In advance of the ATP French Open draw, it’s time to look at the likely contenders for the Men’s Singles title and assess whether anyone can challenge Rafael Nadal for the trophy. Read on to inform your French Open predictions.
The King of clay
After breezing past Pablo Carreno-Busta and Dusan Lajovic in his first two matches in Rome last week, Rafael Nadal was seemingly back into steamroller mode on his favoured clay. However, a straight sets defeat to Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals prohibited any more court time, and these three matches are still the only main tour outings that Nadal has played since the start of March.
Despite this, Pinnacle currently have the Spaniard available at 1.961* for the title, although Nadal being odds on or close to it isn’t nothing new for the French Open, a tournament where he is 12-0 in finals.
The reasons for this are quite straightforward. Not only does he have that incredible venue record, but he also has proven to be virtually unbeatable in tournaments which aren’t played in quick conditions. He also has a considerable statistical advantage over the field, recording a 114.5% combined service and return points won percentage on clay in the last 18 months - over 5% greater than any other player.
Who will challenge Nadal?
After Nadal, the next player in the list is Novak Djokovic, who is currently available at 3.62*. He’s running on the same metric at 109.3%, a figure which was boosted by him winning in Rome last week and dropping just one set in the process. This success was no doubt welcome for Djokovic, who was defaulted in the US Open and served as a nice way for him to bounce back in advance of the final Grand Slam of 2020.
Another player in single-digit pricing on the outright market is Dominic Thiem at 4.89*. Statistically, this makes complete sense - he’s a little further back in the aforementioned metric at 108.0%, but will be full of confidence following his US Open triumph. However, there has also been some discussion surrounding a slight achilles injury for the Austrian.
All other players have considerably longer odds in the outright market at the time of writing. Of these, five - Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, Stan Wawrinka and Diego Schwartzman - are currently priced between 18.00* and 50.00*, yet there are question marks surrounding all of them.
Tsitsipas’s return numbers aren’t top-level and this could be a major issue in Grand Slams where accumulated fatigue from long sets and matches can play a big part, while Zverev’s clay numbers in the last 18 months aren’t particularly impressive either.
Medvedev struggled on clay before a breakout season last year, but lost in Hamburg recently to Ugo Humbert, while it’s been a little while since Wawrinka played close to peak level. As for Schwartzman, the Argentine reached the Rome Masters final last week, so market support is understandable, but whether a player who has won around only 58% of service points in the last 18 months on clay can emerge victorious at a Grand Slam is a tall ask.
Is there value in the outsiders?
There are several interesting players at bigger prices, including Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, Filip Krajinovic and Casper Ruud, but whether any of these can threaten the elite duo of Nadal and Djokovic is another question entirely.
A Nadal v Djokovic final will be seeded and looks an outcome which has a solid likelihood of occurring. It may well be that success and progress for a number of these bigger-priced players will simply be to make the quarter or semi-finals.