Maria Sharapova looks to defend her French Open crown at the expense of the bookies odds-on- favourite Serena Williams. Join us as we preview the French Open draw and serve up tennis picks.
Is Serena Williams The Player To Beat?
Serena Williams comes into the 2015 French Open somewhat short on preparation. She skipped Charleston, lost in Madrid badly to Petra Kvitova in straight sets in the semis and withdrew from Rome after playing just one match. It's not the best form that she's in ahead of the French Open. Arguably, her least successful Grand Slam event where she's only won two of her 19 Grand Slam titles. So is Serena Williams really the player to beat over the next fortnight in Paris? That's a question tennis fans and experts are speculating over intently and that we're going to attempt to answer in this French Open draw preview.
As it is, Serena Williams is trading at +275 to win the French Open while Maria Sharapova, the defending champion, is matched at +450 tennis odds. A price-point shared by last year's runner-up Simona Halep.
Serena's quarter is no picnic by any stretch of the imagination with a potential third round clash with Victoria Azarenka, who is one of the top five favourites to win it all on the French Open odds board at +1200 tennis odds. Indeed, this could be a potential upset alert to spot on your tennis picks if the pair do set up the meeting. Although Serena remains the top favourite at -150 to win the quarter and Azarenka the second favourite at +450 tennis odds.
Others in Serena's immediate path include Barbora Strycova, who is enjoying a solid clay court season, Sloane Stephens and Andrea Petkovic. If that isn't bad enough, sister Venus Williams could emerge as a potential fourth round opponent while veteran Jelena Jankovic and BFF Caroline Wozniacki could emerge as a potential quarterfinal opponents (the Dane is matched at +800 to win the quarter).
To Win Quarter: Well, one has to consider Serena amongst the top tennis picks here, but a small wager on Azarenka at +450 and Wozniacki at +800 could be solid alternative tennis picks to consider as well.
The second quarter is flanked by fourth seed Petra Kvitova and sixth seed Eugenie Bouchard. Within this section, there are plenty of dirt ballers to spot, including former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who had a standout run in Madrid before finishing runner-up to Kvitova. Not surprisingly, these three rank amongst the top favourites to win this section: Kvitova at +110, Bouchard at +600 and Kuznetsova at +800.
For tennis bettors look to bet on this section, giving Bouchard a miss may be the prudent move seeing as her season leaves a lot to be desired. She's also set to open against one of the home favourites, Krisitina Mladenovic. If she survives the early rounds, she could come up against Kuznetsova in the third round. Other alternatives include Karolina Pliskova, who's enjoying a standout season, and could give Bouchard a run for her money. In fact, the Czech is a contender to win this section at +1200.
On paper, Kvitova falls into the favourable side of this draw. That said she could get a stern test from dark horse Timea Bacsinszky, compatriot Tereza Smitkova or Madison Keys, who beat her in Melbourne earlier this season, in the fourth round. A rematch between Keys and Kvitova would be the popcorn match of this section that tennis bettors will want to spot.
To Win Quarter: Kvitova can still blow hot and cold from tournament to tournament, but when she's on she's formidable and that makes her a good tennis pick in our opinion. That said alternative tennis picks have to be Kuznetsova at +800, Pliskova at +1200 or Madison Keys at +1400.
Simona Halep and Ana Ivanovic flank opposing ends of the third quarter, which is an altogether good looking quarter with Ekaterina Makarova thrown into the mix as well as Carolina Garcia (French favourite), Elina Svitolina and Agnieszka Radwanska, to name a few. In more ways than one, this is a wide open quarter despite the tennis odds that firmly corner it in Halep's camp at -110 tennis odds to win the quarter. For good reason, she was the runner-up last season and gave the French crowd something to cheer about when she took Sharapova to three sets. It was one of the best women's finals in recent memory, in all the grand slams mind.
Halep could see a few obstacles come her way, including Alize Cornet in the second round. That is a potentially dangerous matchup for the Romanian as the crowd will surely be behind their own. In the third round, she could face Radwanska (+600) or Svitolina or one of several other dangerous floaters including Alexsandra Krunic.
Over on the other side, former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic kicks off against a tough first round opponent in Yaroslava Shvedova. She's one of those players that could pull off the upset in the early goings. If Ivanovic (+600) survives the first round, she'd face Carolina Garcia (+1600 to win the quarter) in the second round potentially. Ivanovic is popular where she goes, but this time the crowd will surely be against the fan favourite Ivanvoic with one of their own standing opposite her looking to fly the French flag high. If Ivanovic can overcome these obstacles in the early goings, Ekaterina Makarova could be waiting in the fourth round, looking to book her spot in the quarterfinals.
To Win Quarter: One has to like what Simona Halep brings to the table at the Grand Slam, so she's a viable tennis pick in our books. Other alternative tennis picks to consider in this section is Makarova, who is riding back-to-back semi-final appearances since last year's US Open. As well, one can't overlook veterans Radwanska and Ivanovic, both matched at +600 tennis odds to win this section.
The fourth quarter features defending champion Maria Sharapova and the in-form Carla Suaraz Navarro. The pair squared off in the Rome final recently, where Suarez took the first set before Sharapova edged the Spaniard in three sets in the end.
In the eyes of many tennis bettors, Sharapova is the value tennis pick to win the French Open on account of her form over the course of the European clay-court swing and in the lead up to Paris. As it is, Sharapova is priced as the +100 favourite to win this quarter and Suarez is trading at +550 tennis odds.
Sharapova's path to the quarters is strewn with some dangerous floaters, including former French Open finalist Samantha Stosur. As well, she has Sabine Liscki looming as a potential third round opponent; the German has been known to serve up an upset or two in her time. Another fourth round opponent could be Lucie Safarova (+2000 to win the quarter), who's playing some of her best tennis late in her career and is a dangerous lefty.
On the opposite side, Suarez looks ahead to an opening date with tricky Monica Niculescu, who gave Serena headaches in Indian Wells and Miami with her unorthodox style. Down the road, Flavia Pennetta looms as a potential second round opponent while Angelique Kerber (+1000 to win the quarter) could emerge in the fourth round, another big swinging lefty that can do damage in the draw. Another fourth round opponent could be Garbine Muguruza (+750 to win the quarter), who upset Serena in the second round last year.
To Win Quarter: As far as tennis picks go, one can't overlook Sharapova at +100 to win this quarter. She's won two of the last three French Opens and comes into the tournament as the defending champion. Other alternatives to consider on your tennis picks include Suarez at +550 and Kerber at +1000. We also like the look of Lucie Safarova at +2000, a long shot but a reasonably good dark horse to bank on.