Tennis Picks: Early Look at Women's French Open

Nila Amerova

Friday, January 31, 2014 7:47 PM GMT

With the first grand slam firmly in the books, let’s look ahead to the second grand slam of the season, the French Open, and deliberate over the comprehensive serving of futures odds in order to determine which player(s) in the women’s field would be the best early tennis pick(s) to consider.

The upcoming French Open brings with it speculation about who might be the favourite to win the title, the ultimate prize at the end of the two-month clay-court stretch in Europe. Persistent favourite Serena Williams? Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova? Or recent Australian Open champion Li Na? Who is the chosen favourite across sportsbooks?

Shop for and compare the best French Open Odds for the Womens' Draw

The Favourites

It’s probably no surprise to any avid tennis betting fan that Serena Williams headlines the French Open betting line-up as the favourite at +138 to win outright. Her standout 2013 season underscores this market favouritism. But fact is clay is her least favourite surface, the French Open her least successful major, as evinced by her two French Open titles that are just over ten years apart. Defending her title in Paris is going to be a much tougher task than the odds makers would have you believe, mark these words.

Victoria Azarenka rings in as the second favourite at +450 to win outright across sportsbooks but, not unlike Serena Williams, clay is her least favourite surface as well. She has yet to deposit any meaningful results on the red dirt – such as win a noteworthy event. Therefore, she’s a soft second favourite at best.

Maria Sharapova enters early French Open betting markets as the third favourite to win the title at +500. Once again, like her biggest rivals Williams and Azarenka, she’s not exactly a gazelle on the red stuff. The Russian ace famously described herself as resembling a ‘cow on ice’ when playing on clay. Yet she won the title in 2012 and finished runner-up to Serena in 2013.

Li Na, following her Australian Open victory this month, climbed to fourth in the French Open pecking order, listed at +800 or thereabouts across sportsbooks. Adding weight to her tennis odds is the fact that she won her maiden grand slam in Paris in 2011. She’s not a natural clay courter either, just as her rivals aren’t. But of the lot her game is best suited for the red stuff. As well, she has in her corner Carlos Rodriguez – Justine Henin’s former coach.

The Contenders

Sportsbooks have identified several contenders for the title and they are as follows: Sloane Stephens (+2000), Agnieszka Radwanska (+2000), Simona Halep (+2200), Samantha Stosur (+2500), Sara Errani (+2800) and Petra Kvitova (+2800). What is interesting about the majority in this bunch is the fact that their game is more suited to clay courts than the aforementioned favourites. Europeans such as Radwanska, Halep, Errani and Kvitova grew up playing on the dirt while Aussie Stosur and American Stephens haven taken to it like ducks to water. One of the main reasons why neither tops the charts: they are too inconsistent to be deemed firm favourites.

Stosur and Kvitova are former grand slam champions – US Open and Wimbledon, respectively. Stosur was also a French Open finalist a few years ago. Of the lot they would probably be the likeliest dark horses in many sports betting circles but, in recent years, since their major breakthroughs, all too often they’ve succumbed to the pressure of expectations or something or other.

Radwanska has been knocking on grand slam doors for several years now and her credibility can’t be ignored. As well, Errani is a bona fide clay court player and a French Open finalist two years ago. But when by her own admission the pressure of expectation was all too much for her, it’s impossible to recommend her in futures betting markets.

Stephens has the makings of a grand slam champion but she’s a player that is still mired in the maturation process, which reduces the probability she might breakthrough in the next few months. Meanwhile, much-improved player Simona Halep is a quintessential clay-courter as Errani is. and just like the Italian, she doesn’t have the sort of game or weapons that would hold its own against the best of the power players in today’s game – even on her beloved clay.

The Pretenders

Of the pretenders there are many; the rest of the field to be exact. Without delving into all of them, suffice it to list a few of their Tennis odds, of which Dominika Cibulkova (+3300), Ana Ivanovic (+4000), Eugenie Bouchard (+5000) and Flavia Pennetta (+15000) leap off the page for various reasons. Cibulkova is coming off an Australian Open final. Ivanovic is the 2009 French Open champion and enjoying her best form since that major accomplishment. Bouchard is an up-and-comer to watch and Pennetta is a veteran that is playing the best tennis of her life.

Tennis Betting Verdict: What the women’s game lacks is a pure dominant clay-court force such as Nadal is on the men’s tour. This means that the women’s French Open is a wide-open affair in more ways than one. That said, if you are looking to make an early tennis pick on the upcoming Parisian showpiece, the best at this early stage are to be found in the top four favourites, simply because they are proven grand slam champions as well as fierce competitors. A pedigree that typically pays dividends.

Of the lot, Serena Williams at +138 and Li Na at +800 are the recommended tennis picks. Serena is the defending champion and her Australian Open disappointment will be a source of inspiration, not to mention Paris is her adopted home these days. Li Na meanwhile is a former French Open champion and current Australian Open champion. What’s more, Carlos Rodriguez knows a thing or two about winning in Paris.

Of course, it’s possible that a sportsbook contender or pretender or even an upstart would emerge, but short of the draw that is a risky play at this point in time. Best left until the clay court season gets underway and a sense of form can be measured in order to better understand their chances of emerging through what will be surely be a competitive draw.