The French Open moves on without it's King Rafael Nadal. The semifinal lines are drawn and it's down to Djokovic vs. Murray and Tsonga vs. Wawrinka to decide the final matchup. Here are our choice tennis picks.
Tsonga +175 vs. Wawrinka -225
BFFs Tsonga and Wawrinka collide in the French Open semifinals, the most important meeting on their storied careers. Wawrinka, by virtue of his higher ranking and his Australian Open title, enters as the decided favourite at -225 to win outright. But Tsonga enters the clash as the home favourite and the crowd favourite, despite his nominal +175 underdog odds to win outright. Who will win this heady clash?
By the stats, the head-to-head isn't entirely revealing as it sits 3-3 lifetime. Of the six meetings that they split evenly, Wawrinka has won the last two. The Swiss also has the slight 3-2 edge on clay having beaten Tsonga in the 2013 Madrid Masters and 2014 Davis Cup Final. That said, all their meetings were close contests that were decided by a handful of points here or there. That includes two meetings at the French Open (2011 and 2012) that were five set marathons, with each winning one. Wawrinka won their R32 clash in 2011 4-6, 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3, while Tsonga won their 2012 clash in the R16 6-4, 7-6(6), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4.
Clearly, there is very little that separates these two. They know each other's game very well and then there's the friendship factor as well. Wawrinka has the form this season behind a 22-8 mark and two titles. Tsonga came into the French Open significantly short on court time and with a losing 6-10 record, not that it has mattered much obviously.
On paper, Wawrinka is the sensible tennis pick at -225 to win outright. On an emotional level, Tsonga is the value tennis pick at +175 to win outright. France is hankering for a home grown champion since Yannick Noah won the French Open in 1983. Granted it's not the long hiatus Britain had to deal with until Murray ended the domestic title drought at Wimbledon two years ago. But it's reminiscent of it. You can bet the crowd will be a third player on the court and do what they can to rattle Wawrinka, as they did to Nishikori in the quarterfinals. So long as Tsonga can rise to the occasion, he could clinch a spot in the final and continue flying the French flag high.
Tennis Picks: Tsonga +175 and in five sets at +650
Djokovic -450 vs. Murray +333
Djokovic and Murray are set to collide in the semifinals of the French Open, both having not lost a clay court match this season. Something is going to have to give when this pair collides. Djokovic won in Monte Carlo and Rome and reaches the semifinal after dethroning Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. Murray comes into this tournament with back-to-back clay court titles in Munich and Madrid, `the latter of which he won at the expense of none other than Rafael Nadal in the final.
Both have not lost on clay. Both have beaten the ultimate standard on clay in Rafael Nadal. The upshot of which, both will be supremely confident in their own right. Oh, and both got married within the last year, something that seems to have lifted their games to new heights. (Message to Nadal: Get Married!).
Head-to-head, Djokovic has the 18=8 edge over Murray lifetime. The Serbian has also won their last seven meetings pretty comfortably, including a four set win at the 2014 US Open quarterfinal and a four set win at the 2015 Australian Open Final. The last time Murray beat Djokovic was in 2013 at the Wimbledon final that ended Britain's long wait for a home grown champion.
Clearly, by the stats and form on the season Djokovic is the smart tennis pick at -450 to win outright. However, Murray is a reinvented player on clay, brimming with confidence that is going to be crucial in this match. As well, he has France's Amelie Mauresmo in his camp coaching him along, something that the French public must appreciate, if not to spur them along to root for him.
It would be a grievous error to overlook Murray on your tennis picks just because Djokovic dethroned Nadal in the previous round. Ergo making him the de facto heir apparent to the throne. To be fair, Nadal's confidence coming into the French Open wasn't where it was in previous seasons so the win by Djokovic needs to be taken into context. It was a good match, but it wasn't the "Nadal in his heyday" that Djokovic beat. It was but a shadow of that man.
So, it's a long shot at +333 tennis odds to win outright, but we're going to chance Murray on our tennis picks. We do believe he has a reasonable shot to win this match. That and for the sake of some competition in the men's game somebody else has to win an important title this year. Djokovic simply can't win everything or else tennis betting is just going to be one-dimensional and boring. Seriously.
Tennis Picks: Murray +333 and in five sets at +900