At first glance, it’s immediately apparent that the ATP French Open betting market is a two-horse race between, arguably, the two best clay-court players in today’s game – Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The rest are deemed contenders but not serious threats with tennis odds trading in the quadruple digits. Without doubt the market has it right. But that doesn’t mean that it will go to plan. After all, the first grand slam on the 2014 season didn’t.
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Nadal the hot favourite
Sportsbooks serve up Rafael Nadal as the hot favourite at -150 to win outright. With tennis odds trading above even money, you can safely assume the Spaniard has the market cornered. Not for nothing is he known as the ‘King of Clay’.
Nadal will be bidding for an incredible ninth French Open title, 14th overall Grand Slam title. He very nearly accomplished the historical mark, which would’ve seen him rival Pete Sampras in the books for 14 major titles, at the Australian Open last week but for a back injury – aggravated during the second set of the final – that severely hampered his ability to play at 100% and which saw him eventually (and heartbreakingly) succumb in four sets to Stanislas Wawrinka.
Undoubtedly, Nadal deserves this fancied nod. Not only has he won the title in Paris eight times but also he’s only ever suffered one defeat at Roland Garros – to Robin Soderling in the R16 of the 2009 instalment. That is a mark few can argue within tennis betting circles, making him the instinctive tennis pick in early French Open betting markets. What’s more, if Nadal enjoys another standout run (as he’s wont to, gobbling up just about every event he enters) in the lead up to the grand clay-court showpiece, his market price will only swell.
Novak Djokovic, who’s frankly been the only player to stand up to Nadal on his beloved dirt in recent years, willing to slug it out with the nigh-indomitable Spaniard, is quite correctly listed as the second favourite to win the title at + 175 (or thereabouts) across sportsbooks. The Serbian starlet has made no secret about his Parisian intentions, it’s the only major to elude him to date and without which he’s denied entry into an illustrious group – the so-called group of ‘Career Grand Slam Champions’, of which Nadal and Federer are members. That exclusion matters to Djokovic. It’s probably his singular motivation for the season.
Djokovic reached the French Open final only once in his career, in 2012 where he lost to Nadal. Last year, he very nearly beat Nadal in a five-set marathon in the semis to advance into the final. Alas, when push came to shove and the dust finally settled Nadal was left standing victorious. It was a huge disappointment for Djokovic, one he’s sure to take a page from this year. It remains to be seen how well he’ll perform over the course of the European clay-court swing in comparison to Nadal. But knowing the competitor that he is, he’s sure to accomplish meaningful results that will go towards underscoring his tennis betting value for the French Open.
After the top tandem of Nadal-and Djokovic, odds makers are being a bit funny. Although the futures odds spike up significantly, the pecking order is questionable, if not mind-boggling. So tread carefully with your tennis picks in this category of so-called contenders.
Andy Murray, who has yet to reach a clay-court final at a meaningful event in his career – such as a Monte Carlo, Rome or Madrid final for instance – is listed as the third favourite at +1200 at Bet365! Huh? And then Juan Martin Del Potro – an adept clay-courter though he might be – is listed at +1400, putting him ahead of Roger Federer (only the 2009 French Open champion) at +1600, and ahead of both Stanislas Wawrinka (very good clay-courter) and David Ferrer (exceptional clay-courter and French Open finalist last year), who come in as the sixth and seventh favourites priced at +2200 and +2500, respectively.
Where does one begin dissecting all that is wrong with this pecking order? For starters, how can there be any value in Murray’s tennis odds when his clay court game is suspect. He’s not a gazelle on the red stuff that’s for sure. Heck, he skipped the event last year in order to (amongst other things) improve his chances for Wimbledon, which in the end proved to be a most fortuitous decision when he won the title, effectively ending Britain’s 77-year drought at Wimbledon. Draw a talented clay-courter such as Wawrinka, Ferrer, Federer or Del Potro into his section and he’ll prove beatable, make no mistake.
Federer is being held back in the markets largely because he’s no longer up to his lofty standards at the majors. And against Nadal (his personal kryptonite) he has no answers. Still, Federer promises betting value, which will only increase if he manages to avoid Nadal or Djokovic in the draw. Therefore, an early wager on Federer could prove a savvy tennis pick, not to mention a sentimental one as well. Pay attention to his European clay-court deposit when the time comes.
Wawrinka leaps off the page as another value tennis pick for your consideration, largely because of his recent induction into the champion’s circle. But it remains to be seen how he’ll handle his newfangled fame and its ensuing expectations. Often, players unused to this unique sort of pressure buckle under its overwhelming weight. So don’t be surprised if Wawrinka crumbles like an Oreo cookie.
Tennis Betting Verdict: From this early vantage point, it’s a two-horse race, end of. Nadal is the hot favourite at -150 at Bet365 but Djokovic is more than capable of dethroning the Spanish King in France and, hence, the betting public is split evenly between this pair. Loyalists will back their man, naturally. Neutral tennis bettors can back either or put an each way bet on the pair The only outside tennis pick that holds any appeal right now is Federer at +1600 in our opinion. The rest of the contenders have flattered to deceive all too often. They can do damage, take out some big names. But short of the draw, it’s hard to predict whether either will (if at all) have a coming out party in Paris.