The WTA has produced a huge number of first-time grand slam champions over the past few years. Are we set for another one in the final of this year’s women’s French Open? Join me as I analyze the women’s final in Paris and offer my best value picks and predictions.
Iga Świątek vs. Sofia Kenin (4)
Saturday, October 10, 2020 – 09:00 AM EDT at Stade Roland Garros, Paris
How They Arrive at the Final
Not many people would have put money on this final two weeks ago. However, the women’s tour has once again produced a stunning pair of outsiders. Meanwhile, the men’s side looks set for another Djokovic-Nadal final. Some people just love the big 3 and want them to win everything. I prefer the surprise finals from both an interest and a betting perspective.
Świątek is clearly the bigger surprise on paper, but I’m almost as impressed that Kenin has managed to make it this far. Given her lack of clay pedigree and a dismal 6-0, 6-0 loss in her last match before the event. It has to be said that Kenin hasn’t played amazing tennis on the whole. She managed to make the semi-final without playing a single-player ranked above 49, and she dropped a set in 4 of her 6 matches this week. However, she’s shown impressive resilience and determination.
The Polish by contrast has played lights out tennis from the go and hasn’t let up once. She’s dropped a total of 22 games over the event (Kenin has dropped 65), with her ‘worst’ performances being a 6-3, 6-2 win over Bouchard, and a 6-1, 6-4 win over Hsieh. Most notably, she demolished top seed Halep 6-1, 6-2 at WTA odds of +500 (6). And almost as impressively, she didn’t have a comedown after that match at all.
How It Plays Out
There are really only two ways this match can play out in my mind. Either Świątek plays as she has over this week, in which case she will win almost every time and probably comfortably, or she will be overawed by the occasion and crumble under pressure. Despite her weaknesses, Kenin is still an elite baseliner and she will not rollover. Iga will have to take the initiative and play the aggressive, shot-making tennis that has got her this far.
I can’t see how or why Świątek would change what has been a devastating strategy. My only concern is with the occasion. It is remarkably harder to play aggressive, shot-making tennis when in your maiden slam final. That said, she has been incredibly calm and composed in every match so far this week. It is never possible to guarantee how someone will play, but I do expect at least a similar level overall from Świątek.
Kenin’s best hope is that Iga gets nervous, but that aside, she’s just going to have to put as much pressure on the Polish as possible. As mentioned, I have been impressed by her resilience this week. I imagine she’ll have a couple of tactics in mind designed to try and break Świątek’s rhythm.
It is also worth noting that while Kenin doesn’t have a great clay pedigree, she has been successful as an underdog for our tennis picks, which may highlight the importance of her style. She is somewhat of a hybrid, able to both attack and defend well. However, her preference is usually to counterpunch. So when she is an underdog against the bigger hitters, her game works more naturally than if she has to force the issue. She defeated Serena here in 2019 and has taken sets off Pliskova and Barty on clay so she can’t be ruled out.
Świątek is very hard to oppose. She’s won 43 of her last 50 matches as a favorite on clay for a 13.1% ROI, including 9 of her last 10. Those kinds of numbers tell you something about her consistency and ability to get the job done under pressure.
All in all, I would expect the Polish to come through. Perhaps after shaking off some nerves, or maybe in the same blistering form, she has shown all week. Either way, I see some value in Świątek ML at -167 (1.6) with Betonline and other of the best betting sites. That’s my pick for the final.