With the event decimated by injuries and withdrawals, The WTA French Open looks wide open this year. Players have either been resting or getting some last minute game time in the final warm-up events this week so our tennis expert, Dan Weston, has taken a look at the conditions and contenders at Roland Garros.
Apart from Roger Federer, the ATP French Open has all the top, high profile players in the entry list. The WTA event, however, has not been afforded this luxury. Serena Williams has joined Victoria Azarenka on the sidelines with pregnancy while Maria Sharapova was denied entry following the decision not to give her a wild-card following her return from a ban.
Petra Kvitova’s place in the draw is far from assured as she looks to return to the tour from her horrific hand injury, so it is likely that none of the historic ‘big four’ will be playing in Paris next week.
With temperatures predicted to be around 30 degrees Celsius at the start of next week bettors should be aware of the potential impact the heat will have on players.
This year’s statistics are very much in-line with the average as players head to the French capital. There have been 62.9% of service games held at the venue in the last three years - very similar to the 62.5% WTA mean - while the aces per game count of 0.20, which is bang on the WTA mean as well.
The weather is set to be superb and with temperatures predicted to be around 30 degrees Celsius at the start of next week, bettors should be aware of the potential impact the heat will have on players.
Should you follow the favourite in a wide open market?
Garbine Muguruza (10.250*) is the defending champion but the Spaniard has suffered a brutal loss of form since taking her maiden Grand Slam title, going just 16-9 this year so far with just three wins on clay. Doubts will persist that she has the quality to beat top-level opponents until she can address her current 3-6 career record against top 10 players on the dirt.
With the defending champion out of form and the top names mentioned above not in the field, we must look at other candidates for the title, and after a very strong 12-2 run this year on clay including the Madrid Premier title, Simona Halep is the current favourite in the WTA French Open outright winner odds at 4.370*.
Halep was not been tested against any top opponents; the highest ranking she faced in the six matches she won in the Spanish capital being just 17 (Kristina Mladenovic).
Despite taking the title in Madrid, Halep was not been tested against any top opponents; the highest ranking she faced in the six matches she won in the Spanish capital being just 17 (Kristina Mladenovic). In getting to the Rome final last week her best win was against 16th ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, with the 10th ranked Elina Svitolina defeating her in the final.
The defeat against Svitolina worsened Halep’s record against top 10 players on clay to 3-10 throughout her career and until this improves, she is unlikely to win a major title. Having said this, with a combined 121.7% hold/break percentage on clay this season she’s clearly a world class player on the surface.
Svitolina, after winning the title in Rome, is now 10-1 for the season on clay and is a major contender for glory at Roland Garros - she is currently 7.810* to win the tournament. The Ukrainian is improving year on year, and in these 11 matches on clay this year has an identical 121.7% combined hold/break percentage to Halep. Certainly, there are worse options for outright bettors than Svitolina in the current fortnight.
Alongside Halep and Svitolina in the 2017 clay hold/break percentages is the Charleston champion, Daria Kasatkina. Running at a WTA-best 121.9%, the young Russian will be a threat at 24.370*, although she’s only faced one top 10 player in her career so far on clay and has an injury doubt following her fall against Barbora Strycova in Rome last week.
Current form on clay
The aforementioned trio has a large hold/break advantage in 2017, with Kiki Bertens, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Kristina Mladenovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Laura Siegemund next in the hold/break rankings; all of these five players recording numbers between 109.0% and 112.5%.
Kerber, arguably the worst world number one of recent years, will seriously need to improve her level if she is to challenge for the title in Paris.
Pavlyuchenkova and Mladenovic’s clay season has come somewhat out of the blue with neither recording particularly good numbers on the surface previously in their careers - Pavlyuchenkova (48.730*) has an awful record against top 10 players on the surface as well (3-14).
Mladenovic (10.250*), along with Laura Siegemund, has a high peak level and has achieved some magnificent wins this year. These two look to be potential dark horses, while the 2009 champion Kuznetsova has solid but unspectacular clay numbers over the last few years.
Other players with decent numbers include Caroline Wozniacki, Carla Suarez Navarro, Timea Bacsinszky and Daria Gavrilova. However, the highest profile player of this quartet, Wozniacki, was forced to retire with a back injury while losing to Shelby Rogers in Strasbourg recently.
Bacsinszky has a good win percentage on the surface but a poor 2-7 record against top 10 opponents on clay - this is also the case for Suarez Navarro. The Australian, Gavrilova, is an interesting prospect, but she will need to address her mediocre break lead retention data prior to sustaining a challenge through seven rounds.
Players that will most likely struggle
Other players towards the forefront of the betting include the world number one Angelique Kerber who has only managed two wins on clay this year and is just 18-11 for 2017. Kerber, arguably the worst world number one of recent years, will seriously need to improve her level if she is to challenge for the title in Paris - this is reflected in her odds of 14.620* to win the 2017 WTA French Open.
Sharapova, Azarenka and Kvitova all likely to be competing at the next Slam at Wimbledon, this year’s French Open could represent the best chance of some non-elite players to win a major title.
Karolina Pliskova (13.140*) has also struggled to record wins on clay this year and is running at just 102.3% combined on the surface this season - she’s also only beaten a top 10 player once on clay in her entire career. While Pliskova is a real threat on other surfaces, it is highly debatable whether she is on clay.
Finally, this statement can also apply for Johanna Konta (26.390*). The Brit, who has superb hard court data, is relatively mediocre on clay and would need dramatic improvement on her worst surface if she was to even reach the quarter-final stage.
Considering the players at the top of the clay data charts this year, a first-time Grand Slam winner is certainly more likely than not. Sharapova, Azarenka and Kvitova all likely to be competing at the next Slam at Wimbledon, this year’s French Open could represent the best chance of some non-elite players to win a major title.