Starting on Sunday is the second Grand Slam of 2019, the French Open. This preview runs the rule over the conditions and contenders for the men’s singles title.
French Open 2019 predictions
The Roland Garros venue in Paris plays host to the French Open, which is arguably the toughest Grand Slam - physically - on the tennis calendar. The medium-slow clay conditions play a big part in this, with just 0.39 aces per game served at the tournament across the last three years (main draw data), a marked drop from other, more serve-orientated, Grand Slam events.
With this being the case, players are less likely to win cheap points, and will be required to win more long rallies during the course of their matches.
Accumulated fatigue is always a key consideration in Grand Slam tennis, but here in Paris, it should be even more prominent in bettors’ thoughts
The effect of this is longer matches and more court time required to reach the latter stages, so for men’s players in particular it is important that the main contenders don’t over-exert themselves during the early rounds where they will usually be strong pre-match favourites.
Accumulated fatigue is always a key consideration in Grand Slam tennis, but here in Paris, it should be even more prominent in bettors’ thoughts.
In the last three events, 76.6% of service games have been held, a figure which is a slight drop in the overall clay figures on the ATP Tour during the same time period (77.0% mean), and we can accurately assess general conditons as medium-slow for clay, and likely to slightly assist players of a return-orientated dynamic.
Can anyone stop Rafa Nadal at the 2019 French Open?
Leading the outright market is certainly someone who fits nicely into that description - Rafa Nadal.
The Spaniard is currently priced at 2.04* to lift the trophy in two weeks’ time, and will start the tournament in good heart following his win in the Rome Masters last weekend, emphatically defeating Novak Djokovic in the final.
Both across the last 12 months, and in 2019 in isolation, Nadal has by far the best data on the ATP Tour, running at over 112% combined service and return points won percentage - beyond elite level numbers.
No other player can come remotely close to Nadal's figures, although of the major contenders, second favourite in the market, Novak Djokovic, is the player nearest
No other player can come remotely close to these figures, although of the major contenders, second favourite in the market, Novak Djokovic, is the player nearest.
The world number one has won 65.4% of service points on clay this year, and 40.9% on return (106.3% combined), with his issue being that he simply cannot challenge Nadal’s return figures. Certainly, the discrepancy between the two players using these metrics would indicate that it is difficult to justify Djokovic’s market price at 3.43*, at the time of writing.
The only other player in single-digit pricing is Dominic Thiem, with the Austrian’s clay data this year at 105.1% combined - top five level but not nearly as high as Nadal, and with a slight deficiency to Djokovic on return.
There is little doubt that Thiem will have his supporters following wins on slow hard court in Indian Wells, and subsequent clay triumph in Barcelona, but he’d still be a considerable underdog to Nadal in a head-to-head match, despite beating him en route to that Barcelona title. He’s currently priced at 7.10*.
2019 French Open odds: Is there any value at bigger odds?
A quartet of players are priced between the 10 and 20 mark in the current outright pricing. Among these, veteran Roger Federer is respected by the market at 18.75* despite withdrawing from Rome, and it’s worth noting that he has solid enough data (104.6% combined) on clay this year, even though the calibre of his opponents has generally been very strong.
Assuming a decent level of fitness, Federer would be expected to make the second week at the very least, and shouldn’t be completely ruled out, although it’s fair to suggest that he will have been likely to enjoy the quicker conditions in Madrid several weeks ago more than the slower ones he will face in Paris.
Priced at the same mark is Kei Nishikori, but statistically, the Japanese man is below the level exhibited by Federer. He’s below the 102% combined mark on clay this year, which is considerably worse than his peak levels exhibited a few years ago.
It’s difficult to make a case for Nishikori, who has lost to Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Daniil Medvedev, Stan Wawrinka and Diego Schwartzman on the surface already this season.
The other two players in this price bracket are the fitness-doubt Juan Martin Del Potro, and the improving Greek talent, Stefanos Tsitsipas. Del Potro has only played three tournaments this year, and just two (in Madrid and Rome) on clay, so there are likely to be a number of question marks over the Argentine with regards to his longevity in Paris.
On the other hand, 20 year old Tstisipas is on a nice upward curve. He’s won 63.4% of service points and 41.0% on return (104.4% combined) which is a 1% increase on his 2018 surface data - largely on return, and can be considered a live contender at odds of 16.759*.
Following these players, we have to drop down to odds of 33.53* to find Alexander Zverev, whose 2019 data has plummeted following a very strong 2018 season.
The German has had big issues this year, with numerous defeats as solid favourite on the surface, and also has plenty to prove in Grand Slam events, only having reached one quarter-final at this level in his entire career - a facile loss to Thiem here last year, where he won just seven games in the match.
Who are the French Open underdogs?
At bigger odds - mostly around the 100.00 mark - there are some other contenders worthy of comment. Borna Coric has flown under the radar a little this season, but like Tsitsipas, is on a nice upward curve generally in his career, and at 105.7% combined, has exhibited strong clay data this season.
He lost having had several match points against Federer last week in Rome, so is evidently competing at a high level.
Daniil Medvedev’s level on clay this year has been a surprise. The Russian player is a prodigious talent, but hadn’t been able to translate his level in quicker conditions to clay courts until this year. If he continues his rapid improvement on clay, he could shock a bigger name player.
Other long-shots who aren’t even on the current pricing list who could be of interest include the likes of Matteo Berrettini and Christian Garin, who are both young and enjoying superb clay seasons, while Filip Krajinovic, Guido Pella and the evergreen Pablo Cuevas are very competent on the surface and are worth keeping an eye on for any eventual match-ups against high reputation players who may not be at a high level on the surface currently.
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