsipas also had his biggest challenge in the semi-final, in a match that became very complicated very quickly. After dominating the first two sets, Tsitsipas struggled to save the few break points he faced, finding himself in a 5th set after looking so dominant. He saved 3 break points early in the decider before breaking Alexander Zverev and serving out the match 6-3 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-3, finishing with 36 winners and 43 unforced errors. Whilst he has broken through to the grand slam final stage for the first time, I do feel as though his performance in the semi-final has raised more questions than it has produced answers.

I went against Novak in the Australian Open final against a player who was hyped significantly, had a short-term confidence boost in his form. Djokovic had the experience edge significantly and it showed almost immediately. After looking so strong on serve for the tournament, Medvedev was rendered helpless early and lost confidence in his ability to get the job done on the biggest stage.

Given the fact that Tsitsipas was so dominant in the semi-final, up 2 sets to 0, then found himself an in-play underdog down 0/40 in the first game of the 5th set, has me concerned. If that type of effort occurs in a semi-final against Zverev, how will he hold up psychologically in the final against one of the best of all time?

Their Rome meeting showed the importance of making good decisions late in sets, shown by Djokovic taking the second and third sets 7-5. This isn’t to say that Tsitsipas won’t win grand slams, as I feel he has many in his future. For mine though, he looks to be the type of player that first needs experience to learn from before understanding how to handle the bigger moments.

A first slam final against a player with such a strong record in slam finals, pushing to take over from Nadal and Federer in total slams won, is a tough ask for Tsitsipas. I think he will show patches of form in this one, however, Novak should be far too strong for far too long overall. I will take the -4.5 game handicap for Djokovic here for 2 units to finish off the tournament.

Thank you to everyone who has read or interacted with the previews over the course of the last fortnight. The daily match previews will return for Wimbledon in a fortnight.

 

Suggested Bet

BACK — 2 units Djokovic -4.5 games vs Tsitsipas (recorded at $1.88)

Krejcikova v Pavlyuchenkova

Whilst it may not be the two biggest names in the final of Roland Garros, this still presents as one of the most fascinating, and potentially one of the tightest grand slam finals in recent years. Both players have put together phenomenal fortnights, taking some decent-sized scalps each along the way. Let us look at the run of each player to the final, how this will match up, and settle on a bet suggestion.

Had a point or two gone the other way in the first round, Barbora Krejcikova could have very easily found herself out of the tournament. She trailed Kristyna (Kristyna, not Karolina) Pliskova by a set and 1-3, and also needed to save break points late in the second set, before running away with the win in the third set. After comfortable wins over Alexandrova, Svitolina, and Stephens, the road became a little tougher. The Czech was the better player in all the key moments late in the first set of her quarter-final against Coco Gauff and was rewarded for her aggression.

She came from a break down, saved a fistful of set points, and ran away with the match in the second set, breaking the will of the American teenager. After a strong start in her semi-final against Maria Sakkari, she again found herself on the ropes, needing to save a match point on serve late in the third set, before breaking Sakkari to regain level footing. In a match that certainly had its fair share of nerves, Krejcikova was just that little bit steadier, progressing 9-7 in the third set.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has put together the best fortnight of her career, having finally broken through late in a grand slam. After starting the tournament with wins over Christina McHale and Ajla Tomljanovic, the genuine upset of Aryna Sabalenka was the catalyst for a major confidence boost for the Russian. Her ability to not only regain her momentum after dropping the second set but to go on and take the third set 6-0 was a major step in the right direction for the Russian.

With improved confidence in her game (more so than I anticipated having opposed her a couple of times), she was able to come from a set down to defeat both Victoria Azarenka and Elena Rybakina to reach the semi-finals. She was solid without being spectacular in the semi-final, although it was enough to get the win in the end 7-5 6-3 over Tamara Zidansek.

The odds are incredibly tight for this match, and on current ratings, I would have Pavlyuchenkova as a slight favourite personally. With not a lot of difference between my ratings and the current odds though, I am more intrigued by the game total sitting at 21.5. Like a number of these women’s matches late in the tournament, with players in unfamiliar territory, there is likely to be purple patches for both women. Both have shown the ability to overcome big deficits and stay in their respective matches.

A tight first set here, or either player remaining switched on whilst their opponent feels the pressure of a grand slam title being a set away, should lead to this total heading over 21.5. The big concern here is if one player doesn’t handle to occasion completely, leading to a one-sided loss. With that remaining a very real possibility, I will keep this to 1 unit and enjoy what should be one of the more intriguing grand slam finals in recent years.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit total games over 21.5 (recorded at $1.88)

A Zverev v Tsitsipas

Tsitsipas comes into this one at near-identical odds to Nadal against Djokovic. The question is: does he deserve such pricing?

Starting first with Tsitsipas, who has made it to another grand slam semi-final thanks to wins over Chardy, Martinez, Isner, Carreno Busta and Medvedev for the loss of one set. There was a bit of commentary around this tournament has been a breakthrough for Tsitsipas, however, he isn’t quite at the point of breaking through to new ground just yet, as that comes today.

This will be the fourth appearance at a quarter-final for Stefanos, behind AO 2019/2021 and Roland Garros last year. This is the next significant hurdle for Tsitsipas to overcome to take the next step of pushing towards the names at the top of the rankings. Will I be opposing him? From what I have seen, I won’t be directly opposing him, however, I don’t think he will have it all go his own way today.

It is hard to fault the run of Alexander Zverev, who has now put together 15 sets in a row, after inexplicably losing the first two sets of the tournament to Oscar Otte. A bit like Nadal at times this tournament, Zverev has made his way through some difficult periods in some sets, whilst looking very good late in all tight moments he has faced. His serve is holding up, and this will be a key factor in his meeting with Tsitsipas. Although Stefanos is starting to improve his overall return game, there is still a vulnerability there on the return of big servers (as we saw early in the match against Isner).

Whilst I perceive Zverev to be ever-so-slight value in this one, I am drawn to the total games over 37.5 here. We have Tsitsipas trying to break new ground and given how he has played some previous semi-finals I am anticipating an element of nerves here for Tsitsipas. Zverev got the better of this match-up in Acapulco as an underdog, and the experience of reaching a slam final in the US last year will hold him in good stead. Whilst all the focus will be on the other semi, this one has the makings of a classic as well.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1-unit total games over 37.5 (to be recorded at $1.92)


Djokovic v Nadal

I have previewed this specific match-up many times across the last 8 years. Again, savour these two doing battle on the big stage, as we do not know how many more battles we are going to witness.

Let us start with Rafa. His run of consecutive sets won, like Iga Swiatek, came to an end in the quarter-finals. Unlike Swiatek, Rafa was able to steady the ship at 1 set apiece with Diego Schwartzman, taking the next two sets 6-4 6-0 to take the victory.

Unlike players who have failed to serve out sets against Nadal in recent matches, Schwartzman was able to break Nadal from 30/0 to take the victory this time. 35 winners and 29 unforced errors, whilst winning 73% of first-serve points and 67% of second serve points against a top-level return of serve are numbers that are incredibly impressive, and I see no reason to go against Nadal today in my opinion.

Novak Djokovic got the perfect scheduling for his quarter-final with Matteo Berrettini, with the match put on centre court in the evening, with the court playing a little less lively. Much like the Musetti match the previous round, we saw Novak tighten up again late in a tiebreak. At *5-4 and two points from victory in straight sets, Djokovic produced two of the most uncharacteristic unforced errors from his racquet in recent memory, and Berrettini was able to force a 4th set.

Djokovic was able to lock in on the return of serve in the 12th game of the fourth, although you could tell from his reaction after failing to convert his initial match points, AND his reaction to winning the match, just how on the edge he was late in that match. He has been able to steel himself for this meeting with Nadal, and the fact that it takes place in a semi-final and not a final probably helps Novak a little as well.

I am wary that the 1.5 unit outright on the Nadal matches hinges quite heavily on this match, so that is live in this one already. Novak kept their meeting in Rome close, taking Nadal to three sets with a blistering second set. Whilst the conditions here favour Nadal a little bit more, I am wary that a peak run from Novak during a single set is likely to impact the game handicap around -5 games.

What that may do, however, is at some point in this match lead to Nadal presenting as value on the moneyline in-play. I have set up a 1-unit BACK bet on the Betfair Exchange at $1.99 on Rafael Nadal, which I have ticked to ‘Keep at in-play’.

If Nadal hits $1.99 during the match, this will trigger a 1-unit stake on Nadal at $1.99 (paying out a little less due to commission if successful). I think this, combined with a 0.5-unit stake on the total going 37.5 games seems reasonable. Nadal is $2.90+ to win in straight, Djokovic is $9+ to win in straight, and 4 sets (with one tight set) gets over this total in my opinion, as does anything across 5 sets.

Most of all, sit back and enjoy these two fighting it out. It will be fantastic viewing.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 0.5 units total games over 37.5 (recorded at $1.90)

BACK — 1 unit Rafael Nadal to win at $1.99 (to be recorded minus commission) on Exchange – ticked to ‘keep’ at in-play (will only count against record if Nadal is matched at $1.99 in-play, win or lose).

Outright Update

Maria Sakkari was able to knock off the overwhelming favourite in Iga Swiatek, becoming the new outright favourite. With 0.2 units on Sakkari at $80, we know have the frontrunner in the final four.

It was a shame to see Paula Badosa and Elena Rybakina fall agonisingly short of making it two, or even three semi-finalists from the outright selection.

This is my plan for approaching the Sakkari situation.

I am happy to LAY Sakkari to win the tournament at $2.40 for 4 UNITS. That is, if Sakkari wins the tournament, instead of a +15.8 unit win on this selection, this would drop to 11.8 units. If any of the other 3 players win, they would return 4 units from this lay, for a profit on this isolated trade of 3.8 units. I have kept the result across the other three players consistent as they are all in unknown territory, all showed signs of tightness, and at the current odds, there isn’t a particular standout for mine, besides Sakkari being a touch under the odds.

The overall outlay for the women in the outright market was 2.05 units, with the worst way home on Krejcikova/Pavlyuchenkova/Zidansek returning 3.8 units overall. With 3 units outlayed in the men, and 1.5 units of that still alive on Nadal, I am content with this position for now.

Suggested Bet

 LAY — Sakkari Risk 5.6 units (of the 15.8 unit profit) to win 4 units


Pavlyuchenkova v Zidansek

It is the semi-final that not many expected at the start of the fortnight, with Tamara Zidansek and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova set to battle first up for a place in the Roland Garros Final.

The longer this run goes, the crazier the sliding doors moment that has occurred for Zidansek. Bianca Andreescu led 7-6 6-7 *5-4 30/15 in round 1. Zidansek is now in the semi-final, and Andreescu has parted ways with her long-time coach. Things had the potential to be incredibly different, however, like Maria Sakkari, the addition of potentially a bit more power for Zidansek has made a massive difference in her overall game.

The composure of Zidansek in the quarter-final was beyond impressive. She overcame an early break and managed to win the first set. After losing the second set from a break up, and trailing a break early in the third, she again became the more self-assured, consistent player on the court, accounting for Paula Badosa 8-6 in the third. She managed to produce 48 winners to her 39 unforced errors, and her aggression behind her forehand in the key moments was particularly impressive.

It has been a long time coming for Pavlyuchenkova, however, she has finally been able to break through for her first grand slam semi-final. The step-up in aggression was key for the Russian, who was able to get on the front foot and exploit the movement of Elena Rybakina more than other players across the fortnight.

Whilst I still felt leading in that Rybakina had the edge in that match, it has shown that Pavlyuchenkova has been able to bring her better performances of late against some of the bigger strikers of the ball. Rybakina’s forehand was leaking errors at some key times, and that ultimately proved to be the difference in the quarter-final.

Pavlyuchenkova won’t receive anywhere near as many cheap points today against Zidansek, who arguably also covers the court better than anyone the Russian has faced in recent times on clay. I will be taking Zidansek to progress to the final for 1 unit. (an alternate option could be staking this into the outright market if interested).

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Zidansek to win (recorded at $2.42)


Krejcikova vs Sakkari

The two remaining favourites in the outright market clash in the second semi-final scheduled for today, with both coming off upsets in their quarter-finals.

I have spoken a bit about Maria Sakkari in the lead-up to the tournament, and now a couple of times during the tournament. I don’t want to go back over the same ground too much, however, it was nice to see Sakkari put together another 80+% first serve points won, for the 4th time in 5 matches at Roland Garros.

She responded well to losing her first service game, and tactically the match panned out in a way that I had anticipated (which is nice for a change!). She didn’t face a breakpoint for the entirety of the second set and only lost 4 points on serve for the set. I know Swiatek took a long break after set 1, and an injury timeout two games later, however, I don’t feel like it was an issue that significantly hampered Swiatek.

Part of the reason for me laying off from my Sakkari outright is the fact that: 1) I feel like Sakkari is slightly under the odds for the outright and 2) it feels, on reflection, that I have been underrating the Czech a touch. She was superb in all the key moments in her semi-final with Gauff, and the way she responded to dropping serve at *5-1 40/0, then failing to convert match points at 5-2* by strongly holding for the match was incredibly impressive.

She is looking consistent off both wings, and has looked incredibly solid through dominant patches against Alexandrova, Svitolina, Stephens and Gauff. Whilst there aren’t significant areas that she is better than say Swiatek is generally on clay, I am wary of the Czech and the tennis she has produced, as well as the fact Sakkari is coming off one of, if not the biggest win of her career.

There is a fair bit to play out in regards to the outrights with this match, with the winner to be a heavy favourite come the final.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit total games over 21.5 (recorded at $1.90)

Sakkari v Swiatek

Here we have, in my opinion, the biggest challenge to the run of Iga Swiatek, potentially for the tournament.

Those who have followed me for a while will know that I have been high on Sakkari and her ability on clay long before 2021. Whilst it did not eventuate in the lead-up tournaments, I did feel as though her ceiling for this year was higher on the clay due to the aggressive style of play that we witnessed on the hardcourts to start the year.

The ability to cover the court and defend has always been a strength for Sakkari, however, it is the first serve and points won behind it which has been the story for her this fortnight. In three of her four wins, Sakkari has won over 80% of points on her first serve.

The only time she was unable to reach this mark was against Mertens, and even then, she still managed very serviceable numbers behind both serves. She is moving well, and based on her dominant win over Sofia Kenin, and the numbers she produced, she looks to be a tough out this week.

I was asked the other day what some of the weaknesses were in the clay game of Iga Swiatek, and I must say it did take a little bit of thinking. If I had to pick one area, it would be her decision making in particularly long points at times. Rewind 18 months and Swiatek tended to overhit fairly consistently, almost as if she did not know just how good she was, and that she did not need to go for so much so quickly in rallies.

Whilst she has made improvements to this part of her game, I do feel like she can revert at times under a lot of pressure. Sakkari is going to be the best player in terms of court coverage that Swiatek has faced for the tournament, and the rallies are likely to run a little longer. With these extended rallies comes the potential for errors to leak.

She is looking solid though, so it will be interesting to see how this match shapes up, after Kostyuk gave her more of a challenge than the final result suggests.

As mentioned yesterday, I will not be adding any further staking to Sakkari on the outright in this match. I will be making a 1-unit stake on Sakkari at the +4.5 game handicap for just over $2.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Sakkari +4.5 games vs Swiatek (recorded at $2.08)


Schwartzman v Nadal

If Diego could not take a set off Rafa in far more favourable conditions last week, then I struggle to see him making an impression this year, especially with this match scheduled for the day.

Another round, another player unable to serve out a set against Nadal. This time it was Jannik Sinner, who was ultra-competitive early, before severely fading away late in the match. Nadal took a stranglehold on the match late in set one and finished the match off with a bagel in the third. Whilst he has struggled at times across the course of matches, he is still yet to drop a set.

Schwartzman came awfully close to dropping a set in round 4, after trailing 1-5* and 40/15 in the first set against Struff. He found a way out of that set via a long tiebreak, broke for 6-4 in the second set, raced out to a double break lead, gave it back, then broke to win the third set 7-5. He is playing the best tennis of the year to date; however, this is a significant step up in class compared to the likes of Lu, Bagnis, Kohlschreiber and Struff.

Whilst Schwartzman will be able to find his way into more Nadal service games than most players, I have too many concerns around his ability to hold serve himself. He was regularly troubled on serve by Struff in similar conditions, meaning it is a little difficult to envisage Nadal not finding a way to pressure consistently.

The key to the players who have challenged Nadal for periods, or beaten Nadal this year on clay, has been using power to blast their way through Nadal during down periods for the Spaniard. Schwartzman just does not have enough weaponry in my opinion to be able to threaten. I will take Nadal at the -9.5 game handicap for 1 unit.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Nadal -9.5 games vs Schwartzman (recorded at $2.16)

Let us start the day by looking at how the outright markets are taking shape. I will comment on each player i staked before the tournament:

ATP

Rafael Nadal (1.5 units at $2) – whilst he has struggled at times in set, he is still yet to drop a set. If players cannot serve out a set against Nadal, it is difficult to picture anyone taking three sets off him on current form.

Matteo Berrettini (0.3 units at $100) – unfortunately, this last week, most of the key upsets that have occurred have taken place in the quarter of Rafael Nadal. I will wait to see when the match with Djokovic is scheduled before deciding on how much to trade out.

Casper Ruud (0.5 units at $60) – OUT

Cristian Garin (0.2 units at $220) – OUT

Plan: Continue on Nadal (unlikely to lay off), to be confirmed tomorrow for Berrettini.

WTA

Paula Badosa (0.25 units at $24) – Still alive, and a heavy favourite coming into the quarter-final match with Zidansek. Will continue on with this outright spot, although I feel the biggest threat to her chances of making the final is Elena Rybakina.

Maria Sakkari (0.2 units at $80) – Playing some brilliant tennis and is a genuine threat of knocking off Swiatek in the quarter-final in my opinion. Instead of making a play on Sakkari in that match at the current odds, I am considering playing this one through another round.

Elena Rybakina (0.2 units at $80) – Another favourite in her quarter-final. Was simply brilliant in her match with Serena in the 4th round. Her best tennis makes the final, however, Pavlyuchenkova does have the experience edge in this quarter-final.

Fiona Ferro (0.15 units at $400) – OUT

Nadia Podoroska (0.15 units at $160) – OUT

Petra Martic (0.15 units at $240) – OUT

Ash Barty (0.5 units) – OUT

Petra Kvitova (0.5 units) – OUT

Plan: Continue on Rybakina and Badosa (and hope to have a tough decision in a semi-final between them), continue with Sakkari outright staking instead of selection on her to win the match tomorrow.


Rybakina v Pavlyuchenkova

We are in the tricky spot of having an outright in play on Rybakina today, however, at the same time, she presents as value in the head to head match-up as well.

There were a couple of key parts to the win over Serena Williams that impressed me greatly from Rybakina. The first was her composure from start to finish. Whilst she may have had a tight point or two (served double fault to give up the break advantage in the first set and broken at *4-3 in the second set), it was incredibly pleasing to see her response to both of those moments.

She broke back instantly in the first set, and when down 4-5* in the second set, she put together a solid service game and then broke Serena to love. It was not the winners she hit that were impressive, it was the margin of error that she gave herself whilst still hitting those winners. Too many players come up against Williams and feel it is a condition of winning that you must paint lines with incredible shots from start to finish. Rybakina showed that on clay that just is not necessary.

Her forehand up the line is in terrific shape now and given her ability to hit crosscourt and use angle, she can really capitalise on plays favouring the crosscourt rally ball by attacking up the line when the time is right. In the day conditions with the courts a little livelier, this is a little easier to manufacture for Rybakina. She is also serving quite well, a key component of her game. She has been able to build on her form match by match, and do not see a reason at the price to oppose her today.

Is today 7th time lucky for Pavlyuchenkova? The Russian has reached the quarter-finals of a grand slam six times previously and is 0-6 at this stage to date. I have both backed and opposed her at times this tournament, however, it is fantastic to see a player that is often treated harshly for underperforming as being able to deliver an impressive result here in Paris.

Whilst other match-ups have favoured her at times this week (i.e. against big strikers who can mentally struggle in patches), I do feel as though this match-up against Rybakina does not quite fit the bill. The biggest weakness on the court is the Pavlyuchenkova second serve, and I do feel like exploiting this is going to be the difference in this match.

Pavlyuchenkova was able to shield her weakness against Azarenka by placing a high first serve percentage in play, especially late when Azarenka was tested physically off not a lot of tennis this year. I like Rybakina here to win and cover the -2.5 game handicap. If Pavs can protect the biggest weaknesses on court today, then she deserves to win. I am happy to bet against it though.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 2.5 units Rybakina -2.5 games vs Pavlyuchenkova (recorded at $1.90)


Tsitsipas v Medvedev

A match I did not anticipate occurring now becomes arguably the most interesting match of Day 10 at Roland Garros.

When I originally saw the odds for this match, I felt the Russian was well and truly over the odds. These two have a special and unique history, the last match of which was the Australian Open semi-final in Melbourne this year. If you go and search the web for what happened in their early matches verbally, it will become clear that this is one of the bigger rivalries on the court that does not involve any of the big three

Tsitsipas has been solid, whilst largely untested this week. Whilst he has had some tight moments, at no stage has there been a scoreline that has suggested that he is in a world of trouble. It was a very calculated and efficient dispatching of Carreno Busta in round 4, even if he had to overcome a 1-4 deficit in the fourth set. His serve is looking solid, and he has handled the occasion well. Nobody had any great concerns regarding his ability to handle the pressure of week one. The pressure builds right now.

For all the form coming in, the mental match-up here is one in which Medvedev has the edge. He dominates the head-to-head between the two players and was able to handle the pressure and occasion that came with being a big favourite in their semi-final earlier this year. For all the positives that come with the game of Tsitsipas, he can struggle to mentally let go of some of the demons that have plagued him in particular matchups in years gone by.

An example of this is the struggles mentally with closing out Rafael Nadal. In his recent win at the Australian Open, he only started playing what resembled his best tennis when he was down 2 sets to 0 and the pressure was off. I fear he may find some struggles here on court as well against another opponent that has caused him grief, especially with the Tsitsipas break numbers against bigger serves being on the poor side when you compare it to the rest of his game.

My one concern for Medvedev is the schedule of this as the night match. No crowd to feed off and a less lively court are a little concerning, however, he is so far into the tournament now with confidence high, I do not see it as a reason to completely avoid making a play. My approach is a little different though.

Instead of playing a 1 unit staking on the money line, I am going to stake 0.5 units on the money line, and 0.5 units on Medvedev to win the tournament outright. I do not think Zverev or ADF is the worst semi-final match-up for the Russian, so odds north of $24 seems reasonable for a split stake here.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 0.5 units Medvedev to defeat Tsitsipas (recorded at $2.88)

BACK — 0.5 units Medvedev to win the tournament outright (recorded at $24)

There are less options on offer today, with Roger Federer withdrawing from his match with Matteo Berrettini. That is a great result for the trading selection on the Italian, who will be fresh coming into his match with (most likely) Novak Djokovic, a good result for the trading selection. Nadal continues to look strong in the market, whilst Cristian Garin and Casper Ruud have fallen short of their trading targets.

Whilst Barty and Kvitova are gone from the WTA market, Badosa, Rybakina and Sakkari remain. Let’s hope for a solid clay court performance from Sakkari tonight to give some more options in the coming days. It is worth noting in the bottom half, both Rybakina and Badosa are both favourites for their respective quarter finals. Fingers crossed!

Stephens v Krejcikova

Since being on the ropes against Carla Suarez Navarro, we have witnessed an entirely different Sloane Stephens. Can she pull off another upset today against Barbora Krejcikova?

Whilst I give her a great chance of doing just that, I am going to take a different approach and take the plus game handicap on the American. After a torrid time off court personally and physically over the course of the last 12 months, we are starting to see glimpses of the form that has not only seen Stephens win a grand slam, but also reach the final here at Roland Garros in the past. She has handled both the pace of Pliskova and the variety of Muchova well and looks to be enjoying the more livelier clay conditions on offer in Paris this week.

Krejcikova was able to win many of the tight moments against Svitolina, including a marathon eighth game, allowing her to gain a 5-3 lead. Both players struggled behind their second serves, with Krejcikova able to mask her issues with a first-serve percentage of 68%. She is a deserving favourite in this instance, however, the game handicap of 3.5 games looks too high for my liking.

Sloane’s game on clay is largely built around her ability to cover the court and winning 56% of return points against Pliskova and 47% against Muchova. She has upped her first serve percentage by increasing her margin for error, and it looks to be paying off. With another match-up with a reasonable amount of pace, I am happy to back Stephens at the +3.5 game handicap for 1.5 units.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Stephens +3.5 games vs Krejcikova (recorded at $1.90)


Nadal v Sinner

Whilst I am not overly intrigued in the money line price for Jannik Sinner, I do have the game handicap being one game too high here for Rafael Nadal, in what will be the sternest test for the Spaniard for the tournament.

It has been so long since we have seen Nadal genuinely challenged at Roland Garros that we have almost forgotten what it looks like. With that being said, Nadal has not been as clinical in some instances as we are perhaps used to from previous years.

We saw Sinner give Nadal as much of a scare as anyone last year by finding himself serving for the first set. Sinner covered 8.5 games that day in conditions that probably were not as suited to him, and given his relative progression, and play since overcoming whatever ailed him in round 1, I would foresee a slightly improved result from the Italian today.

Nadal won 8 more games last year, whilst converting an impressive 6/8 break point chances. In Rome, the tournament where Nadal arguably looked his best in the lead-up, he beat Sinner 7-5 6-4. A case could be made looking at the stats that Nadal was ‘wasteful’ by only converting 5/15 break points for the match. Deeper analysis suggests Nadal was able to convert exceptionally, breaking in 5 of the 6 Sinner services games where he earned opportunities.

It does feel as though Sinner is edging closer to Nadal, breaking to take a scoreboard lead three times in that Rome match. Whilst he is edging closer, I do not see him as being close enough to consider for the money line. The 8.5-game head start though is worthy of a 1 unit selection.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Sinner +8.5 games vs Nadal (recorded at $1.83)

Azarenka vs Pavlyuchenkova

Whilst I was able to get the chocolates with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beating Aryna Sabalenka in the last round, I do not see the Russian as being able to pull off another upset today against Victoria Azarenka.

Pavlyuchenkova put together a very impressive match against one of the tournament favourites. It was a consistent performance, albeit with Sabalenka the player dictating most rallies. Sabalenka ended the match with 41 winners and 39 unforced errors and was all at sea to start the third set after Pavlyuchenkova took a medical timeout. Whilst the win, and the way Pavlyuchenkova overcame a 0-3 first set deficit and took the final set 6-0, was impressive, the match for mine was more about the disappointment of Sabalenka more than the positives of Pavlyuchenkova, as has been the case in other rounds.

The winners to unforced errors ratios for each of Pavlyuchenkova’s opponents has been disappointing reading, notably McHale and Tomljanovic. Will she enjoy as many unforced errors as possible from the other end of the court today?

I do not see that occurring with Victoria Azarenka. Whilst her lead-up form was severely impacted by injury struggles (as has most of her 2021), she has looked super this week. There was a little lapse in set 2 of the first round against Kuznetsova (who converted 7/9 break point chances for the match!), however wins over the Russian, Tauson and Keys is one of the tougher stretches faced by a seed on the way to the 4th round. She looks to be covering the court well, and tactically continues to play some very high IQ tennis.

With the conditions a little better today, I think Azarenka looks a great shot at the game handicap today. The all-court game of Azarenka is a different look for Pavlyuchenkova, and the Russian will miss the pace on the ball that was produced by Sabalenka. If Azarenka can continue to play intelligent tennis and limit her errors, I like her to cover the -3.5 games.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 2 units Azarenka -3.5 games vs Pavlyuchenkova (recorded at $1.91)


Rybakina vs Williams

This is going to be a hard-hitting affair on Day 8, with Serena Williams and Elena Rybakina set to do battle on centre court.

Let us start by looking at the run of Serena through to the fourth round. The results on paper look a little more comfortable than the matches on-court. Begu served for the first set in round 1 and faltered under the pressure (and the player across the net), with Williams winning 7-6(6) 6-2. Serena won 58% of points behind her first serve, 50% on her second serve, and won 64% of points returning the second serve of Begu. Opportunities were wasted by Williams in set two, however she did end up dropping a set to Mihaela Buzarnescu.

In round 3, she started strongly against Danielle Collins, took the first set 6-4, and overcame a 1-4 deficit in set 2 to progress in straight sets. Collins showed the vulnerability in the second serve of Williams on clay, with Serena winning only 37% of point behind it. I do not think the movement of Serena is quite there now, and the right thigh strapping for Williams a little cause for concern.

Confidence can come and go quickly in this game, and a perfect example of this is Rybakina. Whilst the opposition has not been of the highest quality, she has done a fantastic job in getting to the fourth round without expending a lot of energy. She thrives off the pace on the court, and to get to this point by dropping only 14 games is a credit to her. She has taken advantage of Kvitova’s withdrawal and has now taken her path in the draw. Given I like her against pace, and pace is what she is going to get from Serena at the other end of the court, I find her price incredibly appealing today.

Through three matches, Rybakina has 76 winners and 48 unforced errors. She is seeing the ball well, and as a player that can regain confidence quickly, and can re-direct the ball up the lines and challenge the movement of Williams consistently, she is a massive threat to the American. I will be backing Rybakina to win for 2 units.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 2 units Rybakina to defeat Williams (recorded at $3)

Sinner v M Ymer

This has all the makings of a fascinating match on day 7, with Jannik Sinner and Mikael Ymer to face off for the likely spot of facing Rafael Nadal in the 4th round at Roland Garros.

Let us start with Sinner. If Sinner were not feeling well in years gone by, like he was in the first round against Herbert, he would have likely been out of most tournaments in his career. This instance, however, we saw some real progression from the Italian.

He continues to rise through the rankings and is now starting to put together some solid performances at grand slam level more consistently. His ability to fight and grind his way to victory after finding himself in several precarious situations is a testament to this.

He was then able to back things up with a more solid performance in round 2, beating the capable Gianluca Mager 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-3. He did a much better job of looking after his serve, allowing only 4 opportunities across the course of the four sets (broken twice).

Ymer has been a little fortunate in terms of his draw through the first two rounds, mainly from an opposition fitness standpoint. He was 2 sets to 1 down in his match against Carballes Baena, before taking the final sets 6-2 6-2. It is worth noting that the fitness of RCB has been up and down across the course of the clay season, and he did take a medical timeout in his match with Ymer.

Second up for the Swede was Gael Monfils, who looked well below 100% physically, picked his moments to try, and nearly forced a fifth set.

There are two significant areas for concern in this match for Ymer, and I think Sinner has the game to be able to exploit both. Ymer’s forehand can go off the boil for extended periods of matches and hitting forehand to forehand with heavy topspin is a way that Sinner is going to be able to grind down Ymer.

The second is the serve of Ymer, which will allow Sinner to get several balls back into play and give him a chance to turn defence into offence. Ymer’s top first serve speed was 199kmh, and his average first serve speed sat at 168kmh, 19km/h slower than Sinner. This ability for Sinner to find a way into the return games consistently is important when looking at larger game handicaps.

This looks to be a nice spot to attack Sinner at the game handicap. He needs to be on from the outset to allow himself to be fresh for (most likely) Nadal, and with his improved form in round 2, I look to him to build here in round 3.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 3 units Sinner -7.5 games vs Ymer (recorded at $1.80)


Struff v Alcaraz

A bit of a slightly left-of-centre play here, however, I do think there is a particular market where Jan-Lennard Struff pops up as value today.

Whilst Carlos Alcaraz is putting together a solid week of tennis, and two very nice wins to kick off the tournament, he is going to find himself up against a very different style of opponent. One of the appeals of Alcaraz in terms of his talent and potential moving forward is his ability to figure out matchups and adjust his game accordingly during the match. This match-up has some added complexity, and it may take a set for Alcaraz to find his footing.

Struff looks to have made an adjustment on his return games this week, and part of that adjustment is to up the aggression. Time and time again in his match with Rublev, Struff made a point of attacking the 2nd serve returns ultra-aggressively, leaving Rublev on the back foot regularly. It is a risky method and will not always work (and can lead to an increase in errors), however, Struff’s ability to rush Alcaraz, who does not have the biggest serve on tour, will be important.

Another key here early, and part of the plan to rush Alcaraz, is Struff’s ability to get to the net. It will take some getting used to for Alcaraz. His opponents through rounds 1 and 2 came to the net 26 times between them (Basilashvili had 6, Miralles had 20), whereas Struff has utilized the tactic 93 times through the early rounds.

Combine some of the factors above, and the experience edge to Struff, and I like the German to take the first set today.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Struff to win the first set vs Alcaraz (recorded at $2.44)


Brady v Gauff

Taking a slightly less aggressive approach in this match, although I do think Jennifer Brady is capable of an upset of Coco Gauff on day 7 at Roland Garros.

You may recall there was a certain area in the game of Coco on clay that I still find her vulnerable, and that is her movement out to the forehand wing, especially with opponents capable of hitting with heavy topspin. Gauff finds such a player on the other side of the court today in Brady.

Whilst Brady is not the strongest on clay, she still utilizes a quality first serve, hits with heavy topspin and is not afraid to step around and play off-forehands to open the court for her. She overcame the incredibly talented Fiona Ferro 7-5 in the third, which will give the American a lot of confidence in her overall game.

Gauff has looked solid without looking exceptional through the early rounds. She is producing the highest first serve speeds of the tournament for the WTA, however still finds herself very vulnerable on the second ball.

Against a player with the style of Brady, capable of attacking the weak spots in her game, I cannot trust Coco at the -3.5-game handicap. I will be taking Brady with the games and give her a fantastic chance of causing the upset today.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Brady +3.5 games vs Gauff (recorded at $1.88)

Just a quick update to the women’s futures market position. It has been unfortunate that Ash Barty picked up a new injury this week, and Petra Kvitova managed to injure herself during her press conference after her round 1 win.

I still don’t have a strong desire to support anyone in the top half, given the price on Iga Swiatek looks fair given her draw. Her opponents in the next couple of rounds are capable players, however, they will need a bit to go right to knock of Swiatek. One player in the top quarter that looks decent at around the $30 mark is Elina Svitolina, however, there is a name in the bottom half that has caught my attention at $80.

That player is Elena Rybakina. She hasn’t been close to her best since the tour resumed last year, however, I think she has the ability to capitalise on the misfortune of Kvitova.

I prefer to support her when she is opposed to bigger strikers of the ball, and if she can bring a level close to her best in favourable match-ups, she can match up decently with anyone in the bottom half. This looks a decent price given the current draw situation.

Just a small add here.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 0.2 units Rybakina to win outright (recorded at $80)

Zidansek v Siniakova

The big danger with taking a big scalp at grand slam level is the letdown that comes the match after against a lesser opponent. After coming through that match against Madison Brengle in round 2, I am happy to support Tamara Zidansek today.

Zidansek was able to knock off world number 7 Bianca Andreescu in the first round. Whilst the odds may not have suggested it was a huge upset, she did what many others have struggled to do with Andreescu across the net, and that is go toe-to-toe in the clutch moments late in a 3rd set.

For all the injury issues faced by Andreescu over the years, her mental game when things tighten up in the big moments has been impressive over the last few years. Zidansek was able to break Andreescu as she served for the match, hold her nerve serving first, and end up taking the match 6-7 7-6 9-7. She backed that up with a solid 6-4 6-1 win over Brengle off the back of 28 winners and 24 unforced errors.

Katerina Siniakova also performed an escape of her own this tournament, coming from 1-5 down in the third set to defeat Veronika Kudermetova. It was a big moment for the Czech, who has struggled at times in key moments in big matches, however Kudermetova ended the match with a 67(!) unforced errors, with over half of the points for Siniakova for the match coming from errors that were not forced on Kudermetova.

Whilst it is a great win, against a player capable of hitting her spots and limiting errors for periods in Zidansek, I have Siniakova slated as longer odds today. It should also be noted she took three sets to defeat Bouzkova in round 1, who still seems to be hampered by a wrist injury suffered earlier this year.

Did winning the last 6 games against Kudermetova mask some of the concerns some have for the form of Siniakova? I think that may be the case.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Zidansek to defeat Siniakova (recorded at $1.82)


Ruud v Davidovich Fokina

The good form of Casper Ruud continued in round 2 with a win over Majchrzak in straight sets. Can he keep up the good form against Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina?

I think this is a great spot for Casper. The conditions in France this year are far and away more favourable for him compared to what we saw in 2020. Ruud hits with a heavy rate of topspin, and with the ball sitting up a little more it allows him to play with a lot more margin off both wings.

After a small lapse against Benoit Paire and the vocal crowd, we have not seen Ruud do too much wrong since. Majchrzak can be a tricky customer, capable of redlining and producing an upset (one along the lines of Laaksonen defeating Bautista Agut), and Ruud handled him well, with 39 winners and 28 unforced errors across the course of the 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory. The form coming in has been solid, as I mentioned in the outright preview, and his only loss recently came to Berrettini when Ruud was not at 100%.

At this stage in their careers, it is also a little difficult to find too many areas in the game of Davidovich Fokina that suggest he is better than Ruud. He is not able to play with as much margin, he continues to be streaky at times and does not hit his spots on serve as consistently as Ruud. Ruud also has the fitness edge, with ADF blowing a 2 sets to love and 3-1 lead in the third set to Van De Zandschulp in the second round, before recovering to take the match in 5 sets.

I like the game handicap sitting at -5.5 games here for Ruud. ADF has shown that you will find yourself with regular opportunities to break his serve, and it all comes down to conversion. This is a huge step up in opposition quality for ADF, and coming off 5 sets, I think he is going to struggle here against Casper.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 3 units Ruud -5.5 games vs ADF (recorded at $1.80)


Fognini v Delbonis

Whilst I was quite positive regarding Federico Delbonis’ chances in the previous round in defeating Pablo Andujar, the job has become far more difficult in round 3 with Fabio Fognini on the other side of the net.

Whilst Fabio is one of the harder guys to trust on tour, like a few others, you can get a better sense of his level with their motivation at the grand slam level. With little fanfare, Fognini has made his way through the first two rounds, defeating Barrere 6-4 6-1 6-4, and Fucsovics 7-6 6-1 6-2. In both matches, he has put together blistering patches of form to put away his opponent. His defensive ability on the clay is right up there with some of the best and will need to be today against Delbonis.

Delbonis came from 2 sets to 1 down to defeat a tiring Andujar in the previous round and is now in the position to need to back up that performance today. Delbonis found an incredibly high percentage of first serves (73%), which was needed as he was only able to win 38% behind his second serve. On the current level, there are not too many things that Andujar is doing better than Fognini, and that for me spells trouble for Federico on the back-up.

I like Fabio to come through here against Delbonis. The Italian is too dynamic for Federico and should be able to provide semi-regular pressure on the return of serve. I am wary of a potential Fognini lapse though, so will be keeping this selection to 2 units.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 2 units Fognini -3.5 games vs Delbonis (recorded at $1.88)

Kenin v Baptiste

Did we see Sofia Kenin turn the corner in her round 1 win over Jelena Ostapenko? I think we may have.

Now I am not saying that a win over Ostapenko is the catalyst for Kenin to march her way back to the Roland Garros Final again this year, however, it is certainly a step in the right direction. It is arguably the best Kenin has looked in 2021: a year that has thrown her a lot of adversity.

Kenin struggled early in the year, attending the first tournaments more as a means of finding a way to get out of the US and return to the tour in COVID uncertainty. From there, quarantine was not kind to her, and neither was Melbourne. After a loss to Olivia Gadecki in Melbourne, it was found that Kenin was suffering from appendicitis, requiring surgery.

Fast forward a few months and there has been a mix of average form and a change of coaching, with her dad no longer in charge. It can take a little while to adjust to a new coaching dynamic, however, I was incredibly impressed with her performance in round 1.

Hailey Baptiste was also impressive in round 1, after making quite an escape during her final round qualifying match against Julia Grabher. She backed it up with a dominant win over an out of sorts Anna Blinkova in round 1. Blinkova put together a performance of 14 winners and 26 unforced errors in the drubbing, with Baptiste too consistent for the Russian in a one-sided result.

This is a significant step up in opposition today, however, and my eyes are drawn to the price on offer for Kenin to win this match in straight sets around the $2 mark. Not a large play, however with the consistency and experience edge, I am happy to back Kenin for a unit.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Kenin 2-0 set betting vs Baptiste (recorded at $1.96)


Kostyuk v S Zheng

Two players who were able to pull off two of the bigger upsets in round one meet for a chance to move through to the third round of Roland Garros.

There were question marks around the fitness of Garbine Muguruza in the lead-up to the tournament, and she looked a shell of her best self in her straight-set loss to Kostyuk. Outside of a service break early in the second set to Muguruza, Kostyuk was in control of the entire match, keeping the ball in play, leading to Muguruza throwing up 40 unforced errors (over half of the total points won by Kostyuk).

The Ukrainian has looked to have taken the next step this year, and outside of being overpowered by Alexandrova last week, and losing to two solid clay courters in Sevastova and Cirstea in the lead-up, her form is solid. They are not losses that concern me, as there will be some elements of inconsistency in her game still at 18 years of age. She has all the shots, and she now has the fitness-based and endurance to be able to have the patience in the rally to be able to find better times to pull the trigger than we have seen in previous years.

Saisai Zheng was also able to pull off an upset in round 1, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo 4-6 6-4 6-4. It was an intriguing match-up of styles, and the match itself ultimately delivered. Zheng was able to 47(!) winners courtesy of having more time on the ball to make decisions against SST. Today in the livelier conditions that we are seeing this year, I do worry it does not play into her hands anywhere near as much as Kostyuk.

This match is on the racquet of Kostyuk. The conditions when heavier late last year in Paris were not as suited to Kostyuk’s liking as much as I thought, as shown by her loss to Hibino in round one. With the ball sitting up a little more in the June conditions, and Zheng’s body of work across the entirety of the clay season (including some bagel and breadstick score lines), I like Kostyuk at the game handicap for a unit.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Kostyuk -5.5 games vs Zheng (recorded at $2.14)


Martincova v Pegula

A low-looking total here to start the day, with Jessica Pegula a very short price today in round 2 against Tereza Martincova.

Pegula was absolutely on the brink in round 1, saving break points at 4-4 in what was a confusing deciding set against Lin Zhu, which involved 18 breakpoint opportunities, 5 service breaks, and a lot of chaos. Pegula managed to find a way to overcome the 49 unforced errors produced, however winning 60% only behind her first serve in favourable conditions against Zhu is a little concerning.

When you cast an eye back over her clay form leading in, it is not as strong as perhaps initially thought at the time. Wins over Alexandrova (who was well off her game that day), Kasatkina (form slump at the time), Osaka (it was on clay), Azarenka (via walkover), and Cirstea (who reported she injured herself during the match), losses to Sabalenka, Martic and Rus, and now a nail biter with Zhu as one of the heaviest favourites of the day makes it a little tricky to trust her at the short prices again today.

Whilst Martincova has not been able to match the clay efforts that saw her reach the Istanbul semi-final on clay late last year, she has certainly been competitive in her matches this year. She can be a little on the streaky side, which leads to more appeal in backing her in at the longer odds prices as we have on offer today. What I like about her in this match-up is the fact she has a decent first serve and is not afraid to attack the second serve of her opponents and force the issue (won 73% of second-serve return points against Jorovic in round 1). Were it not for some poor BP conversion, that match appeared closer on the scoreboard than the result suggests.

This is not the worst match-up for Martincova, who does in my opinion prefer a bit more pace on the ball. I am happy to take a 1-unit stake on the total going over 19.5, and a 0.5-unit stake on Martincova to win.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1-unit total games over 19.5 (recorded at $1.88)

BACK — 0.5 units Martincova to defeat Pegula (recorded at $4.20)


De Minaur v Cecchinato

Short and sharp one to wrap things up here for Day 5. Whilst De Minaur has the movement and defensive ability to remain competitive against erratic players on the clay. Against a player with the skill and craft on the surface in Marco Cecchinato, my concern is the lack of weapons for the Australian in what should be a fascinating match.

Whilst De Minaur was able to get through Travaglia in straight sets, the 62 unforced errors were certainly helpful. Travaglia fell apart in most key moments, with De Minaur saving 14 of 16 breakpoints across the entirety of the match. The bigger worry for me is the 23 winners across the three sets for De Minaur. With Cecchinato a smarter, more agile opponent, I worry that De Minaur will not be able to penetrate the defence of the Italian consistently enough to win today.

Cecchinato has beaten De Minaur twice on clay in recent years, including once at Roland Garros. De Minaur has not taken any steps forward in his game this year, and I do not see the justification for him being shorter in the betting for this match-up.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Cecchinato to defeat De Minaur (recorded at $1.78)


Basilashvili v Carlos Alcaraz

Whilst Carlos Alcaraz is certainly the star of the future on the tour, this looks to be a genuine test for him in the conditions in Paris over the best of 5 format.

One of the hardest things to handicap with Nikolaz Basilashvili is his motivation. Since the tour resumed (and it needs to be acknowledged he is also facing some major allegations off court), Basilashvili was one of the major disappointments on court from the tour resumption last year. From nowhere, he won the Qatar Open in March, and the tournament in Munich in May on clay. He runs incredibly hot and cold, and coming into a grand slam we can assume that we will see high motivation levels from him today.

His game style is what appeals here against Alcaraz, who has great form coming into Paris. If you look at the run between the Oeiras Challenger and through his 4 matches to date in Paris, he has not come up against too many powerful players that are capable on clay. The biggest strikers he has probably faced are Lacko (who has no form on clay), and Nakashima (who led a set and a break before flailing late).

Because Alcaraz is still maturing, I do feel as though he is still susceptible to being overpowered at times on the clay (especially with the conditions a little livelier here), especially over the longer format. For young players, consistency and maintenance of level generally takes the longest to eventuate at the grand slam level, and against a player with decent form and a stack of grand slam experience, it is hard to justify the short price for Alcaraz.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 2 units Basilashvili to defeat Alcaraz (recorded at $2.60)

Delbonis vs Andujar

This looks to be a major letdown spot for Pablo Andujar, coming off one of the biggest victories of his career in round 1 over Dominic Thiem.

Whilst the win itself was incredibly impressive, it was the way in which he won, coming from 2 sets to 0 down, that was most impressive. His stats were not anything special, however, he was able to extend the match out and gradually exert pressure on Thiem, who has not looked anywhere near the level we saw at the US Open in 2020.

Whilst the win was impressive, are we considering the recent form of Thiem, or the surname Thiem? I thought Thiem would still be too strong, however, I am worried at the backup factor now for Andujar, even with the extra day.

Andujar dominates the head-to-head, however, Delbonis won their most recent meeting in 2020. Andujar is now 35, and with that comes a lack of consistency in his game. Delbonis has really built his form through the course of the last couple of weeks, and he is currently producing his best tennis since the tour resumed late last year.

Delbonis is serving big and playing big, and this match is on his racquet for more points than not. With the -3.5-game handicap sitting just under $2, this looks more than reasonable for a 1-unit selection.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Delbonis -3.5 games vs Andujar (recorded at $1.98)


Williams vs Buzarnescu

A bit of a speculative pick here, however like some of the other longer odds selections recently, we have another erratic player capable of playing big and being rewarded.

Whilst I did not want to get too involved in Serena matches on the clay this year, Buzarnescu is the type of player that is going to be quite difficult for Williams. If there is a key area above all else where Williams can be exploited on the clay, it is her movement. Buzarnescu has an incredibly high weight of shot for her size and is not afraid to try and attack and hit with depth.

Buzarnescu has not quite been the same since she rolled her ankle badly in the lead up to the US Open a couple of years ago, but flashes of brilliance remain in her game. She is using her protected ranking this week, and got off to a fantastic start, winning 7-5 7-5 over Rus as a $3.40 underdog.

Serena was lucky to escape from round 1, with Begu serving for the first set at *6-5 before struggling to handle the occasion (a funny thing to say in an empty arena). Serena was only able to win 59% behind her first serve and 50% behind her second serve and did look vulnerable due to rust in her game on the clay.

I just cannot let her go around at the short price today against a larger striker of the ball, knowing that 1) this is a tune-up for Wimbledon in a way for Serena and 2) her movement on the surface leaves a lot to be desired.

A 1.5-unit selection here, as I do feel Buzarnescu is well over the odds on potential when analyzing this match-up. This will be a bigger test for Serena than most think.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Buzarnescu to defeat Williams (recorded at $6.40)


Tsitsipas vs Martinez

What a fascinating second-round match we have here, and one that is an ever-so-slight danger game for one of the tournament favourites in Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The biggest win for Martinez was the ease in which he was able to make his way through the first round. He started as a favourite against Korda in Roland Garros last year and was beaten comprehensively, however, the Spaniard was able to flip the script this year with a dominant win.

I would not read too much into the win, as Korda looked to be physically struggling on the back-up from his title a couple of days earlier. Coming in here fresh though is a massive advantage, and one that will go a long way to assisting him in taking this game total over the suggested mark.

Tsitsipas was solid without being exceptional in the first round against Jeremy Chardy. He won in three sets, however did have to save a set point in the first set and overcome a decent deficit in the first set tiebreak. Against a capable all-court player in more livelier conditions than we saw here last year, I do feel as though Martinez is capable of matching it with Tsitsipas for periods.

The game total is set at 28.5. I am bullish on the chances of Martinez snatching a set in this one, or at the very least forcing a tiebreak or 7-5 situation to go a long way to assisting this total going over.

Tsitsipas’ mind can still go wandering at times over the longer format, and it doesn’t take much of a lapse to send this total over. Martinez is a better player than these spreads and totals suggest, and I am happy to back in the total going over 28.5 for 1.5 units.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units total games over 28.5 (recorded at $1.83)

De Minaur v Travaglia

With the conditions not as heavy as we saw in Paris in 2020, I have actually found myself leaning towards backing De Minaur at the minus game handicap on clay.

Whilst I am a big fan of Stefano Travaglia, I do prefer him over the best of 3 set format. It has been an underwhelming clay season for the Italian, who has struggled in his losses (including a retirement) to Andujar, Shapovalov, Cecchinato and Paul, whilst only defeating a lowly Benoit Paire in the same time period. Against a player like De Minaur, I just cannot back in the Italian with confidence that he is able to consistently hit through one of the best exponents of court coverage on tour across a best of 5 set format.

De Minaur has been competitive against some pretty decent opponents through the clay season and should enjoy the pace on the ball from Travaglia today. I will have the Australian at the -2.5-game handicap for 2 units. Look for the Aussie to continue the disappointing clay season for Travaglia.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 2 units De Minaur -2.5 games vs Travaglia (recorded at $1.82)


Sevastova v Brady

Clay experience and form will rise to the top here, as Sevastova looks to knock off Jennifer Brady in the first round.

Take away the somewhat better performances from Brady in the altitude in Madrid a couple of weeks ago and the clay form becomes slim pickings quite quickly. It isn’t a happy hunting ground for Brady, who hasn’t seen her form on the red surface improve with her form on hardcourt of the last few years. She can play a heavy ball, however lacks to nuance required to cover the court well and use the clay to her advantage in my opinion, making the coin flip odds on her not overly tempting.

Sevastova really struggled in the back end of 2020 when the tour resumed, however, looks to have started to regain her form in the front end of 2021 now that she is injury-free. The hardcourt form is up on what we saw last week, and I anticipate that to translate to her preferred surface on clay. At a touch over $2, I am happy to back her in here for 1 unit.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1-unit Sevastova to defeat Brady (recorded at $2.02)


Struff v Rublev

Jan-Lennard Struff is out to some pretty enticing long odds; however, it is another market that has caught my eye a little more as the German does battle with Andrey Rublev in round 1 today.

I think their recent meeting will give a bit of an indicator of why I am leaning toward the total games going over 31.5 for today. I have Struff as a live underdog for today (albeit still unlikely to win), however, the German does have the game that can frustrate Rublev to an extent.

Part of the appeal of backing in Struff to hold his own today is that he has been able to consistently take sets off Rublev, the conditions today aren’t the worst for him, and he as the ability to come into the net and force the issue if needed against Rublev. I don’t have Rublev in that top tier of players when it comes to decision making when rushed, and it may lead to periods in this match where the Russian is a little frustrated.

I have Struff slated as a $6 shot, so I will place a 0.5-unit selection on the ML on top of a unit on the total going over 31.5.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1-unit total games over 31.5 (recorded at $1.84)

BACK — 0.5 units Struff to defeat Rublev (recorded at $8.80)


Kohlschreiber v Verdasco

I never thought I would see the day that I would be getting involved in a match between Fernando Verdasco and Phillip Kohlschreiber at a grand slam in 2021, but here we are…

Why am I getting involved? The big question marks that surround the fitness of Fernando Verdasco. You may look at his recent form and see there is a one-sided loss to Molcan last week in Belgrade. What happened? It was reported post-match that he had been dealing with an elbow issue for a couple of days, however, was of the belief that it wasn’t too serious.

He was then advised just before the match that it could be a cartilage or nerve issue which he couldn’t mentally block out on the court. There hasn’t been any further word since, however with Verdasco still rusty on his return to the tour from injury, this elbow issue is the last thing he needs.

Kohlschreiber has got some miles in the legs at Challenger level over the last couple of weeks and has shown enough for me to consider a small play on the -3.5-game handicap for the German.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1-unit Kohlschreiber -3.5 games vs Verdasco (recorded at $1.96)

Marterer v Krajinovic

I have oscillated between taking Marterer at the game handicap and the money line in this match-up, in what looks to be one of the more fascinating round 1 matches across both fields.

Max Marterer is a player that I have a lot of time for, albeit that time has been spent watching some disappointing tennis over the course of the last few years. The German, who had a career-high ranking of 45 in 2018 on the back of a 3rd round appearance at the Australian Open and a 4th round appearance at the French Open. He struggled with injury leading into the 2019 edition of Roland Garros, and it led to 6 months away from the tour. As a result, the German returned to the tour and struggled to maintain his ranking, dropping out of the Top 100, then the Top 200, then the Top 300.

There have been some patches of form from the German in recent weeks at Challenger level, and his performances through the three rounds of qualifying are arguably his best on clay in years. After dropping the first set in the first round of qualifying, Marterer found his footing, including dominant wins over Milojevic and Alves, dropping 5 games across the two matches. A confident Marterer is a significantly better player than what we have seen from the German in recent months/years, and he is the type of player that can flick the switch and perform brilliantly off the back of poor form (see Bratislava Challenger 2020).

He comes in here with all the momentum against Filip Krajinovic, who withdrew from the Belgrade tournament last week off the back of defeats to Berrettini, Struff, Nishioka, and Auger-Aliassime. Krajinovic falls into that category of player who needs to be close to 100% physically to be able to trust, especially in the best of 5 set format.

Personally, I have not seen enough from Krajinovic of late to trust him at the short price. With the question mark over the fitness, I will side with a smaller play on Marterer to win outright instead of taking the game handicap.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Marterer to defeat Krajinovic (recorded at $2.72)


Andreescu v Zidansek

Coming off ‘a little bit of an ab tear’ last week, I am sure Bianca Andreescu is not exactly thrilled with the prospect of a player like Tamara Zidansek at the other end of the court in round 1.

I will keep this one short. Andreescu’s year has been hampered by injury, COVID, and restrictions associated with her recent COVID test. She got a couple of easy kills last week in the lead up even in Strasbourg, however, will find the going a lot tougher today. Zidansek has the coverage and shot-making to consistently extend rallies to her advantage today. She has looked solid without being spectacular of late and had every chance of knocking off Ash Barty a couple of weeks ago. Clay is far and away from her best surface and based on her recent efforts she should give a strong showing against Andreescu.

It is hard to be confident in Andreescu’s fitness here. That being said, the last time we heard a player at a grand slam have ‘a little bit of an ab tear’ he went on to win the Australian Open. As a result, I am happy to oppose Andreescu here by taking Zidansek at +3.5 game handicap. Andreescu has burned me late in tight matches on several occasions and given Zidansek may feel the pressure of playing a top player late in a slam match, I would rather take the games here (even if there is a risk Andreescu could potentially retire).

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Zidansek +3.5 games (recorded at $1.92)


Martincova v Jorovic

Both players are coming into this one with several losses under their belt, however, there is only one player I am interested in taking at the game handicap.

I think it is safe to say that injury has derailed the season of Tereza Martincova. She was putting together some solid tennis for her ranking, before coming into injury trouble in Charleston. She is not too bad on the clay overall, however has found herself on the losing end of deciding sets against Zidansek, Tomljanovic and Jani in recent weeks. I would not say it is the worst three players to lose to on clay on tour, and the drop in opposition quality here may be just the tonic to steady the ship for the Czech.

Speaking of injury, Ivana Jorovic is using her protected ranking to make the Roland Garros Draw. It has been tough going for the Serbian, with only the two matches on court in 2021. Losses to Gutierrez Carrasco and Tomljanovic have left a lot to be desired, as did her overall serve stats.

Whilst losing close matches is not the best form, no form on the injury comeback is worse. I am happy to take Martincova at the minus game handicap here for 1 unit.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1-unit Martincova -3.5 games vs Jorovic (recorded at $1.80)


Muguruza v Kostyuk

I mentioned in the outright preview that I am more than comfortable opposing Muguruza early in this tournament given her injury-interrupted lead-up. The best part is I get to do it by backing one of the more dangerous unseeded players in the draw in Marta Kostyuk at healthy odds.

Muguruza is the type of player that needs to have complete trust in her body holding up to be able to produce her best tennis, and we have not seen that since her first set in Charleston against Putintseva. The leg injury flared, and she was forced to retire, withdrew from Madrid, struggled in Rome, and comes into Roland Garros with limited clay form after an impressive start to the year on hardcourts.

Consistency is still coming in the game of Kostyuk, though it is certainly improving in 2021. After dealing with hard quarantine in Melbourne, Kostyuk ended up suffering from COVID in late February. That hampered her performances in Miami, and since then she has racked up clay wins over the likes of Kasatkina, Konjuh, Hibino, Rakhimova, and Naito amongst others. She has lacked the fitness in the past to be able to play a more patient game on the clay, however, that is no longer the case looking at her recent tennis.

I am not sure how Kostyuk is longer in the market than Pera was against Muguruza in Rome. Kostyuk has the higher ceiling, and more important has the all-court game to make this first-round meeting tough for Muguruza coming off limited clay tennis. Worth a play at the bigger price.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1.5 units Kostyuk to defeat Muguruza (recorded at $4.20)

Kozlova v Tomljanovic

With Kozlova showing some decent patches of form on the clay over the course of the last month, and Ajla Tomljanovic coming in under an injury cloud, this looks to be a great game total to contemplate taking the over.

The best form of Kateryna Kozlova is incredibly impressive. The issue? Consistency in finding that level. The Ukrainian shows flashes of inconsistency in most tournaments, making it hard to trust her at times in the head-to-head betting. I have her pegged shorter than her current head-to-head quote against Tomljanovic, however, I am finding myself drawn to the total of 20.5 games here.

Both players are streaky at times, whilst possessing similar hold/break stats across the last 18 months on clay. The total looks a game short of what I would have put up, and with every possibility of a third set between these two as well, I am happy to dip my toe in with a 1-unit selection on the over.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Kozlova/Tomljanovic total games over 20.5 (recorded at $1.91)


Vilella Martinez v Bautista Agut

I mentioned in the outright preview that one of the players that is far more suited to the best of 5 arena that comes with grand slams is Roberto Bautista Agut, and I think we will see why that is the case today against qualifier Mario Vilella Martinez.

I am a big Martinez fan, having watched him closely in recent years at Challenger level. Whilst he does possess a lot of power for someone who covers the clay courts quite well, my question mark on him has largely been his ability to lock in mentally and consistently for the duration of three-set matches. If you google his name, you will find that Mario has some of the better racquet tosses when losing of anyone on the Challenger level, and he can have a short fuse at times.

This is the type of match-up that appeals to me when considering the minus game handicap for RBA. Part of the appeal is the question marks I have around Martinez staying ‘locked-in’ to the battle against one of the most battle-hardened and mentally resilient players on the tour. Three of RBA’s four losses in recent tournaments have come to Sinner and Rublev x 2 and boasts wins over Cecchinato, Garin, Paul, and Andujar in the same timeframe.

Stepping up to the best of 5 sets can only help RBA. If he can remain consistent, I anticipate there to be a number of dips in the form of Martinez. If RBA can turn those down patches into 3 games in a row or 5 games in a row multiple times, he covers in my opinion.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 2 units RBA -7.5 games vs MVV (recorded at $1.94)


Tauson v Gorgodze

Buying on the slight dip in form of Clara Tauson in this first-round match-up.

Tauson hasn’t quite looked the same player from 2020, however, there is a significant class factor in her favour today against Ekaterine Gorgodze.

Gorgodze did look solid in her progression through Roland Garros qualifying, however, the level of opposition, and style, has been far more suited to her than what she is likely to encounter today. To be in the running against Tauson here in sunny conditions, I think you need to pack either more power into your game, more consistency into your game, or both. I cannot see it from Gorgodze on her recent form, largely at the ITF level.

The loss from Tauson in Parma was disappointing, however, Siniakova put in some of her best performance of recent times that week, including defeating Serena Williams in straight sets and taking Gauff to 3 sets. She should be able to find her way into the service games of Gorgodze consistently, which is part of the appeal in the minus handicap. There will be peaks and troughs with young players, however, at the -5.5-game handicap at $2+, I am happy to take Tauson.

Please note, I also don’t mind the total games going under.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 1 unit Tauson -5.5 games vs Gorgodze (to be recorded at $2.10)


Konjuh v Sabalenka

Here we have one of the more intriguing round 1 matches from Paris, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, we have the third favourite for the tournament, Aryna Sabalenka, in action. You will notice in my outright preview that I found Sabalenka to be a little short in the market given her past poor results at grand slams overall.

Part of the lack of appeal in her price for mine when establishing my position pre-tournament is the fact her first match is probably going to be the hardest of her first three, potentially even four, matches for the tournament. In a similar fashion to Alexander Zverev on the men’s side, Sabalenka looked at her most devastating on the clay in Madrid at altitude, and although the rest of her performances have been impressive, she still has a 3-4 career record to overcome at Roland Garros for her career.

Taking control of draws and asserting her authority is the next big step that Sabalenka needs to make, and against an in-form qualifier on the injury comeback in Ana Konjuh, Sabalenka finds a tough first round. Whilst Konjuh may be considered a qualifier, those who have been following the game for a few years will know just what she is capable of producing at the top level prior to multiple injury issues. Konjuh made her way through to the WTA Belgrade final a couple of weeks ago and backed that up with three strong qualifying performances to make the main draw in Roland Garros.

Sabalenka has found a match for her power here in Konjuh, and when I crunched the numbers here, I was expecting the total to sit in the 20.5 to 21 range. It looks to have settled on 19.5, which is a great number that allows a 6-4 6-4/7-5 6-2/7-6 6-1 type of performance still cover the total. Konjuh looked good in Belgrade on serve and won over 70% of points behind her first serve across the three rounds of qualifying. If she can find her first ball at a decent clip, I think there is a touch of vulnerability in Sabalenka first up with a bit of pressure.

This is Sabalenka’s toughest test for the first 3-4 rounds, and she is sub $1.15. I will be passing on that, taking a half unit on Konjuh to win, and a unit on the total going over 19.5 games.

One way or another, I think we are going to learn a little bit about Sabalenka today.

Suggested Bet

BACK — 0.5 units Konjuh to win (recorded at $7)

BACK — 1 unit Konjuh/Sabalenka total over 19.5 games (recorded at $1.94)

Time to cover off the men’s tournament, and like most years it contains a heavy favourite sitting at the top of the betting. The draw looks a little different though, with a couple of big names appearing in the top half of the draw.

Let us run through each quarter, before coming back to summarise and settle on outright and trading selections. You will notice that in comparison to the WTA preview there are fewer unseeded players of note and fewer overall ‘live’ chances. Keep in mind that you will be seeing some larger prices in some head to head markets across the course of the fortnight, as it is a lot more difficult to defeat some of the players at the top of the game across the best of 5 sets compared to the best of 3 format. A longer match means the need to sustain that winning level for longer.


Quarter 1:

Novak Djokovic: Primed for this tournament and has not been afraid to make that known. Win a soft draw in Belgrade this week, so doubt he will be overly fatigued. He is winning sets well in lead-up tournaments, however, continues to throw up the occasional random, concerning set. Put the pressure on Nadal with a dominant second set in the final in Rome, however, Nadal remains a significant stumbling block for the Serbian. May eke out to double figures if he looks to have tuned out mid-match somewhere in week 1, or if an injury is apparent (significant or not). I was on him last year; however, I think the gap is still a little too large for the current prices and draws.

Ugo Humbert: Not enough form to consider in the outrights, especially this close to Novak.

Alex De Minaur: Comes into Roland Garros with losses to Thiem and Mager, with a tough first-round match with Travaglia ahead of a potential second-round match with Cecchinato. He will be a tough opponent given his endurance and court coverage; however, he is not in the outright conversation.

David Goffin: Starting his first-round match as an underdog does not bode well for the outright chances of Goffin. Although I do like him in that match, he is not currently in the grand slam picture given recent form.

Matteo Berrettini: One to watch in this section. His season started with injury; however, the Italian has certainly built some momentum across the course of the clay season. His serve and forehand combination is one of the best in the game and looks primed here to make a run to the second week. Worth a trading stake, with a look to partially lay out against Novak.

Felix Auger Aliassime: A bit of a wildcard in this section. I am not the only one sitting back waiting for everything to click for the Canadian, however, we have not seen that occur just yet. Cannot have him in the picture for outrights now.

Taylor Fritz: The American has shown some skill on the clay over the course of his career, however, his consistency in delivering that level is the downfall. Not an outright player, although does have the game to trouble Roger Federer if the Swiss is not at full fitness.

Roger Federer: The grand final is Wimbledon for Federer, so I do not have a desire to invest in him at the triple-figure odds when he is using the tournament as a warm-up. Prefer others.

Unseeded players of note: Not sure I can see any unseeded players making a run for the title, however, some of the players I am eager to monitor are Arthur Rinderknech, Lorenzo Musetti and Marco Cecchinato.


Quarter 2:

Rafael Nadal: Could write a book on Rafa. He is the $2 favourite and deservedly so. When you look back at his 2020 campaign, he came in with question marks and managed to blow everyone out of the water. He looked average at times in the lead-up, yet still managed to stay competitive. There is an aura about him at Roland Garros and it has been quite a while since he has been challenged. I will talk about the strategy around this short price in the summary. Best to ever do it on the clay.

Lorenzo Sonego: Too close to Nadal to be any value, even with some decent recent form. Does not have the power to be a threat to the top names on the tour over 5 sets in my opinion.

Jannik Sinner: Starting to show major signs of just how good he is going to be in a couple of years. Came the closest to taking a set off Nadal last year and has the weight of shot and IQ to play incredibly smart tennis. Likely to see him facing Nadal again in around a week.

Gael Monfils: He has struggled physically in the best of 3 arena since his return to the tour, so it is difficult to see him flicking a switch and finding that level to be able to match it with the best over the longer format. Roland Garros just is not quite the same without a full crowd and Gael Monfils producing decent tennis. Tricky first match-up, where he is an underdog to Albert Ramos.

Diego Schwartzman: The form across the entire clay season has been poor, however, he is one of the players that is more suited by the longer format. I will have happy memories from his efforts here last year, and with a soft start with Yen Hsun Lu using his protected ranking, it could be just the tonic to kickstart a decent tournament for Diego. May struggle a bit against the likes of Karatsev, however, I am eager to see how he looks on the court in round 1.

Aslan Karatsev: I was higher on his clay form in late 2020 than his hardcourt form, so he made me look a little silly in Melbourne. Nevertheless, Karatsev has put together some impressive performances across some of his matches on clay this season, notably beating Novak Djokovic in a 3 set thriller in Belgrade. He has a very favourable draw in the first two rounds and has the power game to cause some concern for big names. Some of the value is lost here though being in the same quarter as Nadal.

Nikolaz Basilashvili: Not sure I can trust him to win enough matches to be in the outright picture. A tough out though on his day.

Andrey Rublev: The Russian would be kicking himself that he has managed to find a way into the same quarter as Nadal and Karatsev, and the same half as Djokovic. As mentioned after the Monte Carlo final loss to Tsitsipas, Rublev does not play with enough margin for my liking on the clay. I think he may be vulnerable in what is a tricky quarter. Even if he does beat Nadal in a QF, he is still likely to face Djokovic/Berrettini in a semi-final. No value in his price and looks under the odds in round 1 as well.

Unseeded players of note: Much like the first quarter, I do not say any major threats to Nadal here. I am fascinated to see how Popyrin handles the occasion in round 1 against Rafa after their recent meeting. Of the rest, Cam Norrie is one unseeded player with some decent recent form, and Carlos Alcaraz is a player to keep an eye on for the future. Of the rest, there are some players capable of upsets (ie. Struff, Mager, Gaston), however, they will not be in the outright picture.


Quarter 3:

Alexander Zverev: His best tennis on the clay has again come at the altitude in Madrid. Looked decent early in the 2020 tournament before taking to the court unwell against Sinner and struggled as a result. Zverev remains heavily reliant on maintaining a high first-serve percentage to try and keep himself out of trouble. You cannot help but think back to his finals appearance in the US last year and feel as though he may still not be ready to assume the mantle of grand slam champion. I have my question marks and consequently pre-tournament I do not have his price as value.

Dan Evans: Whilst he has taken some impressive scalps this year, Roland Garros outright chances remain slim to none. Will be an interesting opponent for Zverev were they to meet, as he could really get under the German’s skin.

Karen Khachanov: I have given the Russian too many chances. Continues to blow opportunities and is at risk of watching the next generation pass him by. I would prefer to get involved in particular head-to-head situations than trust him to remain consistent for the fortnight. May struggle against Kei Nishikori in round 2.

Roberto Bautista-Agut: In a similar way to Diego Schwartzman, the switch to the longer format could be just the thing to boost the form of RBA. He is going to be an incredibly difficult out for this quarter, and a player I would suggest is more than capable of beating Khachanov/Evans/Zverev in this eight. One to keep an eye on, although he is unlikely to feature beyond the quarter-finals.

Casper Ruud: Fresh off the title in Geneva last week, Casper looks to be coming into some very solid form. Struggled with some shoulder soreness in Madrid, however, since then has looked solid. I am a big fan of the margin he plays with on the clay, whilst also hitting aggressively. Capable of a big upset or two for the fortnight in my opinion. Strong trading selection.

Hubert Hurkacz: Has a game that should translate relatively well to clay, however, lacks that powerful punch in his game at times. Looks to be value in round 1, however, I do not see him in the outright picture overall.

Fabio Fognini: Can you trust him to deliver the level required for 7 matches to win a grand slam? I could not at the peak of his form, so it is difficult to picture it in the latter stages of his career.

Dominic Thiem: One of the bigger question marks of the draw overall. He picked up an injury in Melbourne and has played a very limited schedule as a result. His results have been solid without being spectacular. I was quite critical of how active he was on the exhibition scene last year whilst the tour was suspended, however, he is the type of player that likes to be conditioned to handle a grueling schedule. With such schedules can come injuries, and from what I have seen from him since he has returned, I just do not see significant value in his outright prices as a result. I will be watching him early.

Unseeded players of note: There are some talented qualifiers in this section, so I am keen to keep tabs on their early slam efforts as they push towards the Top 100. The first round match between Moutet and Djere is fascinating, as the winner could be a challenge for Zverev in round 3 if Evans does not progress. The key standout unseeded player in this section is Kei Nishikori. He is obviously somewhat guarded given his injury history and is trying to carefully plan his schedule; however, he looks like a player capable of making a run to the last 16 with tennis resembling his best. He is hard to trust though physically.


Quarter 4:

Stefanos Tsitsipas: Could not have asked for a better draw for the fortnight. In the opposite half to Nadal, Djokovic, Karatsev, and Rublev, and in the same quarter as number 2 seed Medvedev. Yes, the form coming in is exceptional, however, it must be said he is short in the market. Given he is yet to break through at the semi-final level at a grand slam (let alone a final), and the fact his best tennis at slam level in the last two majors has been when 2 sets to 0 down (and the pressure off?), it is hard to get excited over the price. If I missed his breakthrough at $7, I would not be too disappointed.

John Isner: Unless he does not miss a serve for the tournament, it is hard to picture him having sustained success this fortnight.

Milos Raonic: Just has not played enough tennis to be considered in my opinion. If my thoughts change, I will let you know.

Pablo Carreno-Busta: Needs to be respected at the level, however, I have my eyes on another price in this quarter. It will take a good player to beat PCB though, so I can appreciate the appeal in backing him.

Grigor Dimitrov: The Bulgarian will put in some respectable performances for the most part, however it is hard to see him turning it on to win Roland Garros. I would prefer to get involved with him in select match-ups instead of backing him for a 7 match run.

Cristian Garin: Whilst his overall form has not been exceptional, this looks to be a nice pocket of the draw for the Chilean. More than capable of beating the other seeding players in this eighth, and I would not have him without hope in a potential quarter-final match-up with Tsitsipas. The odds are high but may be worth a small play from a trading standpoint based on this quarter being weaker than the others.

Reilly Opelka: His serve may come to the rescue for a match or two, but sooner or later the American is going to be found out on the clay. No appeal in the outrights, and I would prefer to take him in particular head to head spots.

Daniil Medvedev: He seems to think he is not very good on the clay, which is accurate to a point. Went on an impressive run on the clay in 2019, however has really struggled more recently. Fascinating first-round meeting against Bublik, which could go either way. I will stay away from his pre-tournament price and observe how he starts the tournament.

Unseeded players of note: Alexander Bublik is the name mentioned above as a threat to Medvedev in round 1, however, there are also some other impressive players to observe. This quarter also includes Sebastian Korda, Pedro Martinez, and Tommy Paul, all capable of making some waves on the clay.


Summary

After a significant amount of time reviewing the potential options here, this is the current outright plan to be enacted.

I think when his price is so short, it can be easy to be drawn into the game of ‘where can we get Rafael Nadal beaten?’ and it is hard to make a case over the best of 5 format. He is the best in the tournament by some way and will play himself into form across the fortnight (and his form is already solid!). It is tough to see anyone matching him over the best of 5, so as a starting point for the outrights I will place a 1.5 unit selection on Nadal to win the tournament and look to make three specific trading plays in the other three quarters.

In the first quarter I am looking to Matteo Berrettini to threaten Novak Djokovic, and his price looks to be appealing. I think his price is a good trading point to begin, and I would re-assess the plan come the quarter-final were he to reach it.

In the third quarter, I am looking for a larger trading play on Casper Ruud. With the question marks over Dominic Thiem and my belief that Zverev is beatable in that quarter in these conditions, I am happy to side with Ruud to make a run here. This is a stronger trade spot given the placement in the bottom half, and I would look to assess this match by match.

The fourth quarter has led me to side with Cristian Garin for a trading selection. I think Tsitsipas is on the short side in the current market (this may change as the tournament progresses), however, Garin looks to be a nice price given his run to a potential quarter-final against Tsitsipas.

Keep an eye on the Betfair Hub throughout the tournament as I update relevant positions. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


Betting Strategy

BACK – 1.5 units Nadal to win (to be recorded at $2)

Trading Selections

BACK to LAY – 0.5 units Casper Ruud to win (to be recorded at $60)

BACK to LAY – 0.3 units Matteo Berrettini to win (to be recorded at $100)

BACK to LAY – 0.2 units Cristian Garin to win (to be recorded at $220)

Please note: for each of the trading selections, another option here would be backing each player to win their respective quarters.

The second grand slam of the year is here! The tour heads to Paris, with Roland Garros taking place a week later than scheduled in 2021, instead of a couple of months like we saw in 2021. We were able to catch Iga Swiatek at the longer odds last year, and the 2021 edition sees Swiatek as the clear favourite heading into the fortnight, followed by the 2019 champion in Ash Barty.

Let us look at each quarter of the draw, before settling on some outright and trading selections.


Quarter 1:

Ash Barty: The only question mark here for Barty, like it was at the Australian Open, is the fitness of the top seed. She has the required wins under her belt in the lead up to give her incredibly strong confidence in making a deep run, however, she is one of the tougher players to gauge when it comes to just how healthy she is. Personally, I am keeping her safe and including her in my outrights, as I would rather nibble at the outright price than getting involved in too many of her early matches at big minus game handicaps.

Ons Jabeur: It would be a phenomenal effort were Jabeur to make a deep run here at Roland Garros. She just does not play with enough margin, and at times also does not play with enough patience to get the most out of her game on clay. Some of the tools are there, however, she has not shown enough consistency to consider her a genuine threat in this one. Better on the green clay than the red clay. Also worth noting she has not been seen since retiring against Bencic in Madrid.

Coco Gauff: Funny one. Pulled a title on clay out of nowhere, after struggling to find consistency in her game on the clay. If she was coming up unders in markets prior to this title, I still feel she is in the same boat now. My areas of concern for her in her game? Her movement out to the forehand wing on the clay, especially against players with topspin, and her confidence in her touch around the net on the surface of late. Continuing her rise but has a tough first up opponent in my opinion in qualifier Aleksandra Krunic. Unders at the current quote in my opinion.

Jennifer Brady: Hard to make a strong case here off such little clay tennis. Struggling to muster wins on clay, so it is hard to picture her winning seven times in a row.

Karolina Pliskova: Continues to mystify. If you have avoided her for most of her career, you would likely still be ahead even if she found a way this fortnight. Showed some fantastic signs in Rome, before copping one of the more embarrassing defeats to Swiatek 0-6 0-6. Unlike Sofia Kenin in 2020, it is hard to see her responding from such a performance with a deep run here. Will likely need others to beat Svitolina, Barty and Swiatek to be a factor in this top half. Prefer others as a result.

Karolina Muchova: Tricky to gauge. Her best tennis is more than good enough; however, she has only played a handful of matches since injuring herself at the Australian Open. Need the reps and time on court to find consistency and confidence in her game. I will not be actively opposing her early in the tournament, however, I would rather she be in the other half to Barty and Swiatek.

Ekaterina Alexandrova: Too inconsistent to trust across the course of a fortnight. Prefer in specific match-ups.

Elina Svitolina: Another that I would have likely considered (which is a shock for me), were she to find herself somewhere in the bottom half of the draw. Much like Pliskova, Svitolina will likely be hoping for someone else to do the tough jobs in this half when it comes to defeating the two favourites. Lacks the killer instinct needed to be confident in stepping into her price given the draw.

Unseeded players of note: It is a tough quarter with the likes of Barty, Svitolina, Pliskova and even Gauff in this section. Of the unseeded players, the ones capable of making a decent run this fortnight include Yulia Putintseva (although low on confidence and likely to be a frustrating watch if involved), Astra Sharma, Wang Qiang, Fiona Ferro, Anastasija Sevastova and Barbora Krejcikova. The players I will follow most closely from this group would be Ferro and Krejcikova. It is a shame it is so hard to get a gauge on the fitness level of Ferro, as her price is massive. I don’t think I can pass it up, even with the concerns.


Quarter 2:

Sofia Kenin: Made the final here last year, however, we are currently dealing with a very different player. There is no form in the last 4 months that lends me to confidently jump into the outright price on offer for the American. She is the top seed in the quarter and is an underdog in her round 1 match. Hard to have, even if she can upset Ostapenko.

Jessica Pegula: An intriguing prospect. The big question was going to be whether her impressive hardcourt form to start the year could transition to the clay. Whilst she has not been disgraced, she will likely find a couple of players here more adept to the clay than she is. Hard to have with some of the other names in this quarter.

Maria Sakkari: Intriguing. My big concern at times on the clay can be the fact that Sakkari can find herself overwhelmed by power coming from the other end of the court when conditions are not favourable for her. This does not appear to be an issue in the first week for Sakkari, with no top tier ball strikers in her eighth with the ability to hit her off the court in my opinion. One to monitor with some question marks surrounding Elise Mertens.

Elise Mertens: The Belgian is hard to oppose early in slams, but also difficult to trust late in slams. With the injury in Madrid and the subsequent loss to Kudermetova in Rome, it is hard to be genuinely interested in the price that is on offer for her in the outright markets. A bit like Svitolina, I would be more interested in her were she in the bottom half at an even shorter price. Too close to too many threats.

Garbine Muguruza: The wildcard of the quarter. Is she fit? I am leaning towards that being a ‘no’ given her retirement with a knee issue in Charleston, withdrawing from Madrid, then losing to Svitolina after nearly being defeated by Pera in the second round in Rome. I have mentioned this a couple of times this year, but I cannot get involved in Muguruza outrights without some further understanding of her fitness levels. She has one of the tougher unseeded floaters in the draw in round 1 in Marta Kostyuk, and the Spaniard losing would not be a major shock in my opinion. Keen to oppose early on exposed form.

Petra Martic: Found a bit of form in Italy across the tournaments in Rome and Parma. Her best wins came against Pegula and Podoroska, so she has not set the world on fire. What she is though is a very capable and crafty claycourt player, and one that may be able to make a little bit of a run here if Muguruza is below 100%. Whoever beats her this week will need to play well, and looks like a nice trading spot.

Anett Kontaveit: Hard to have in the outright market given her lack of exposure to the latter part of grand slams, however, is the type of player to target matches as a big underdog. Capable on the clay and could cause an upset when the pressure is off.

Iga Swiatek: Clear favourite for the tournament, and all you need to do is look at what she achieved in Paris last year. This draw is certainly more difficult with more players attending; however, she is exceptionally short. This is her first grand slam as the ‘hunted’ as the defending champion and has the biggest target on her back. Her first-round opponent Kaja Juvan is more than capable of playing some big tennis on the clay and is a tough start. Based on the outright price I expect her to be incredibly low odds early in head to heads, and I want to see how she handles the first couple of rounds before considering her outright.

Unseeded players of note: From top to bottom, the key unseeded players in this quarter capable of having an impact are Jelena Ostapenko (not sure I can trust her as a favourite round 1 against Kenin though!), Tereza Martincova, Marta Kostyuk, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Camila Giorgi, Shelby Rogers and even Kaja Juvan is capable at her best level, albeit with a tough task first up.


Quarter 3:

Serena Williams: Would be the best grand slam win of her career were she to win. It is too hard to trust her ability to get through 7 matches on clay, given such limited form in the lead-up, and the fact she must have one eye on Wimbledon as her best chance to pick up another grand slam. Cannot have at the price pre-tournament.

Angelique Kerber: Roland Garros was a struggle at times for Kerber when she was at the top of her game, and THE game, so I do not see a miraculous change of fortune this fortnight.

Elena Rybakina: Not sure many had their momentum halted by the COVID tour suspension in 2020 more than Rybakina at the top level. Unfortunately, it has not been smooth sailing for her since the tour resumed, and as a result, it makes it hard to back her in confidently. Prefer in individual match scenarios than the outright.

Petra Kvitova: Looks to be the most intriguing price of any in this section. Nearly three times the price of Sabalenka, has been there and done that at grand slam level in the past, and should be suited by the more controlled conditions on centre court in the second week. She has shown enough for me to be interested in investing in the current outright price. In a similar way to my thoughts on Barty, I would rather take the outright than the large minus game handicaps in week one. The longer she lasts, the more her confidence will build.

Victoria Azarenka: I think every time I have backed either Azarenka or Halep this year, they have either withdrawn from the tournament or injured themselves. Her best is threatening; however, Azarenka is struggling to be able to physically manage her body in 2021. One to keep an eye on leading into the North American hardcourt swing. Observe only early here.

Madison Keys: Cannot justify a selection on the American. Has shown she is more than capable in the past, however, there just is not enough form to trust her in this quarter.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: Recent injuries have reduced the appeal in the big outright prices. Many opposing Sabalenka will be hoping she can keep it together for at least the first three rounds.

Aryna Sabalenka: I am a little torn here. Her form coming into Roland Garros is obviously exceptional, yet she has not been able to take control of a grand slam singles draw yet in her career. Price looks very thin for someone who is largely unproven once you get to the pointy end of grand slams. Like Kvitova, I do think she will be favoured in week two on centre court in the better conditions. Will she slip up on the way though? Tough first-round match with qualifier Konjuh, who can redline her game.

Unseeded players of note: Here is a list, from top to bottom, of the unseeded players that can cause upsets in individual matches, albeit unlikely to feature on the final weekend, are Irina Begu, Danielle Rose Collins, Nina Stojanovic, Clara Tauson, Leylah Fernandez, Anastasia Potapova, Oceane Dodin, Kateryna Kozlova, Ajla Tomljanovic, Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Ana Konjuh. If I had to pick an unseeded player to keep the closest eye on for the week, and into the future, I would pick Tauson, followed by Konjuh on her return from injury.


Quarter 4:

Bianca Andreescu: Withdrew from last weeks’ tournament with a ‘little bit of an ab tear’. The last time we heard that at the top level we saw Novak Djokovic win the Australian Open. Durability remains a massive problem for the Canadian, and although this is a decent draw, it is hard to trust her at the price in my opinion. If you do have a niggling issue that is impacting your ability, the last thing you want is to see a player like Tamara Zidansek at the other end of the court in round 1. It will be a great test early.

Veronika Kudermetova: Not quite flying under the radar to the same extent of previous years. More than capable of a big shock or two, however, I am put off by her outright prices given she must face Amanda Anisimova in the first round. I will not be opposing early, however, if I jump in, I will add it in to my daily previews on The Hub.

Johanna Konta: Cannot entertain on form.

Belinda Bencic: Another player with a tough first-round opponent in Nadia Podoroska. Looks to be lacking the power we saw in her game a couple of years ago and looked her best on the clay this year at altitude in Madrid. Prefer others in the outright markets, however, is more than capable of an upset or two.

Kiki Bertens: Does not appear to be playing well enough on the comeback from injury to be able to confidently support.

Marketa Vondrousova: 1-3 on the clay post Miami, and hard to make a case for this fortnight. It is a bit of a shame, given she made the final here in 2019. Easy to forget she is only 21 and has plenty of time to turn things around. Perhaps a return to Paris will instil confidence?

Paula Badosa: The biggest winner from Alison Riske withdrawing from the tournament. Instead of finding herself in the third quarter and facing talented teenager Clara Tauson, the Spaniard now gets a seeded spot and the chance to steal the draw of a 2 seed that is struggling on the clay in Naomi Osaka. Beat Barty on the green clay and reached the semi-final in Madrid (lost to Barty) and went on to win the Belgrade title as well. Has the all-court game that works well on clay, and must be high on confidence? A threat in this quarter.

Naomi Osaka: Wanted to avoid the press, and as a result has become almost the sole focus of the press. The form coming in has been poor, and given her recent clay exploits, it is very hard to make a strong case for her in this one, to be honest. After losing to Muchova in Madrid and Pegula in Rome, Osaka went back to the US. She has since returned to Europe, however with such little clay form to use as a guide, it is hard to jump in straight away at the $18.50. I will be watching closely in week 1.

Unseeded Players of Note: There are a couple of players that stand out here in terms of their ability to potentially cause upsets early in this tournament, however, I would be reluctant to get too heavily involved in their outrights, instead looking for match-ups. This list includes the top of the quarter to the bottom, Tamara Zidansek, Katerina Siniakova, Amanda Anisimova, Sorana Cirstea, Daria Kasatkina, Nadia Podoroska, Laura Siegemund, Carolina Garcia, Kaia Kanepi, Danka Kovinic and Ana Bogdan. This quarter looks stronger at the top compared to the bottom.


Summary:

What an interesting draw this has turned out to be, with Barty and Swiatek in the top half and at the top of the market. When you consider the third favourite is unproven late in grand slam singles (Sabalenka), the fourth favourite has limited clay form (Osaka) and the fifth favourite is under an injury cloud (Muguruza), there is the potential to look through the bottom half in the quest for some value. I will be keeping Barty safe, as I think she has the edge on Swiatek in a potential meeting and will be placing a 0.5 unit selection on her outright.

I have landed on the price of Petra Kvitova at $26 as a price that is quite appealing. She has the tools to be a genuine threat, and as I mentioned above, I would rather jump into her larger outright prices than get too invested in her match to match. If she can find a way through the first week to reach the solace of the centre court conditions, she looks a decent chance, and will also receive 0.5 units.

With Kvitova covering off the key selection in the third quarter, a small selection from the fourth quarter that appeals is Paula Badosa. Winning form is good form, and she has more than her fair share of winning form of late. She will not be hit off the court by too many and looks to have found her consistency and confidence in her own game. The tough opponent early is Osaka in round 3, but with Barty and Swiatek in the other half, things can really open from there. Happy to back her in for 0.25 units.

From a trading standpoint, one of the players that jumps out as a firstweek trading option is Maria Sakkari. As mentioned above, she should not be outhit in the early stages of the tournament and is a genuine chance to knock off Mertens on recent form, especially if that injury for Mertens is still lingering. I will make a 0.25 unit selection, with the current intention to lay off this selection after the fourth round.

There are a couple of triple-figure trading selections that I am happy to place 0.15 units on, and they are as follows:

  • Fiona Ferro: there are some question marks around her fitness, however at 400-1 I am happy to have those questions unanswered. If she looks dominant early, this could come in significantly.
  • Nadia Podoroska: can knock off Bencic in round 1 and make a small run from there. Happy to take her north of 150-1
  • Petra Martic: A savvy clay courter may be one of the few styles that can stand up against Swiatek. Happy to consider at 240-1.

Betting Strategy

BACK – 0.5 units Ash Barty (recorded at $7.40)

BACK – 0.5 units Petra Kvitova (recorded at $24)

BACK – 0.25 units Paula Badosa (recorded at $24)

Trading Selections

BACK to LAY – 0.2 units Maria Sakkari (recorded at $80)

BACK to LAY – 0.15 units Fiona Ferro (recorded at $400)

BACK to LAY – 0.15 units Nadia Podoroska (recorded at $160)

BACK to LAY – 0.15 units Petra Martic (recorded at $240)


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