Ace Tennis Previews: French Open Tips

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

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Thiem vs Nadal

It is a match-up that many predicted, with Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem squaring off for the second straight year for the Roland Garros title. Last year it was Nadal that would prevail, winning 6-4 6-3 6-2, however a lot of water has gone under the bridge in the last 12 months.

Time to get stuck into the preview, starting with the road to the final for both players.

Rafael Nadal

R1 – defeated Hanfmann 6-2 6-1 6-3, in what was a relatively straightforward win. Committed only 16 unforced errors for the match whilst saving all 4 break points faced and converting 6/10 on the serve of Hanfmann.

R2 – defeated Maden 6-1 6-2 6-4 on the back of 43 winners and 23 unforced errors. Dropped serve twice, however converted 7/11 opportunities on the serve of Maden. About what you would expect from Rafa in the early stages of the tournament without any real pressure on his game.

R3 – defeated Goffin 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3, dropping his only set for the tournament to date. Whilst he did drop a set, Nadal won over 70% of his points behind both his first and second serves for the match, and only faced 2 break points for the match (saved 1), converting 5 of his 10 opportunities on Goffin’s serve. Lost a set, however match was never in danger.

R4 – defeated Londero 6-2 6-2 6-3, only dropping serve when up a double break in the third set. 40 winners and 25 unforced errors set the tone against an exhausted Londero backing up off a 5 set match.

QF – defeated Nishikori 6-1 6-1 6-3 in a match that you can take next to nothing from based on the fitness of Nishikori, who struggled to back up off a couple of 5 set matches.

SF – defeated Federer 6-3 6-4 6-2 in another match where little can be taken given the extreme weather conditions faced by both players. Nadal handled the conditions far better (granted they did suit), finding passing shots and lines in almost every key moment for the match.

Dominic Thiem

R1 – defeated Tommy Paul 6-4 4-6 7-6 6-2 in a match that was a little closer than many predicted. Paul led the all important 3rd set tiebreak 4-0, before Thiem reeled him in and finished the match off in 4 sets. Managed 46 winners and 28 unforced errors for the match.

R2 – defeated Bublik 6-3 6-7 6-3 7-5 and found himself a couple of Bublik first serve bombs away from a fifth set. Again, he handled the tight moment incredibly well, and was able to limit his unforced errors to 16 for the match.

R3 – defeated Cuevas 6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5, playing some impressive tennis from one set apiece. Cuevas ended up being far too erratic, spraying 48 unforced errors for the match. Pegula 6-3 6-3 in a match that had 9 breaks of serve. Too much variety for Pegula overall, who ended with 23 unforced errors for the match.

R4 – defeated Monfils 6-4 6-4 6-2 in what was a dominant performance considering the form of Monfils earlier in the week. Has the head to head advantage over Monfils however. Again, only 14 unforced errors for the match.

QF – defeated Khachanov 6-2 6-4 6-2 in convincing fashion. Won 80% behind his first serve and again kept his unforced errors down to 12, which is impressive given the power he hits with off both wings.

SF – defeated Djokovic 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5 in a match that had all types of conditions across the two days it took to complete the match. Generated nearly double the break point opportunities (22 to 12) for the match, and showed tremendous composure to break Djokovic after failing to serve out the match from *5-3 40/15.

Past Head to Head

These two have played 12 times in their career, with 11 of those on clay, and the 12th being their 5 set epic at the US Open last year.

Nadal leads the overall head to head on clay 7-4, with Thiem winning 2 of the last 3 matches. The one Nadal won? The final here last year.

Thiem shouldn’t be as phased by the moment this year, having experienced the final last year, as well as beating Nadal a couple of weeks ago in Barcelona on a court named after Nadal.

Summary

Whilst I do agree that Thiem will have benefitted from the recent head to head, and the experience of reaching the final last year, I do feel the advantage still heavily lies with Nadal. The man is the best to have ever played on clay, and whilst he hasn’t set the world on fire, there is an element of intimidation that comes with facing Nadal on clay in the best of 5 set arena.

The conditions compared to last year suit Thiem a little more as well, however I don’t think enough has changed to see Thiem win his maiden major today. I think his ability to limit his unforced errors though will allow him to take at least a set today, potentially even the first. Nadal has done a fantastic job of reaching the final fresh, whereas Thiem has had to endure the issues that come with rain and an outdoor tournament over the last couple of days.

I have Nadal winning this one in 4 or 5 sets, and as a result the total games over 36.5 (note there is a bit of 35.5 around) looks to be a very solid prospect. If Thiem does manage to win, I would be surprised if that were to occur in under this game total as well.

Strap yourselves in for what has the makings of a huge final.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Nadal/Thiem total games over 36.5 for 2.5 units.

Vondrousova vs Barty

This is one of the more fascinating finals in recent time, with Marketa Vondrousova and Ash Barty squaring off for a shot at their first major title. After a week of ups and downs, let’s take a look at the roads to the final for both players.

Marketa Vondrousova

R1 – defeated Wang 6-4 6-3, behind 22 winners, 16 unforced errors and 5/11 break point conversions. The difference was in the first serve of Vondrousova winning 74% of points behind her first serve compared to the 41% on her second.

R2 – defeated Potapova 6-4 6-0 – Potapova announced she was pulling out of the doubles due to injury, as she struggled to back up her win over Kerber. Vondrousova was too much, winning 81% behind her first serve and limited her unforced errors to 13 as Potapova facilitated her own downfall.

R3 – defeated Suarez Navarro 6-4 6-4 in what was a very tricky match. Similar to the semi final, Vondrousova just seemed to find a way at the business end of each set. Her second serve was a slight liability, however it was offset by a first serve percentage of 70%.

R4 – defeated Sevastova 6-2 6-0 in her best performance of the tournament. Sevastova could only muster 7 winners and 24 unforced errors for the match. One way traffic for Vondrousova to reach the quarter finals.

QF – defeated Martic 7-6 7-5 in one of the matches of the tournament. Struggled a touch with the variety that Martic can offer, however again was able to get the job done at the business end of both sets. The most variety she has faced for the tournament.

SF – defeated Konta 7-5 7-6 after the Brit served for both sets. Handled the gusty conditions significantly better, however Konta was the aggressor moreso throughout the match.

Ash Barty

R1 – defeated Pegula 6-3 6-3 in a match that had 9 breaks of serve. Too much variety for Pegula overall, who ended with 23 unforced errors for the match.

R2 – defeated Collins 7-5 6-1 in a one sided match after a close start. Break point conversion was key, with Barty converting 5 of 6 opportunities to Collins’ 2 of 8. The first serve of Barty (73% of points won) was the difference.

R3 – defeated Petkovic 6-3 6-1 in a one sided affair. Won 79% of points behind her first serve, and impressively limited her unforced error count to 11.

R4 – defeated Kenin 6-3 3-6 6-0, responding to her first dropped set of the tournament by coming back and serving up a bagel. Impressively limited her unforced errors to 17 across 3 sets, and used her slice to great effect to neutralise Kenin time after time.

QF – defeated Keys 6-3 7-5, limiting Keys to 62% points won on her first serve whilst winning 80% on her own. Limited errors whilst forcing the issue for Keys. Better in almost all key moments.

SF – This may be one of the best examples of mental resilience in a key moment in some time (perhaps since Osaka lost the second set in the AO final to Kvitova). After racing ahead 5-0 in 13 minutes, Barty found herself locked in a tiebreak. After gaining a 4-2 lead, Barty lost 17 points in a row to find herself down 6-7 0-3 in incredibly tricky conditions. With Anisimova a touch anxious, Barty capitalised, winning the next 6 games to force a decider. After trailing 1-2* early in set 3, Barty took control, converting the win on her 6th match points 6-7 6-3 6-3.

Past Head to Head

Barty leads the head to head 2-0, with a win on hardcourt and a win on grass, however they have not met on Vondrousova’s preferred clay.

Summary

With players in big situations, you look for moments. After all her shortfalls in major doubles finals and with everything seemingly against her at 6-7 0-3 in her semi final, Barty was able to turn the tables and grind out an incredible victory. Between that and her third set win over Kenin in dominant fashion, Barty has steeled herself and shown the necessary determination and trust in her ability in key moments that is needed to win a major.

The other advantage for Barty is the fact she is more experienced in these moments than Vondrousova. Marketa has put together a phenomenal run to the final, however she hasn’t found herself in a position throughout the tournament where her place in the tournament has been at risk. Yes she has had sets at risk, but she hasn’t had the match at complete risk. In an unfamiliar environment of a major final, with nerves at their highest, I would rather side with Barty, who is more hardened and adjusted to the situation today.

I am happy to make a 2.5 unit selection on Barty to win and cover the -2.5 game handicap.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Barty -2.5 games for 2.5 units.

Anisimova v Barty

Pretty comfortable backing Barty in a similar situation to what she faced against Madison Keys yesterday.

Another match, and another couple of sets where Barty’s slice backhand became the most important weapon on the court.

Barty used it to fantastic effect yesterday, neutralising Keys significantly. Barty not only neutralises the pace of her opponent with the slice, she also uses it to dictate and set up for her next shot by putting her opponent out of position on court.

Anisimova’s first serve percentage was the 5th best in her career to date (73%), and what a time to do it in your first major quarter final. It was an impressive effort, as Halep struggled with the pace and inability to put anything on the ball herself whilst retrieving. Whilst Anisimova had that advantage over Halep, it will not be the case today against Barty.

If you drew a line that covered grinders to power hitters from left to right, Anisimova has faced players this week that fit on the extremes at either end of the line in her last 4 matches. The fact that Barty sits right in the middle of that line is a different look for the American, and it could be the difference.

Anisimova’s results have been largely attributed to her solid return game this fortnight, however the way Barty is serving will really test her today. It is unfamiliar territory for both players, however Barty has made multiple major doubles finals in the past and looks far more relaxed since her win in Miami.

I think the -3.5 game handicap is a solid position based on Barty’s serve and variety. The conditions look to be windy and cloudy/rainy, so look for Barty to thrive in the testing conditions.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Barty -3.5 games for 3 units.


Federer v Nadal

When you look beyond the fact we have two of the greats of the game facing off in another major final, this sets up to be a really fascinating watch in the conditions.

These two don’t play on clay all that often, in fact only once in the last 8 years. Federer has planned his schedule more sparingly recently, however was willing to come back and give it another go this year.

Nadal has a tactic that he uses to great effect against Federer on hardcourt, and that is using his heavy topspin forehand to target the one-handed backhand of Federer. Federer will need to step in and take some risks, but with that could come great reward on what looks an ugly day weather wise in Paris.

What am I excited to see today? Federer play with nothing to lose. At big odds, with absolutely no expectation on his shoulders is a fascinating position for Federer, so hopefully with the extra day off he comes out fresh and raring to go today.

I’m not saying Federer wins here, however I think the total games over 33.5 does look decent for a small play.

Nadal perhaps hasn’t been as dominant as we have come to expect over the years, and he has enjoyed a comfortable draw of similar players who don’t have a significant point of difference. The 1/4 final against Nishikori was about as comfortable as it gets thanks to the time Kei had spent on court, so a fresh Federer is a fascinating prospect.

I think Federer has the potential to pull a set here if he plays with nothing to lose. The over 33.5 is worth a 1.5 unit selection, however at the end of the day it is fantastic to see these two greats of the game doing battle on the biggest stage again.

Appreciate it while you can, as we don’t know how many more moments we will witness.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 1.5 units total games over 33.5

Keys v Barty

Ash Barty continues to go from strength to strength, and this looks to be another really favourable match-up for Ash on clay.

Barty has put together a handful of very impressive performances on her way to the quarter final, and all have come against quite big strikers of the ball. After three straight set wins against Pegula, Collins and Petkovic, Barty responded to dropping the second set to Kenin by winning the third 6-0 with only two unforced errors.

Kenin was in awe of the slice of Barty after the match, and it is her variety that makes her so difficult to face on any surface. Based on what she has seen in terms of pace and shot-making across the first four rounds, there shouldn’t be a significant difference for Barty today.

I think the variety of Barty is going to be the major difference here, and her confidence looks to be sky high. Of the draws to reach the quarter final, you could argue that Keys had the best run with Rodina, Hon, Blinkova and Siniakova, all of which would not come close to Barty on clay in her current form.

The -2.5 game handicap here seems a touch short on form. On what looks to be very heavy conditions in Paris today, I think if Barty can continue to hit her spots with her first serve and continue to provide variety, limiting Keys’ ability to develop any rhythm, then Barty should be progressing to the semi finals.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Barty -2.5 games for 4 units.


Halep v Anisimova

Another who will be favoured by the heavier conditions is Simona Halep, as she is a completely different style of opponent than anything Anisimova has faced this fortnight.

Whilst she hadn’t been dominant through the early rounds, it feels as though things have started to click for Simona Halep over the last two rounds, posting dominant victories over Swiatek and Tsurenko. Across those two wins she only recorded 19 unforced errors, an area that will be crucial for her today.

Amanda Anisimova continues to impress for 17 years of age, reaching her first major quarter final in impressive fashion, with wins over Tan, Sabalenka, Begu and Bolsova. In a similar way to Keys, Anisimova comes against against an opponent today that is far stronger than any she has faced at Roland Garros.

Anisimova is doing a terrific job of defeating those she should defeat, however unless her opponent’s name is Sabalenka, she does struggle against top 20 opposition. I think in the heavier conditions today, she may struggle as well.

Anisimova’s best form comes in faster conditions on clay (see Bogota and the sunnier days earlier this tournament), and I think Halep will be able to dig in here and be relentless with her pressure.

I like the -5.5 game handicap here for 2.5 units. I think as well as Anisimova has played against weaker opposition, the fact that she has saved nearly 73% of break point opportunities for the tournament has flattered her results a touch.

I don’t think that number is sustainable against the best return of serve in the game in Halep, and with the heavier conditions forecast today, Simona should be on her way to another major semi final

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Halep -5.5 games for 2.5 units.

Nadal v Nishikori

In what has become a bit of a familiar trend, Kei Nishikori again finds himself in a quarter final off the back of a couple of gruelling 5 set matches. In Melbourne he found himself against Novak Djokovic, ultimately retiring from that match.

He has done a fantastic job to reach this point considering he was down a double break to Djere and Paire served for the match. Alas he has made it, although given the history with his body, he will be well and truly up against it today against a fresh Rafael Nadal.

If the conditions were perhaps a little lighter, Nishikori may have the ability to maintain a level with Nadal for patches, however the forecast today just isn’t friendly. The main advantage Nishikori had over Djere and Paire was his consistency of level, however even that advantage disappears today against Nadal.

Whilst Nadal stung me the other day with that late break of serve, he is more than well placed to keep the total under 27.5 games today against a tired Nishikori. He has looked locked in since dropping that set to Goffin, and I like his chances to progress with a very comfortable win.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Under 27.5 Games for 2.5 units.


Stephens v Konta

Really fascinating match-up today between two players whose chances I really rated in terms of going deep this fortnight when the tournament commenced. Konta has perhaps been a tough more dominant overall, however the quality of her opposition has been far lower than Stephens over the last couple of rounds.

I cannot rate highly enough the performance of Stephens against Muguruza in the previous round, considering the confidence Muguruza had gained over her previous matches. Out of the 8 performances between these two over the last week, it is the best performance in my opinion by quite a way.

As a mentioned a couple of days ago, the form of Konta has been sound, however she has been able to play a mixture of out-of-form players, or players who really suit her style. Stephens’ doesn’t quite fit into that category however, and Konta also loses the Grand Slam experience angle as well. Konta’s win perhaps looks a touch better based on her serve percentage (70% to Vekic’s 47%), as that did widen the result in the end.

Although she was nowhere near her best in Rome, Stephens will have taken a lot from that match. I would argue that Stephens probably didn’t want to play twice in 5 hours, such was the scheduling in Rome due to the weather, so the result there wasn’t an accurate indication of what Stephens can display on clay.

Stephens at Grand Slam level is a completely different player. I think she managed her way through her big danger game vs Hercog well, and her ability to be tested early helped her against Muguruza. Look for Stephens to assert her authority again at Grand Slam level, and progress to the semi finals.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Stephens to defeat Konta for 2.5 units.

Keys v Siniakova

Confidence is a wonderful thing, and it has been fantastic to see the confidence of Siniakova build across the fortnight so far in Paris. After a solid straight set win over the big hitting Rybakina in round 1, Siniakova has put together two very impressive wins against Sakkari and Osaka.

The win against Sakkari almost impressed me more than her round 3 win, as Siniakova generally plays her best tennis against bigger hitters of the ball.

Siniakova is problem solving well out on court, as shown by her first set comeback from 1-5 against Sakkari, and her composure after failing to close out that match in straight sets. She is hitting her spots well on serve, and isn’t going into her shell in BP situations, as we saw against Osaka (7/7 BP saves).

Madison Keys faltered slightly in round 3 in my opinion, and it cost her an extra hour on court against Blinkova. Keys is having some down patches in her matches this week. Sometimes she is serving her way out of trouble, however she cannot rely on that consistently against a player like Siniakova.

The way she is currently playing doesn’t lead me to believe she will be able to manage a one-sided victory today against Siniakova, and the natural thought process leads me straight to the game total of 21.5.

They don’t go too much higher in women’s tennis, however this match has the makings of a close one. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if this match ended a 3 setter.

I don’t think either player is playing poorly enough to be blown out of the water today, and with the heavier conditions today leaning to assist Siniakova as a slight underdog, I think it evens things right up today. Happy to place a unit on the total going over.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 1 units Keys/Siniakova total games over 21.5


Fognini v Zverev

This is the point in the tournament where I believe Zverev will come to regret needing five sets against Millman and Lajovic. Zverev has made a habit of making some simple closeouts quite difficult this week. He led Millman 2 sets to 0, before trading as an underdog early in set 5.

He failed to serve out the match against Ymer in round 2, requiring a third set tiebreak, and he led 2 sets to 0 against Lajovic before closing things out in a 5th set.

Zverev could have comfortably spent 40% less time on court this week already, and playing against Fognini it will take every ounce of his energy today to be competitive.

Whilst I mentioned the other day that Fognini wasn’t quite at his Monte Carlo title winning form, he certainly edged in that direction yesterday against Roberto Bautista-Agut.

His ability to come back from an early break deficit in each of the first three sets (winning two of them) is a very promising sign for a player such as Fognini. He did have an MTO at the end of the third set against RBA, however the tennis displayed right after the fact suggests he is feeling alright, as he dominated the Spaniard the rest of the way.

I think the best of 5 format here heavily favours Fognini as well – I am happy to make a 1.5 unit selection on the Italian today. If Zverev is finding himself in 5 setters against Millman and Lajovic, then Fognini should certainly be a bit shorter odds wise on pedigree

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 1.5 units Fognini to defeat Zverev

Mayer v Federer

I really do feel as though this match will be a lot closer than many anticipate, and I think the weather conditions may play a role today.

These conditions are certainly the warmest and most difficult to manage of the fortnight, and I am really curious to see how Roger Federer handles the heat. I have remarked a couple of times this year that late in 3 setters that the Swiss champ hasn’t quite looked as dominant as he has in years gone by, so the significant increase in quality of opponent today combined with the conditions does interest.

Leonardo Mayer has put together three very solid performances after displaying limited form in the lead-up to Roland Garros. A straight set win over Vesely, followed by 4 set wins over Schwartzman and Mahut have all impressed. Mayer could have easily struggled with the entire crowd against him in round 3, however another strong serving performance set the tone for a solid win.

Roger Federer has coasted through to the 4th round, doing what he has needed. Straight set wins over Sonego, Otte and Ruud, all in unfamiliar territory on a main show court at a major. Federer has been solid without being spectacular, and his third sets have been his least comfortable in each round.

I think some of Federer’s deficiencies in 5 set claycourt tennis have been masked slightly by the strength of opponent he has faced, so if Mayer is able to play at a similar level to his last three rounds, then we are in for a real treat today.

Both players have very similar first serve points won percentages through three rounds (Federer 79.9 and Mayer 78.8), however when you throw in Mayer having Schwartzman as an opponent, this becomes a touch more impressive. Federer’s break point save percentage is currently sitting at 84.6%, which is a touch unsustainable on clay, especially as opponent strength increases throughout the tournament.

Of the 16 players left in the tournament, Leonardo Mayer has the worst break point conversion rate in the tournament, which suggests there is a bit of room for improvement as well. Whilst it could also lead to Federer maintaining his high percentage of break point saves, I feel a tougher opponent more accustomed to major conditions will lead to some of these stats evening out a touch.

There are two things that stand out today in my opinion:
1) The total is too low at 31.5 games
2) Mayer is too long at $9

In the last 12 months, Roger Federer has been taken beyond three sets just the three times. Those three times:
1) lost to Anderson in 5 at Wimbledon
2) lost to Millman in 4 at US Open
3) lost to Tsitsipas in 4 at Australian Open

If you push Federer in the best of 5 arena, on any surface recently, then you are in with a good chance of claiming victory. On clay against a proven claycourter in Mayer, and I think the overs at the very least is worth a play. Mayer is serving too well to not consider the total games going over in my opinion, and I would also consider an in-play move on Mayer if he is able to win one of the first two sets.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units total games over 31.5


Konta v Vekic

Another fascinating match-up is in store here for round 4, with two players not renowned for their career claycourt tennis, with Konta and Vekic squaring off with fantastic opportunities to make a deep run at a major.

Donna Vekic has played some very solid tennis this week in her victories over Samsonova, Peterson and Bencic on the way to the fourth round. She has handled the conditions better than her opponents, who all are bigger strikers of the ball with little to no plan B if things don’t go to plan. When you glance through her recent clay form you discover that all her recent wins come against similar players, and I don’t think she matches up as well today against Konta as many predict.

Jo Konta continues to impress this season on clay to the surprise of many, dropping only 3 games on her way to victory against Kuzmova in round 3. She is doing a fantastic job of limiting unforced errors against bigger strikers of the ball (a combined 23 in 4 sets against Lottner and Kuzmova), as I feel like her biggest weakness on clay is when she needs to be the initiator of pace on a consistent basis (ie against Davis in round 2).

I think this match-up suits Konta far more than is suits Vekic, so the $1.90 about for Konta does seem generous in my opinion. If Konta can continue to keep her unforced error count low, then she should progress.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Konta to defeat Vekic

Barty vs Petkovic

The Aussie continues to produce the goods, and I don’t see that changing today.

The confidence in which Ash Barty has carried herself since her Miami Open win is exceptional to watch. It looks as though a weight has been lifted off her shoulders, and the fact that she isn’t a known clay specialist has helped her continue to fly under the radar this week. The week off from Strasbourg last week looks to have made a difference as well, with Barty knocking off straight sets victories over Pegula and Collins on the way to the third round. The warmer conditions today will suit her as well, as I think her mixture of power and variety will be far too much for Petkovic to handle on clay today.

Andrea Petkovic was incredibly lucky to come through her third set against Hsieh in round 2, taking it 8-6. Whereas the power game certainly favoured Petkovic in that match-up, her struggles with Hsieh throughout the match showed Petkovic’s struggles with the variety that Hsieh was able to produce. I think that will come to the fore again today, esepcially if Barty can utilise her backhand slice to great effect. The slice will allow the ball to stay low to Petkovic, making it hard for her to hit consistent high percentage shots on a consistent basis.

Considering the way Barty is playing, and the consistency in her game, I am happy to take the under 19.5 games here. This opens up possibilities for 6-4 6-3 results to cover as opposed to the -5.5 games, which would be up against it in the case of a 7-5 first set anyway. Happy to make a 1.5 unit selection here.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 1.5 units Barty/Petkovic under 19.5 total games


Alexandrova v Aliona Bolsova

Another round, another Bolsova as an underdog situation pops up. Today, there is a different play that appeals.

For those who have been following for a few years, I have had my eye on Alexandrova for a while, and often like to target her as a large underdog selection. As a favourite, it is hard to have her, especially in the first set.

Alexandrova’s record over 3 set matches is better than over first sets, albeit marginally. Bolsova has started strongly in each of her 5 matches at Roland Garros over the last week and a half, and we know that she thrives off playing bigger strikers of the ball (see Babos and Cirstea this week). I think better than even money for Bolsova to win the first set is a value play. Alexandrova is erratic, and can start slowly (as we saw against Stosur), so based on the consistency displayed by Bolsova over the last 5 rounds, she seems worth a 1.5 unit selection to take the first set.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 1.5 units Bolsova first set winner

Paire v Carreno-Busta

I must say, the scheduling gods at Roland Garros have not been particularly kind to Benoit Paire today. Coming off an 11-9 fifth set against Herbert, where some points in the latter stages of the match appeared to be in slow motion, Paire is scheduled to be second on court today out on Simonne-Mathieu.

Coming off such a heavy schedule leading into the tournament, plus a 5 setter on Day 4 of the tournament, Paire is really going to be up against it today against Pablo Carreno-Busta, whom he beat last month, however we have vastly different circumstances in today’s match.

These two met in Barcelona just over 5 weeks ago, with Paire prevailing 6-4 6-7 6-1. It was a closely contested match when you consider it was Carreno-Busta’s first match back on tour since he sustained an injury in February. The main takeaway from that match was PCB was able to force a third set off not a lot of match practice. With another 5 weeks of tennis under his belt, can he flip the script today?

I think he can. Whilst he didn’t look fantastic early in his return to the clay, with losses to Opelka, Chardy and Shapovalov, however he has looked right at home at Roland Garros this week against Sousa and De Minaur, winning both matches in straight sets.

He has attacked the second serve of both players, winning 46/69 points on second serve return for the tournament, as well 85 winners to 40 unforced errors. Couple that with the ability to win 75% and 80% of points behind his first serve against competent returns of serve and you could say that PCB is starting to look a lot more settled on the clay.

Freshness is key here. PCB has spent just over 3 hours on court for the tournament, whilst Paire has played nearly 7 hours through 2 rounds coming off a full week last week in Lyon. With the tables turning in a number of key areas over the last 5 weeks, and the poor scheduling situation for Paire coming off his marathon, taking PCB seems to be the logical choice here.

You wouldn’t begrudge a slow start from Paire (note PCB 6-0 is $51 and 6-1 is $17…he has done it before), however I think over the best of 5 set format, with what looks to be improved form and match practice from PCB, and the -2.5 game handicap for the Spaniard here does look decent. As I think the -2.5 games for PCB may disappear, I will grade this as -3 games, however I do like -3.5 games as well if that is all that is available.

I was keen on Paire to make a run here, however he has spent too much time on court for my liking too early in the week, and I think it will cost him today.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 3 units Carreno-Busta -3 games vs Paire


Hercog v Stephens

I will bite at the odds on Hercog. Having sat through their match earlier in the year clay season in Madrid, I am inclined to have the current price on Hercog to win as value.

The Madrid match was a bit of a funny one, with Hercog coming off a busy fortnight of tennis (including her win in Lugano), and Stephens coming off a fortnight of rest after participating in Fed Cup in April.

I took Hercog to win the first set that day, however it was Stephens who came out looking fresh and ready to fire. The match ended in favour of Stephens 6-2 7-6, however Hercog was able to generate more break points for the match. I think today, looking at the form of both players since that time, and I am not sure I can justify Hercog going from $2.50 that day to $3.85 today.

The performances that day, and general increased motivation that comes with Grand Slam tennis shouldn’t adjust the odds that much.

The performances of Hercog through round 1 and 2 have personally impressed me more than Stephens once strength of opponent is considered. She clawed her way through against a very tricky Sasnovich to kick off, and was in control throughout her 3 set win over Brady, whilst Stephens has defeated Doi and Sorribes Tormo, taking a tiebreak in each match and serving at a high first serve percentage (which has helped her significantly).

The altitude certainly helped Stephens in Madrid, however with the conditions forecast today in Paris, this also edges towards Hercog. Hercog will enjoy the slight drop back in pace off the racquet of Stephens today, and in my opinion is a massive chance of an upset.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Hercog to defeat Stephens

Del Potro v Nishioka

Bare with me on this one, because when I tip up a selection at $9, I want you to know the reasonings behind such a selection, as I know this won’t be a play for everyone. When I see value, I generally attack it pretty hard. Units are placed on perceived value and not probability of victory, so this is a bit of a standout play. Also, when you have a go at these bigger odds, I like all the cards to be on the table pre-match.

Yes, Del Potro could win 6-1 6-1 6-1 and move on to the next round. Yes I know that will probably result in my mentions/DMs/emails/carrier pigeon mail being largely negative, but I don’t care to be honest.

This is how I see it pre-match, and this is why I think it is value.

Del Potro, 5 matches back from his most recent injury, against a player that is capable of grinding and using the clay court to his advantage, at $1.10 seems far, far, far too short in my opinion.

Let me tell you why:
Looking through the 5 matches on clay for the year for Del Potro does tell a bit of a story here. His first match we can exclude as it was a testing where Del Potro sat in terms of the rest of the field from a fitness perspective on clay.

It was a 3rd set loss to Djere, with Del Potro winning only 33% of points on return and only 44% of points behind his first serve. Luckily for Juan, his first serve percentage of 67% and his first serve points won at 82% kept him close.

Second up Del Potro caught an out of form Goffin in Rome and backed that up with a win over Ruud hours after the Norwegian had won thanks to a default from Nick Kyrgios. His fourth match came against Djokovic, and when you take a look at his history, you note that for the big occasions against the big players, Del Potro rises. It was a gruelling 3-setter, and Del Potro had match points, however Novak prevailed, and Del Potro was left with a toe issue.

Del Potro was given on the surface what looked to be a tricky round 1 meeting with Jarry, however what worked in his advantage was Jarry’s long week in Geneva, ending with a 3rd set tiebreak loss to Zverev in the final.

Jarry’s fitness and ability to back up week on week is improving, however still an issue, and it came back to bite him against Del Potro on Monday. After Jarry started strongly, taking the first set 6-3, he started to fade and Del Potro took advantage. In an uncommon situation, it was Jarry that was the more assertive, with 47 winners/41 unforced errors to Del Potro’s 20/21, which is not what I wanted to see for Del Potro, regardless of the outcome.

You can look at the scoreline and note Nishioka took 5 sets to beat McDonald, however Nishioka was about as dominant as a player 2 sets to 1 down could be overall. He was dominant to the point that as a -4.5-game handicap player, he was able to cover that handicap from midway through the final set regardless of a win or loss.

He won 71% of points behind his first serve, 63% of points behind his second serve, won 30/78 1st serve returns he was able to get a racquet on, and won 34/53 points on his second serve return. He was relentless throughout the match, to the point where McDonald ended up making 70 unforced errors.

It is a little difficult to get a read on how the early season clay form of Nishioka stacks up, as he had to adjust coming back from his own back issue that impacted him at Indian Wells. He has built incredibly well through the clay season and he finally looks comfortable on court again, which is nice to see as his Indian Wells tennis was top notch.

There are a few aspects of this match-up that I think can work in Nishioka’s favour on clay given the limited play of Del Potro lately. The first is the leftie/righty dynamic, and Nishioka’s ability to get the ball over on the backhand of Del Potro more often than others. Del Potro is not as comfortable pulling the trigger on his backhand, which is fair enough when you consider one could argue that his forehand is the best in the business when firing.

I don’t think the Del Potro forehand to Nishioka backhand is as much of an issue, as Nishioka is not afraid to absorb pace and hit down the line on his backhand into the backhand corner of Del Potro.

These two met in Delray Beach earlier this year, and I thought Nishioka did a reasonable job considering the form of both players. Del Potro won 6-3 7-5, however Del Potro’s stats on first and second serve points won sat at 71% and 56% respectively. Transition to clay, and note that Nishioka now has the fitness edge and you have a bit of a different look, especially with Nishioka sitting at $9.50 today.

I would price up Nishioka at less than half his quote, especially given the fact this match is best of 5 sets. We saw Del Potro have some toe issues and look quite tired as things progressed in that third set against Djokovic last week.

Now I am not for a second saying Nishioka is Djokovic, but he is one of the fastest players on tour and will be able to force Del Potro to play the extra shot time and time again today. If Nishioka can dig in and force the issue on Del Potro’s backhand, then he is a *massive* chance today in my opinion.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2.5 units Nishioka to win


Bolsova v Cirstea

I am more than happy to continue to ride the Bolsova train, especially up against a big hitter in Cirstea, for another round. Bolsova was dominant in round 1, as she was able to dictate the play on a regular basis and force Zvonareva to cover more of Paris than most tourists.

72% of points won behind her first serve, 68% behind her second serve and only 21 unforced errors is solid considering her style of play. Her serve allows her to dictate, and I think her accuracy with her serve will be a significant point of difference today.

Sorana Cirstea was the fortunate recipient of the round 1 withdrawal of Petra Kvitova, who had to pull out with an arm injury before taking the court. Cirstea nearly made a meal of her opportunity, coming from a set down to defeat Kaja Juvan 5-7 6-4 7-5 in just under 2 and a half hours on court.

As I mentioned in her write up from the initial play against Kvitova, her form has been solid, however, the Kvitova injury angle was a key factor in that selection. I think what we have seen from Bolsova recently is more consistent, and at a slight underdog price looks to be a value pick for a 1.5-unit selection.

If Bolsova returns like she has across her other 4 matches this week, Cirstea will be up against it, especially considering how well Bolsova is hitting her spots on her first serve

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 1.5 units Bolsova to win

Otte v Federer

Having observed more than my fair share of Otte at Challenger level over the last couple of years, I am not expecting him to come close to Roger Federer today, in what will be far and away the biggest match of Otte’s career to date.

In his career to date, the highest ranked player that Otte has faced was the (at the time) 62nd ranked Tennys Sandgren in October last year.

To step out on one of the main courts at Roland Garros with one of, if not, the best player of all time across the net would be a daunting experience for anyone. Part of the significant trouble I see unfolding for Otte here is the ability for Federer to neutralise the serve of Otte on a very regular basis today, especially with his backhand slice chip return.

Whilst Otte did surprise me in the first round with his victory over Jaziri, I feel I may have underestimated the impact Ramadan had on Jaziri throughout his match. As his career has progressed, managing his beliefs and his tennis would become more and more challenging, especially over the best of 5 set format.

The biggest difference for Otte is the fact his opponent isn’t going to hand him anything cheaply today, and that he is going to have to work incredibly hard to earn each point (outside of the obvious difference that Federer is standing opposite).

I don’t think Otte has displayed enough temperament and ability to remain locked-in for me to think it is going to happen today on the big stage in best of 5 sets.

I would be happy to side with Federer at the -8.5 game handicap – this should be an incredibly comfortable win for the Swiss, and one cheap set should set this one up for victory.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2.5 units Federer -8.5 games vs Otte


Cilic v Dimitrov

Sometimes players can be “better for the run” after an early match going the distance. That can be said for Grigor Dimitrov, who started like a house on fire against Janko Tipsarevic before needing a 5th set to progress to the second round.

The stats across the 5 sets actually don’t look too bad for Grigor, with 70 winners and 30 unforced errors for the match, winning 43% of points on return and dominating almost every statistical category.

Whilst still not back to his best, Dimitrov is physically looking comfortable on court – something that will come in very handy today against Cilic who still looks a little below his best on his comeback from injury.

Cilic did what he needed to do in round 1 against a clearly outmatched Thomas Fabbiano, with the Italian under the pump in every area. Fabbiano was only able to generate 8 winners and 34 unforced errors, yet still found himself in a position to serve for the second set.

It looks as though Cilic doesn’t look to have complete confidence behind his second serve currently, winning only 39% of points against Fabbiano.

It has become an issue for him this clay season, only once winning over 47% on second serve, and I would argue that Dimitrov is a better return of serve than many Cilic has faced this year on clay.

Cilic’s serve speeds also appear down a touch, with Cilic and Dimitrov putting in similar top speeds and second serve speeds, however Dimitrov is using placement moreso on his first serve to set up the point.

I do feel Dimitrov’s movement and ability to defend on return to a level to be able to find a way into Cilic’s serve games on clay, especially with some heavier conditions expected again today which could make for tough going for the Croat.

I think the +3.5 game handicap here is a generous starting point for Dimitrov. I would be shocked to see him drop any lopsided sets, as his main issue recently has been finishing off from decent positions. I would rather take the handicap head start here as I would be surprised to see Dimitrov fall here in a one-sided match.

I think the first-round win will serve him well here, and it looks a generous start in what I think will be a very close match. If I had to pick a side to win, I would have Dimitrov in 4 or 5, so I am happy to have some margin for error with the head start.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Dimitrov +3.5 games vs Cilic

Zverev v Millman

Over best of 5 sets, this match leans towards favouring Millman more than it perhaps would in a best-of-3 format.

There are a few question marks here for Zverev in my opinion:

1) Are we just going to ignore the overall 2019 form of Zverev because he won Geneva with 3 set wins over Dellien, Delbonis and Jarry, including being down match points in the title match?

2) Does the benefit of finding some form in Geneva work more in his favour than the grind of a full week before a Grand Slam? It is worth noting that Yastremska and Putintseva, winners on the WTA tour last week, both lost yesterday and faded late in their matches.

3) Are we trusting Zverev in Best of 5 set tennis? I was again underwhelmed in Melbourne against Raonic. He now sits 27-18 for his career, and on his road to the quarter final last year found himself in 5 set matches as a heavy favourite against Lajovic, Dzumhur and Khachanov.

Whilst it is only worthy of a 2 unit selection at a maximum in my opinion, I think there are enough question marks around Zverev here to be worthy of a play. John Millman is playing more than solid enough tennis to be a really tricky prospect today.

Whilst he lost a close one last week, if Millman can maintain a level similar to his match against Auger-Aliassime, and across the best of 5 set format, then he is a genuine chance here. Zverev doesn’t look to be completely confident around his forehand wing at the moment, and with Millman’s court coverage, and ability to keep Zverev moving for 3+ hours if necessary, the $6+ here is worth a play.

I would have Millman closer to $4 here – not expected to win, however at a fantastic value price given how these two match up and the best of 5 nature of Roland Garros. The heavier conditions almost suit the Australian if he can turn it into more of a grind.

I think the head to head price is better value here than the game handicap, as a 4 or 5 set match would probably start to lean towards Millman having the fitness advantage. Millman shouldn’t be too overawed by the occasion after we witnessed his efforts in the US Open against Roger Federer.

The price is too big, now we need him to win.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Millman to defeat Zverev


Norrie v Benchetrit

Whilst it was fantastic to see Benchetrit make the most of his qualifying wildcard last week and progress with three wins against Cachin, Fratangelo and Couacoud, today is a significant step up in opponent strength in Cameron Norrie.

I think we are fortunate that Norrie lost so comfortably to Humbert last week, as it has opened up a really nice price for the Brit today against Benchetrit.

The big questions here are how much do you take purely from qualifying form and how much do you take from Norrie’s performance in Lyon last week? The answers for mine are ‘a little bit’ and ‘not a lot at all’ respectively.

Outside of the form this week, there isn’t a lot to really take in from Benchetrit’s clay form at Challenger level. The one thing you could maybe take away from it was the win over Popyrin, however as I mentioned at the time Popyrin had one eye on the ATP level qualifying that he had to make in Lyon, so was not at his best.

He has struggled at times when matches have turned into a grind, and even struggled a touch against Carballes Baena in Lisboa, falling away after a strong start. I do have a bit of a question mark around Benchetrit’s ability over 5 sets too, as he has played one best of 5 set match in his career, here last year against Gael Monfils, where he faded to win only 4 games across sets 2-4.

Norrie has been a touch unlucky over the last couple of weeks in terms of opponents he has faced, however I think he should be too strong for Benchetrit over the best of 5 set format today.

I am happy to take the extra odds and take the -2.5 game handicap, as I feel that as the match goes on, there is a real possibility of a cheap set popping up as Benchetrit starts to tire. Norrie will appreciate the drop in opponent quality from past weeks, and I like him to cover the handicap here, ruining the local hopes of an upset.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 3 units Norrie -2.5 games vs Benchetrit

Bolsova v Zvonareva

After her very solid qualifying performance, it is hard to not be impressed by Bolsova’s form in comparison to Zvonareva, who avoids the clay where she can.

This match is fairly and squarely on Bolsova’s racquet, and she will relish the added time she has to set up off both wings compared to her last match against Babos.

I cannot find the recent form to justify a Vera as a favourite here. Her wins have come against Maria and Potapova (when she was below 100%), whereas Bolsova is most comfortable on clay and looks about as confident as I have seen her (and you can’t blame her based on her three qualifying matches).

Look for Bolsova to back up her qualifying form with a solid win here. I’m happy to side with her based on how she is looking and the fact the match rests on her racquet based on their playing styles

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2.5 units Bolsova to defeat Zvonareva


Cirstea v Kivitova

When I first saw the odds for this match I was a little surprised to see how long Cirstea, a player who generally plays better against bigger hitters of the ball, was over $5.50 in this match-up.

After all, it is hard to oppose a player such as Kvitova when she is on top of her game and one of the threats to go all the way to the title.

The question is: is she really at the top of her game?

I was doing a little scrolling around twitter and came across an account that is run by Matthieu Deveze, who I have credited here with a link to the video he has posted from practice yesterday.

The video shows Kvitova warming up for her practice ahead of her round 1 meeting. The translation? “Petra Kvitova forced to cancel training after 5 minutes. Painful left arm”.

I am happy to buy into that as well looking at the footage, as there is no real power on that follow-through on the forehand side, and everything looks quite tentative. Petra is a player who thrives on everything clicking to bring the best out of herself, and a left arm issue isn’t going to help her cause on clay.

Cirstea hitting a bit of form in Nurnberg last week also doesn’t help Petra, however I tend to not read too much into form the week before a major. Overall the clay form of Cirstea is sound, with 3 set losses to Hercog (won title), Strycova, Garcia, and a tight 2 set loss to Putintseva the other day.

Cirstea thrives on pace coming onto her racquet, and at $6+ today I am more than happy to make a 2 unit selection here.

I think there is enough in the price to justify this position on Cirstea, and the potential issues with Kvitova’s elbow a nice little incentive on top. I may look silly, however I am happy to take that risk with the recent form of both on slower clay and even the possibility Kvitova isn’t at 100%.

Nothing overboard, however happy with 2 units here at what I perceive a big, yet value price.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2 units Cirstea to defeat Kvitova

Kerber v Potapova

She can say what she likes in the press conference in the lead-up to her first round match, however signs do point to Angelique Kerber not being at 100% for her round 1 clash with Potapova.

Kerber had to withdraw in Madrid due to a right ankle injury sustained in practice, and said at the time she was even struggling to walk. She wasn’t sure a fortnight ago if Roland Garros was even on the cards, so she has done incredibly well to be playing this week.

That being said – her odds are too short given the question marks.

Kerber is a player who thrives on rhythm. No match practice equals limited rhythm. She posted a video from her practice to her Instagram and you can see, even though it is a soft warm-up rally, there isn’t a lot of movement or loading through her right ankle.

Where she will feel this most is on her lateral movement out to the backhand side, and when she tries to load up when trying to get her weight forward through her forehand.

Potapova is most comfortable on clay, and has the movement and power to be a really tricky prospect for Kerber given her current injury doubts. Whilst her win-loss record recently isn’t her best, there have been a couple of very close third sets that have gone against her recently.

Potapova had her own injury concerns earlier in the month, however I think she will benefit most from the couple of weeks break in the lead-up to Roland Garros. Potapova likes the big occasion, and I am happy to make a small play on her to win this match.

Potapova should be able to use her forehand to target the backhand of leftie Kerber if her movement looks restricted, forcing her to load extensively through that ankle. She should also enjoy not feeling overpowered here, as she should be right in most rallies with Kerber on the German’s least favourite surface.

I think the Russian can take advantage of the situation here, and is worthy of a 1.5 unit selection. Potapova isn’t renowned for her fast starts, so I would prefer the full match over first set in this instance, even though I would rather oppose Kerber over a shorter timeframe.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 1.5 units Potapova to Win


Otte v Jaziri

I am really fascinated to see Oscar Otte installed as a favourite here as a lucky loser, coming up against Malek Jaziri, who has been playing some reasonably solid tennis lately.

Whilst there is sometimes more concern for Jaziri’s ability to play out a best of 5 set match, in this instance that worry applies moreso for Otte as well. This is only Otte’s second career best of 5 set match, his first being a 4 set loss to Berrettini last year.

Otte started well, however won only 3 games across sets 3 and 4 combined as things started to get away from him. The occasion will likely get to Otte at some point, as we saw in qualifying where he lost the second set to Garcia-Lopez and went on to lose the third set via a bagel.

I just don’t feel like he has enough runs on the board at this level to be a justified favourite for best of 5 tennis.

Jaziri’s recent form isn’t too bad when you consider his recent opponents. He lost to eventual finallist in Lajovic in Monte Carlo, defeated Andreozzi and had set points in a loss to Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona, and beat Jarry and Mayer on the way to a 3 set QF loss to Goffin in Estoril.

His Roland Garros career record sits at 3-5, however losses to Anderson, Gasquet, Berdych, Kuznetsov and Granollers are nothing to be ashamed at given their form at the time and on the surface. He has also been on the winning end of 5 set matches, so historically it isn’t too much of an issue for him on clay.

Whilst Otte is definitely an incredibly solid claycourt Challenger player, I just don’t feel as though he can be good enough for long enough over 5 sets to be favourite here. I think the divide between Challenger tennis and ATP tennis will show up here at Grand Slam level over the best of 5 tennis.

When I saw this match-up and started looking into plays, I felt Jaziri would open in the $1.55 type of range, so better than even money is great value. I am happy to make a 2.5 unit selection on Jaziri to win here as a slight underdog.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – 2.5 units Jaziri to Win

Welcome to the men’s preview for Roland Garros 2019.

In what has been one of the most even build-ups to a clay slam in years, we look to have another fascinating instalment of the event. After starting the clay season slow, can Nadal do it again? Will Novak back up his Melbourne performance and win another major? Will the likes of Thiem/Tsitsipas/Zverev make their mark, or can Federer or Del Potro turn back the clock to add to their collection?

The draw has been finalised, and a preview for each section can be found below. Some quick stats and comments have been made on any player at odds 500-1 or better, plus some potential trading suggestions. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

Please note:  All Highlights/Lowlights are for 2019 clay season only. Stats correct as of May 23 08:30pm AEST


Quarter 1

Name: Novak Djokovic

2019 Clay Record: 10-2

Highlight: Won Madrid Masters without dropping a set.

Lowlight: Lost to Medvedev in Monte Carlo QF

Comment: Whilst he does start the tournament against one of the up and coming players on tour in Hubert Hurkacz, I don’t think Novak will be too disappointed with his draw. The step up to best of 5 tennis suits him over almost any other player. Outside of Coric and Fognini, I cannot see him having too much trouble in this section, even before qualifiers are placed into the draw.

Name: Borna Coric

2019 Clay Record: 6-4

Highlight: Monte Carlo QF, beating Hurkacz, Munar and Herbert

Lowlight: Losses to Krajinovic in Budapest and R1 vs Pouille in Madrid

Comment: Had a bit of an up and down campaign, however his best tennis is more than capable of matching it with everyone in this section bar potentially Djokovic (especially over best of 5 sets). Hasn’t shown enough in recent big tournaments to suggest he is ready to make a big leap here

Name: Fabio Fognini

2019 Clay Record: 9-6

Highlight: Won ATP Monte Carlo

Lowlight: 4 match losing streak leading into Monte Carlo

Comment: Remains one of life’s great mysteries does Fabio. On his Monte Carlo form you would deem him to be a threat, however over a more significant sample size it is hard to support him with confidence. Draw isn’t too bad early, with Seppi and a likely second round with Delbonis, and to reach the quarters the only player he would need to beat ranked above him is Zverev, who has questionable recent form. One to watch from a trading perspective only.

Name: Alexander Zverev

2019 Clay Record:

Highlight: Defeated Auger-Aliassime in Monte Carlo

Lowlight:6-6 clay record after a fantastic 2018 campaign – not the player he was last year on current form.

Comment: Difficult to figure out where Zverev fits in this field given his struggles on court over the last couple of months. Looks to be finding some form in Geneva as a wildcard, however he still isn’t overly convincing in my opinion, and as a player that finds himself with question marks over his best of 5 set ability, Millman is a tough prospect to begin. Prefer others.


Quarter 2

Name: Dominic Thiem

2019 Clay Record: 11-5

Highlight: Won Barcelona, defeating Medvedev 6-4 6-0 in final

Lowlight: Lost to Verdasco in first round of Rome Masters

Comment: In the first instance, Nadal will be happy to see both Thiem and Djokovic in the other half of the draw. Not the worst draw for Thiem, starting with US wildcard Paul, then Bublik/Qualifier, however, will get trickier from there. Only first week threats seem to be Cuevas, and potentially Verdasco based on Rome last week or Monfils if fit. Should go deep, however the way the draw is set up, would need to beat Djokovic and Nadal back to back in best of 5 set tennis, which remains a tough ask.

Name: Gael Monfils

2019 Clay Record: 3-3

Highlight: 3rd round vs Federer – unable to convert match points – lost in 3rd set TB

Lowlight: 3-6 1-6 loss to Ramos in Rome

Comment: I was very keen on Monfils a couple of months ago to the point where I made a comment that he was a crazy price given his form, and then he managed to injure himself the next time he stepped onto court. His best is good enough, however doesn’t have the matches in the legs to be a major threat. Will have the crowd at his back and his RG record is great, so must be respected.

Name: Felix Auger-Aliassime

2019 Clay Record: 11-8 (still to play vs Johnson in Lyon at time of writing)

Highlight: Made final in Rio Di Janeiro in February (lost to Djere)

Lowlight: Not a lot to be disappointed about this year – all losses have come against very solid opponents

Comment: Massive clay campaign this year and has put together some impressive tennis to find himself seeded today. The question is will he be able to back it up in best of 5 set tennis? Just not quite sure he is there yet, however one to keep an eye on as he grows into his body and builds his fitness base.

Name: Juan Martin Del Potro

2019 Clay Record: 2-2

Highlight: Beat David Goffin and Casper Ruud on the same day in Rome.

Lowlight: None – loss to Djere in his comeback match and Djokovic after having match points. Nothing to be ashamed of considering his lack of tennis recently.

Comment: We all know what the Argentine can display, however we also know just how brittle his body can be at times. Can he stand up to seven best-of-5 set matches off such little tennis? Also hurt his toe in the third set against Djokovic the other week. Gets a tricky first round, then things really do open up a little bit for him. Major danger game first up, so would rather wait and see how he finds things versus Jarry, as if he wins, I could see him in a quarter final with Thiem, who he has had success with over his career.


Quarter 3

Name: Stefanos Tsitsipas

2019 Clay Record: 12-4

Highlight: Won ATP Estoril

Lowlight: Lost to Struff in Barcelona in 3 sets

Comment: Having made a massive improvement to start 2019, it is very hard to fault the form of Tsitsipas. Finds himself with a very nice draw, with Marterer followed by Gunneswaran/Dellien. If Marterer can show flashes of 2018 form though, he could put up a decent challenge Potential tricky encounters await against the likes of Krajinovic and Wawrinka or Schwartzman. Showed in Melbourne he can handle the big stage and draws the Federer quarter as well. One to keep safe.

Name: Stan Wawrinka

2019 Clay Record: 4-4

Highlight: Madrid QF beating Herbert/Pella/Nishikori in straight sets

Lowlight: Whitewashed by Nadal in Madrid, then lost from break up in 3rd set vs Dzumhur in Geneva

Comment: Wanted to make a comment here as he is a former winner, however it is hard to see on form and fitness that he is going to be a massive threat unless he turns in a vintage performance. Should at least make the 4th round, however, will be up against it from that point with some quality claycourters in the section.

Name: Cristian Garin

2019 Clay Record: 19-6

Highlight: Won ATP Munich and ATP Houston, made final of ATP Sao Paulo

Lowlight: Lost to Daniel in Geneva this week in 3 sets (see below for more info)

Comment: One of the dangerous floaters, and worth respecting. On form could seriously challenge Wawrinka in round 2 and inherit his draw. One to watch from a trading perspective, however, lacks the second week polish to be considered for the title.

Name: Marin Cilic

2019 Clay Record: 4-3

Highlight: Madrid Masters QF appearance (withdrew due to food poisoning)

Lowlight: Lost to Struff in Rome 2-6 3-6

Comment: Another to mention quickly as a previous major winner and one who commands respect in betting markets. I don’t think he has shown enough on his return from injury to be a threat here. Still looks very rusty and isn’t suited to the clay of France compared to the other majors. Unlikely to feature at the pointy end in my opinion.

Name: Marco Cecchinato

2019 Clay Record: 9-6

Highlight: Won ATP Buenos Aires

Lowlight: Lost 3 of last 4 matches leading into Roland Garros – pressure of defending large number of points from 2018.

Comment: Will be feeling the pressure more than most this week, as he attempts to defend points from his semi final appearance last year. On form prefer others, however it will be fascinating to see how he responds to the pressure. I have him maxing out at the third round with Schwartzman on current form.

Name: Diego Schwartzman

2019 Clay Record: 14-8

Highlight: Buenos Aires finalist and Rome Semi Finalist

Lowlight: Losses to Fritz in Monte Carlo and Chardy in Madrid

Comment: One I am going to keep my eye on and look to trade into based on his first-round performance. Seems to have found himself outgunned at times by bigger hitters this year, so if he can work his way past Fucsovics, this section of the draw really opens for him with a lack of power hitters. Would match up okay against the likes of Tsitsipas as well in my opinion, as has the pace to track down the variety/dropshots that can be thrown into the mix. Whilst form isn’t spectacular, he is one to watch in my opinion.

Name: Roger Federer

2019 Clay Record: 4-1

Highlight: Made QF in Madrid and Rome on his return to clay

Lowlight: Scheduling forced him to withdraw in Rome. Had match points in QF loss to Thiem in Madrid.

Comment: Solid draw on his return to Paris, however, will get a little trickier from Round 3 as the likes of Berrettini, Schwartzman and Tsitsipas are likely to pop up in his path. I said earlier in the year that he just hasn’t quite looked as fresh as previous years in third sets, and he has been found out a touch physically at the US Open vs Millman and Australian Open against Tsitsipas. Cannot see him getting by the big names. Not sure this is his to be won.


Quarter 4

Name: Kei Nishikori

2019 Clay Record: 6-4

Highlight: Made Barcelona SF, lost from a break up in 3rd set to Medvedev

Lowlight: Lost to Herbert in Monte Carlo, struggling to convert BP opps.

Comment: Does a fantastic job of beating the players he *should* beat, however the worry for Nishikori is the fact he would probably need to beat Nadal, and then beat two more very decent players. Body isn’t suited to best of 5 and its grinding nature. Quarter final is his ceiling at best unless something happens to Nadal.

Name: Daniil Medvedev

2019 Clay Record: 8-4

Highlight: Reached final in Barcelona (lost to Thiem)

Lowlight: Enters Roland Garros on 3 match losing streak

Comment: After a couple of years having played terribly on clay, 2019 has been a welcome turnaround for Medvedev on clay. I don’t think he has the right mix of movement/power to be a threat over best of 5 on clay at this stage of his career, and in my opinion may struggle to get beyond round 2 if he meets with Paire. Tricky draw.

Name: Rafael Nadal

2019 Clay Record: 14-3

Highlight: Won Rome Masters, defeating Djokovic in final 6-0 4-6 6-1

Lowlight: Lost 3 x semi finals (Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid

Comment: Could go on all day about Nadal on clay, however I don’t think I would be telling you anything you didn’t already know. The one to beat and based on this draw I would be shocked were he not to make the final. Will love seeing the second and third favourites in the top half of the draw, and he has proven himself time and time again. His win against Djokovic in Rome was eye catching, and his knees can handle best of 5 on clay. I was initially leaning towards Djokovic having the best of 5 set edge, however regardless of how tired Novak was in Rome, that was a mental blow struck by Nadal.


Summary

Based on the last week of tennis, it looks as though Nadal has finally found his groove. With a favourable draw with his two top threats on the other side, it is difficult to see him being beaten if he stays physically fit. He has had to withdraw mid-tournament in the past, and he is obviously getting to the latter stage of his career, however he did look fantastic on court in Rome.

His price is shorter than Djokovic and Thiem, however the fact he would only need to beat one of them does appeal here. Over best of 5 sets he shouldn’t struggle against too many in the bottom half, Federer included.

From a quarter’s perspective, unless a Zverev or Federer has a run that surpasses their 2019 form, it would take a really poor performance from Nadal/Djokovic/Thiem to not reach the final 4. The value lies in the third quarter, and if he can overcome the bigger hitting Fucsovics in round 1 as I expect he will, then Schwartzman does represent some value. He has taken a while to find form on clay this year, however the best-of-5 format does suit him, and he could cause a shock. For those interested in a very long shot, I would also consider Berrettini based on his form, as well as a few others listed below.


Betting Strategy

Outright Selection

 BACK – Rafael Nadal

Quarter Selections

 BACK – Novak Djokovic

 BACK – Dominic Thiem

 BACK – Diego Sebastian Schwartzman (if wins round 1)

 BACK – Rafael Nadal

Trading Selections

 BACK to LAY – Matteo Berrettini (big challenger to Federer on form)

 BACK to LAY – Benoit Paire (to inherit the draw of Medvedev in round 2)

BACK to LAY – Karen Khachanov (very friendly draw for first week)

Welcome to the WTA preview for Roland Garros. It was a hotly contested 2018 tournament, with Halep coming from a set down to defeat Sloane Stephens in the final. Again we have a wide open tournament, so lets see what unfolds over the next fortnight.

Please note: All Highlights/Lowlights are for 2019 clay season only. Stats correct as of May 23 08:30pm AEST


Quarter 1

Name: Naomi Osaka

2019 Clay Record: 7-1 (and 1 withdrawal)

Highlight: SF in Stuttgart (withdrew)

Lowlight: Had to withdraw late in two tournaments during clay season

Comment: I wouldn’t class this as the most comfortable round 1 draw, as Osaka tries to go for 3 majors in a row. First round against Schmiedlova (who can be anything on her day), then Azarenka/Ostapenko awaits, followed by 5 more matches. Prefer others on the Roland Garros clay.

Name: Victoria Azarenka

2019 Clay Record: 6-3

Highlight: QF in Rome

Lowlight: 2 x retirements in last 9 matches on clay

Comment: Can she sustain a run in a Grand Slam? The days off will help her, however a doubles schedule won’t help her singles chances. Tricky first two rounds, but a run to early in the second week isn’t out of the question. Prefer others.

Name: Maria Sakkari

2019 Clay Record: 14-4

Highlight: Won Rabat

Lowlight: loss in Istanbul first round to Kudermetova

Comment: Big fan of her game and how well it is suited to clay. Her progression year on year has been very impressive, and her performances over the last month need to be acknowledged. Gets a comfortable start, and has the game to challenge Osaka/Azarenka/Ostapenko on clay, so is a massive chance of inheriting a nice draw. High risk/reward selection, however looks very confident on court and needs to be considered.

Name: Caroline Garcia

2019 Clay Record: 6-4

Highlight: Made the semi final of Strasboug (to be played today)

Lowlight: Comfortable straight set losses to Kontaveit, Kvitova and Mladenovic

Comment: Looks to have found some form this week in Strasbourg, and is one who definitely improves with the home crowd at her back, however not playing well enough for me to consider for an outright based on her draw.

Name: Madison Keys

2019 Clay Record: 6-2

Highlight: Won Charleston

Lowlight: Most of her form is from Charleston

Comment: One of the great unknowns in every WTA draw. Her best can beat basically anyone, however injuries continue to be cruel to the American. I cannot justify on form to consider her for an outright.

Name: Serena Williams

2019 Clay Record: 1-0

Highlight: She played a match.

Lowlight: It was only one match.

Comment: One great unknown sitting next to another great unknown in the draw. Considering Bonaventure tweeted a photo of Serena Williams being pushed around with her daughter in a wheelchair, it is hard to make a case for her, even if she is the best of all time.

Name: Bianca Andreescu

2019 Clay Record: 2-0 (Fed Cup Only)

Highlight: Nil

Lowlight: Injuries since Indian Wells

Comment: Kept her on this list as she was the flavour of the month during the American hardcourt swing, however hasn’t really played a lot of tennis recently, and none on clay in the lead-up, to be considered here pre-tournament in any capacity.

Name: Ash Barty

2019 Clay Record: 4-2

Highlight: Madrid QF (lost 5-7 5-7 to Halep)

Lowlight: Lost in R16 to Mladenovic in Rome whilst managing busy singles/doubles schedule

Comment: Can she come through what now shapes as a bit of a rollercoaster section? Made the right decision to pull the pin on Strasbourg even though she would have probably won the title. I think she can work her way through the seeds around her early as there are too many question marks surrounding them in my opinion. Should make it out of this quarter on best form.


Quarter 2

Name: Simona Halep

2019 Clay Record: 7-2

Highlight: Reached final of Madrid

Lowlight: Lost first match in Rome to Vondrousova, however backing up from full week in Madrid

Comment: Defending champ, and looks primed for another assault on the title. No more question marks surround her ability to get the job done, and can counterpunch against anyone on this surface. Only concern in this quarter is a redlining performance from a Sabalenka or Kvitova, however they are due to face each other before Halep would encounter. In this top half, biggest threats are Kvitova, followed by Barty.

Name: Daria Kasatkina

2019 Clay Record: 3-3

Highlight: 3rd round of Rome (lost in 3 sets to Vondrousova)

Lowlight: Lost in straight sets to Vekic in Stuttgart

Comment: A couple of years ago I felt Kasatkina had a French Open title in her, however it is hard to support her on current form. Reliant on opponents to play poorly, which when you need 7 wins to take a title is a big ask.

Name: Aryna Sabalenka

2019 Clay Record: 3-3

Highlight: Current tournament effort in Strasbourg

Lowlight: back-to-back-to-back losses to Puig, Kunetsova and Cornet.

Comment: Happy to oppose her overall based on her lack of Grand Slam form in the past. Second serve looks to have deserted her a touch recently as well, so I cannot see her winning the title. I won’t actively oppose her, however it is hard to be excited by her price currently.

Name: Anett Kontaveit

2019 Clay Record: 4-3

Highlight: Stuttgart Final – lost to Kvitova

Lowlight: Lost to Sasnovich in Madrid having won the first set 6-0

Comment: Her best tennis is very good, however she still has difficulty sustaining it at times, and think that is ultimately her downfall at Grand Slam level. Like in Madrid, lets herself down too often from commanding starts.

Name: Petra Kvitova

2019 Clay Record: 8-2

Highlight: Won Stuttgart

Lowlight: Retired in Rome down to Sakkari (second match in one day)

Comment: Has the pedigree to go the whole way, however is she playing well enough on clay? Got Stuttgart, however indoor clay was a lot faster, and will need to do a lot more grinding this fortnight. Would need her absolute best to knock off the likes of Barty and Halep on clay.


Quarter 3

Name: Sloane Stephens

2019 Clay Record: 6-3

Highlight: Madrid SF (lost to Bertens)

Lowlight: Lost to Keys in Charleston on her comeback from injury.

Comment: Another one of the great unknowns, as she did reach the final here last year. Did seem to be playing a little better 12 months ago however, so I would be looking elsewhere at current prices. Like some others, I won’t actively be opposing her early, but she isn’t enticing at her current quote on the exchange.

Name: Garbine Muguruza

2019 Clay Record: 2-2

Highlight: Made 3rd round in Rome

Lowlight: Retired in her last match vs Azarenka

Comment: I hope we don’t look back in the career of Muguruza and wonder what might have been. Just doesn’t seem to be clicking currently, and although she has had success here in the past, it would need a significant turnaround in form to happen. Really fascinating danger game first up as well against Townsend.

Name: Elina Svitolina

2019 Clay Record: 0-2

Highlight: Returned from injury.

Lowlight: Losses to Parmentier and Azarenka.

Comment: It is a shame that she has been struggling with injury, as this is a pretty decent draw. Cannot have on her current price given her last two matches, however I will monitor her progress early in week 1.

Name: Belinda Bencic

2019 Clay Record: 9-5

Highlight: SF in Madrid (lost to Halep)

Lowlight: Lost to Lottner in first match in Lugano

Comment: Consistency is certainly improving, and does have a favourable draw. Value in outright markets however I would be laying off my stake at least against Bertens if it comes to their meeting.

Name: Johanna Konta

2019 Clay Record: 10-3

Highlight: Rome finalist, lost to Pliskova.

Lowlight: Nil – really solid claycourt swing from Konta.

Comment: Another with a very nice form set, and would certainly hold her own against Bertens in my opinion based on her recent form. Solid counterpuncher and gets a couple of big hitters in her path, so one to consider from an outright/trading perspective in my opinion.

Name: Kiki Bertens

2019 Clay Record: 12-3

Highlight: Won Madrid, defeating Halep in final

Lowlight: Lost in R16 in Charleston

Comment: One of the favourites to go the whole way, and you can see why on recent form. Not the easiest draw in my opinion, so I would rather have my money elsewhere, however a real danger opponent if she makes it to the second week.


Quarter 4

Name: Karolina Pliskova

2019 Clay Record: 6-2

Highlight: Won tournament in Rome

Lowlight: Lost to Kozlova in 3 sets in Madrid

Comment: Biggest clay threat early looks to be Kuznetsova, then  Mladenovic and Martic, however will only need to play one of Martic/Mladenovic based on the draw setup. Her best is blistering, however can she maintain it for 7 matches on clay across the fortnight? Not the easier draw and I will monitor her through week one.

Name: Angelique Kerber

2019 Clay Record: 2-1

Highlight: Minimal – 2 wins over Petkovic and Tsurenko

Lowlight: Walkover last tournament played.

Comment: Not suited to clay, and hasn’t played enough recently for me to consider for an outright. Can be slightly outgunned on the slower clay, and relies on others to perform below their level. Hard to support on recent tennis.

Name: Marketa Vondrousova

2019 Clay Record: 9-2

Highlight: Istanbul finalist (lost to Martic)

Lowlight: Lost to Konta in Rome QF, so a solid effort and not a lot of negative focus.

Comment: Certainly an unseeded threat to maybe make a run in week 1, however not sure she quite has the composure yet for the second week of a Slam. One to monitor, but I wouldn’t back with confidence in an outright market.

Name: Kristina Mladenovic

2019 Clay Record: 10-4

Highlight: Hiring new coach, and Rome QF, lost to Sakkari

Lowlight: Nil 0 losses to Halep/Martic/Kvitova/Sakkari

Comment: Another unseeded floater that has had success in front of her home crowd. New coaching setup with Bajin has had a positive impact early. Tough draw, but one to keep an eye on across the week.


Summary

I seem to have said this for each of the last couple of women’s tournaments however again this is an incredibly wide open affair. Barty and Halep appeal from the top half, with Sakkari a potential trading option with the potential to take Osaka’s draw path. Halep can be prone to slow starts in Slams and as the defending champ she will be a little nervous in her first round against a danger opponent in Tomljanovic, but if she wins that well I will look to add her as an outright selection.

The bottom half is a touch more even, and I feel Bertens is currently under the odds, so there are a few opportunities at bigger odds. Pliskova has a tough draw, however is good enough on her best form. Konta has looked great the last month and could shock at a big price, and Stephens’ draw allows her the ability to build into the week nicely. Also keep an eye on Bencic, who has a very favourable first couple of rounds, and could build nicely into the tournament.

With such a wide open draw, I wouldn’t invest too much pre-tournament.


Betting Strategy

Outright Selection

 BACK – Ash Barty

Trading Selections

 BACK to LAY – Maria Sakkari

 BACK to LAY – Johanna Konta

 BACK to LAY – Belinda Bencic

 BACK to LAY – Sloane Stephens

Check out the Betfair Hub and the Betfair Exchange for up to the minute tennis odds.

Men's Winner

Women's Winner


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