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May 24, 2018
May 24, 2018

2018 ATP French Open betting preview

Should Nadal be such a short favourite?

Can anyone challenge the King of Clay?

Is there any value at bigger odds?

2018 ATP French Open betting preview

Credit: Getty Images

With the French Open starting this week, this preview looks at the conditions and contenders to take the men’s singles title in the clay court Grand Slam of 2018. Read on for some expert tennis betting insight.

The French Open heralds the end of the mid-year clay court season, with players moving immediately into grass court action - from one extreme to another from a court speed perspective - after the tournament concludes. 

On the subject of court speed, conditions at the French Open are anticipated to be medium-paced, with 62.3% of service points won at Roland Garros in the last three years, a figure which is identical to the ATP clay mean for this time period. We should experience standard clay-court conditions without a particular bias towards big-servers or return-orientated players.

What to make of the short-priced favourite

After the most incredible run of results which saw him win 50 consecutive sets on clay, Rafael Nadal is understandably favourite for this event, and a heavy one at that - he’s currently priced at 1.434* in the outright market.

Nadal leads the list of contenders, statistically, by some way, having won 68.5% of points on serve and 48.4% on return (116.9% combined) on clay in 2018.

Stunningly, despite Nadal not being known as having a dominant serve, only a few players, such as Pablo Cuevas and John Isner, can better this service points won figure.

Nobody can touch the Spaniard on return, with Diego Schwartzman (43.0%) his nearest rival from this perspective. Nadal has won over 5% more points on return on clay this year than any other player in the field, which is a truly outstanding achievement.

With these factors considered, it is clear that Nadal’s odds are utterly justified, and it will take someone in inspired form - difficult to sustain over the course of five sets - to prevent him lifting the trophy for an 11th time in Paris.

2018 French Open odds: Can anyone challenge Nadal?

Three players, in addition to Nadal, are priced in single-digits at the time of writing, with Dominic Thiem at (8.740*), Novak Djokovic at (9.760*) and Alexander Zverev priced at (9.790*).

Nadal leads the list of contenders, statistically, by some way, having won 68.5% of points on serve and 48.4% on return (116.9% combined) on clay in 2018.

Of the aforementioned players, it’s a surprise to see Zverev the most generously priced - he’s got the best clay data on tour this year (with the exception of Nadal) running at 109.3% combined service/return points won percentage, with Djokovic at 106.9% and Thiem down at 104.5%, prior to this week’s warm-up matches. 

There certainly could be a fair argument made for both Djokovic and Thiem being priced more on reputation - Djokovic on former glories and Thiem with a reputation for loving clay - as opposed to current ability, and while both are threats, a case can be made for Zverev being the best value of the trio.

Is there any value at bigger odds?

Further down the field, former champion Stan Wawrinka, at 30.740*, will need to improve his current level of fitness in this week’s warm-up event in Geneva. He has a solid record in his home clay tournament but will be under huge pressure at Roland Garros to defend runner-up ranking points. Should the Swiss man fail to do so, as appears likely, he will plummet down the rankings. 

Similarly priced is Juan Martin Del Potro, available currently at 25.060*, which looks about right, given that the Argentine is fifth on the list of contenders from a combined clay serve/return points won perspective this season (105.7%). With Del Potro, there is always a slight question mark over his fitness, but he looks one of the main contenders for the latter stages of the event. 

In what looks an tournament stacked towards the big names at the forefront of the market, David Goffin (45.40*) is the only other player with odds below 50.00, and the Belgian has had an inconsistent season so far, although the world number nine has shown some improvement of late, losing only to strong players on clay - including Nadal and Zverev - this season.

Doubts continue over whether Goffin is good enough to compete at the business end of Grand Slams, and his 63.6% service points won percentage ranks as solid, as opposed to spectacular.

It’s not just about betting on the outright winner

With every other player at big odds, it’s worth discussing which of these have some long-shot possibilities and provide a potential hedging opportunity, even though the tournament has historically favoured the top five seeds for the last decade.

There certainly could be a fair argument made for both Djokovic and Thiem being priced more on reputation - Djokovic on former glories and Thiem with a reputation for loving clay - as opposed to current ability

Of these, Borna Coric, who has a superb 108.0% combined serve/return points won percentage this year on clay, could be a viable option at (78.560*), with the young Croat certainly showing considerable improvement this year, and starting to justify his huge potential. 

Another young prospect who has improved dramatically this year is Stefanos Tsitsipas, with the Greek talent showing a very strong level (103.7% combined) this year on clay, which looks to be his best surface statistically - he’s available at (111.630*).

Other players worth discussing are Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori, both at 66.770* at the time of writing, but both have yet to demonstrate this season that they are at a level good enough to test the elite on clay in Paris over the course of a fortnight - both have had injury issues, which is virtually a permanent worry for Nishikori backers.

Finally, Nick Kyrgios - fitness - and Grigor Dimitrov - lack of ability on clay - will be fancied by a number of pundits as outside chances who can go deep into the tournament, but there is very little in the way of statistical evidence to back up any claims from this duo. Likewise, Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych, whose levels have dropped markedly this season.

2018 WTA French Open betting preview

Odds subject to change

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