Bienvenue à Paris! L’Open de France est arrivé! We have two weeks full of the WTA’s best talent showing their skills in my favorite conditions. Clay tennis offers the most rallies or the most “tennis” as I think of it. Roland Garros also has the added bonus of usually offering us a first time grand slam champion. Starting in 2016, Garbiñe Mugurza, Jelena Ostapenko, Simona Halep, Ashleigh Barty, and last year Iga Swiatek all won their maiden slam event in Paris. The favorites in the betting markets this year are almost all players who have won a slam, but I’m hopeful that the first time streak can continue. Let’s dive into the draw to see how possible that might be, pick a winner, and hopefully find some value in the outright betting markets.
This quarter starts and likely finishes with Ashleigh Barty. She is 28-6 this season with titles in Yarra Valley, Miami, and Stuttgart with a 2nd place finish in Madrid as well. Barty is not only having one of the best seasons in the WTA, she is establishing herself as the best player on tour. She was the 2019 French Open champion and lost only 2 sets that fortnight. Her path is a winnable one and she is 2nd favorite to win the tournament at 5 to 1. There are some challenges along the way, but she will be a strong favorite in every match in this quarter. In the semifinals Ashleigh will almost certainly face Iga Swiatek who is the favorite to win this fortnight. The winner of that match will be the favorite in the tournament and given how soft quarters 3 & 4 are could be a big favorite. I love the Australians chances at Roland Garros, but at 5 to 1 we can’t bet on that to happen.
Elina Svitolina sits at the bottom of this quarter. She’s had success in Rome which are comparable courts to these, but her best finishes in Paris are appearances in the quarterfinals in 2015, 2017, and 2020. She could certainly match that this year, but it will be tough. Her first 2 matches should be easy wins, but then she has to beat the winner of Alexandrova/Krejcikova and Muchova for the privilege to face Barty in the quarterfinal. She is 30 to 1 win her first grand slam this fortnight which is much too low. That 3rd round match will be much closer than expected. Muchova may not be healthy, but has a match or 2 to build some form and days off in between to recover. Svitolina can win those matches, but even if she does will be an underdog from the quarterfinals onward. You’ll do much better betting her match to match than playing 30 to 1.
The aforementioned Karolina Muchova is intriguing. The numbers above certainly look poor, but you’ll notice there’s only 2 matches in the sample. She lost in the 1st round here last year and lost in the 1st round in 3 sets to Alexandrova this year in Stuttgart. After that, she won 3 matches in Madrid and lost in the quarterfinals. Due to technical difficulties, those matches are not included in my dataset, so focus on the right half where you can see how impressive she’s been on clay. She withdrew from Rome and is possibly still injured. At 40-1, there’s just not enough value to back her given that and she will have to beat Barty and Swiatek just to get to the final. I do, however, like her price to win this quarter at 8.5 to 1. She’s likely a strong favorite until faving Svitolina and could even be a favorite there. If she faces Barty in the quarterfinals, we can easily hedge/buy out for a profit.
Coco Gauff and Barbora Krejcikova have made finals in their latest clay events and will be good players to back match to match, but neither is a serious threat to win this tournament. Coco is 22 to 1 to win the tournament and 6.5 to 1 to win this quarter despite having to beat Barty just to make the quarterfinals. Krejcikova is at much bigger numbers, but has to beat Muchova and Barty to advance to the semifinals. Barbora is 150 to 1 to lift the trophy and 25 to 1 to win the first quarter. I don’t think she can win the event, but I am going to place a small wager on her to win this quarter. She’ll be competitive in every match and will have enough value to lock in profit when she faces Barty.
As mentioned, Iga Swiatek is the favorite to win this event which would be her second French Open title in a row. She is in fine form having won her last event, Rome. Her first 3 matches should be quick wins and although the 4th match and quarterfinals will require more of her, things don’t get difficult until the semifinals against the winner of quarter 1. Barty beat Iga in Madrid in 2 tight sets and I expect another close match in Paris. This is probably the final as the winner of this match will be a strong favorite over just about everyone in the bottom half. At just 2.5 to 1, I’m happy to skip backing her now and wait for that match. If she rips through this quarter I will back her in the semifinals or maybe take an outright mid tournament, but there’s just no value at this number in the tougher half of the draw.
Garbiñe Muguruza would be Swiatek’s first challenging opponent, but she was injured in Charleston and didn’t play very well in her 3 matches in Rome. She beat Tig, almost lost to Bera, and got smoked by Svitolina. To add to my doubt, she has one of the toughest spots in the draw. She faces nothing but good clay courters until Swiatek which only gets her to the quarterfinals. She is laughably the 4th or 5th betting favorite lift the trophy at 10-1. Don’t bet that. In fact, ask your friends if they want to be that and take their action.
I would be thrilled to see either Jessica Pegula or Sofia Kenin face Swiatek in the quarterfinal, but Pegula is not quite at the level needed to beat her opponents from round 3 and later. She’s one of my favorite young players and keeps getting better, but even a quarterfinal appearance in Rome isn’t enough to get me to back her even at 100 to 1 to lift the trophy. Kenin is another young American I cheer for, but she looks lost on court since leaving Australia. She’s lost all 3 matches this season clay and there has been little to no sign of the player who finished second in this tournament just last year. She’s 100 to 1 as well and I’m happy to pass. I’ll be cheering for both, but not wagering on either.
Instead of those two, the top part of this quarter should come down to the winner of Maria Sakkari vs. Elise Mertens against Jelena Ostapenko. That first match is going to be a must watch for me, but I can’t tell you confidently who wins. Elise is 40 to 1 and Sakkari is 50 to 1 in the outright markets. That difference is likely due to Sakkari’s second match being more difficult. Either way, I’d want a much better number to back either player. They would have to beat Swiatek and Barty just to make the final and I think either could lose to Ostapenko. Jelena won this event in 2017 and doesn’t appear to be at that level, but she played well in Rome and showed flashes. Her path is fairly smooth until she faces Mertens/Sakkari and you know what happens after that by now. She’s 80 to 1 win her second French Open which I have no interest in, but Ostapenko is 18 to 1 to win this quarter which is worth a wager to me. Similar to our first quarter bets, we’ll likely hedge/buy out against the favorite in the quarterfinals which we can do with this much value.
With all due respect to Serena Williams, I’m not entirely sure she’s here to win this event. She is just 2-3 on clay in 2020 and 2021 combined. At this point in her career, it might not be worth the injury risk to prep for a full clay season and instead better for her to focus on Wimbledon and the US Open. She is 22 to 1 to win the tournament and if you’d like my opinion on that number go back up and read the last 2 sentences of the Muguruza paragraph.
Petra Kvitova is in a place to take advantage of the void Serena will leave at the top of this quarter. She made the semifinals last year at this event, but struggled in Rome dropping a set to Linette and losing in 3 sets to Vera Zvonareva. This was after back to back quarterfinals in Stuttgart and Madrid, but the former is indoors and the latter is at altitude which helps her style of play. Going back to last year’s semifinal, it’s not as impressive under scrutiny. She beat Dodin, Paolini, Fernandez, Zhang, and Siegemund before losing in 2 sets to Sofia Kenin. The market is offering 20 to 1 for her to get this year’s Suzanne-Lenglen Cup. I can’t support that wager, but at 4.5 to 1 to win the quarter I am intrigued. As I mentioned, I don’t expect Serena to be in her way and unless the tennis player formerly known as Elena Rybakina shows up, Petra has smooth sailing to the quarterfinals where she could be favored and would be a small underdog at worst.
The bottom half of this quarter features Victoria Azarenka, Clara Tauson, and Madison Keys in the top section. Azarenka and Keys aren’t exactly the greatest clay players on tour, but each have made a few quarterfinals at the French Open. Those were preceded by strong performances on clay events beforehand. Neither has done anything to inspire confidence during clay season and in fact, have losing records on the dirt this season. Tauson ripped through the hard court season, but has stalled since the surface change. She was the betting favorite to win Bogota and lost in the first round. Clara did make the quarterfinals in Charleston, part 2, but that’s more “clay” than clay. She lost her last two matches in the first round in Saint-Malo and Parma. I would like to think one of these 3 can find a little form and make a run, but I’m not counting on it. They can all be found at 80 to 1 or better to win this tournament and even at some large numbers I’m happy to pass.
That leaves us one name at the bottom, Aryna Sabalenka. Can she be the 6th woman in a row to win her maiden grand slam tournament in Paris? She’s the third betting favorite at 7.5 to 1. She made back to back finals in Madrid and Stuttgart and won the title in Spain. As mentioned when I talked about Kvitova, the former is at altitude and the latter is indoors which are better conditions for her. Her first match will be her toughest until the quarterfinals and she’ll be a favorite in that match as well as in the semifinals. If she makes the final, she will be an underdog to either Barty or Swiatek, but I would love to see that match. She has the talent and power to beat anyone on her best day. I will be watching a lot of her matches and cheering for her, but I won’t be putting any money behind her before the tournament starts. I think she has what it takes to win here, but there’s no value in her prices.
This is by far the most open quarter of the draw. Naomi Osaka is an excellent tennis player, possibly the best in the WTA, but her best performance in any WTA level clay tournament is seminfinals appearance in Stuttgart in 2019. She has never made it past the 3rd round of the French Open and might not even best that in a competitive quarter. At 12 to 1, you can put her in the same category as Muguruza and Serena.
Osaka’s likely 3rd round opponent is Paula Badosa and will be our first outright selection to the winner. I know, it took until the 4th quarter, but we finally found someone that can win the tournament and is at an appealing number at 30 to 1 to win the French Open. By the way, I stress CAN in the can win. I don’t expect her to win, but she should be the favorite to win this quarter although books have not updated for her change in draw position and still think she’s in the 3rd quarter. If they do, I will almost certainly back her in that market at well. I’ll update this piece and let you know. As for the 30 to 1 outright to win the tournament, I expect her to win this quarter and at least be competitive with Sabalenka if she’s waiting in the semifinals. Once she gets to the finals we can hedge/buy out, but who knows? She just keeps getting better. Either way, we’ll have the option to jump ship if we want.
Bianca Andreescu is the seed at the top of this quarter and very much a fly in the ointment if you’ll allow another cliché. She played her first clay matches since 2019 last week in Strasbourg. She beat 2 opponents well beneath her level and withdrew out of “precaution” for an abdominal injury. To be perfectly honest, I think she was a little sore after her first tennis in a while, let alone her first clay matches, and wanted to head to Paris to recover and practice. She is so talented that I really think she can win this quarter and even make the finals, but betting on that to happen really feels like gambling. We know she recently had covid and has always been injury prone, so maybe she was really hurt? If not, Bianca is arguably the most talented player in this quarter. Luckily, her path is too difficult to justify even a price of 22 to 1, so I won’t bet on her, but I’m curious to see how she looks and will be backing her if she impresses in her first few matches.
What is probably the best match of the first round is also the one that makes me the angriest. Amanda Anisimova might be on her way back to potential greatness. She suffered the devastating death of her father to a heart attack just before the 2019 US Open, struggled throughout 2020, but looked promising in Rome and Parma. She is 66 to 1 this fortnight. Veronika Kudermetova is one of my favorite players on tour and that was well before she cashed a 40 to 1 outright ticket for us in Charleston, part 1. Since then, she made the semifinals in Istanbul, although she got blown out by Mertens, and won 2 matches each in both Madrid and Rome before losing to Kvitova and Barty respectively. The Kudermonster is 40 to 1 to win the French Open. I would be very interested in backing either play in this quarter except for one problem, they face each other in round 1. I guess I should feel lucky to see them play, but, I’m still upset I won’t be backing either.
I do have some good news, there is one name in the top of this quarter that I will be betting on to win the tournament. Nadia Podoroska is 100 to 1 in the outright betting markets. She is 28 to 1 to win this quarter. Nadia has put up some of the best numbers of clay of anyone, albeit at lower levels until last year when she made the semifinals at this event losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek. She made the quarterfinals in Yarra Valley and hasn’t won more than 3 matches in an event since then, but has only played twice in tournaments on clay. She lost Martic in 3 in Rome and made the quarterfinals in Belgrade losing to Konjuh. I wish she were in better form, but if Andreescu falters she has a path to the quarterfinals and at these prices we can extract value.
Quarter 1 – Barty over Muchova
Quarter 2 – Swiatek over Ostapenko
Quarter 3 – Sabalenka over Kvitova
Quarter 4 – Badosa over Podoroska
Final – Swiatek over Sabalenka
RECAP OF WAGERS
0.75U – Badosa at 30 to 1 or better
0.25U – Podoroska at 100 to 1 or better
0.5U – Muchova to win Q1 8.5 to 1 or better
0.25U – Krejcikova to win Q1 25 to 1 or better
0.25U – Ostapenko to win Q2 18 to 1 or better
0.25U – Kvitova to win Q3 4.5 to 1 or better
0.25U – Podoroska to win Q4 28 to 1 or better
GLOSSARY OF DATA HEADINGS
Avg Rk – This is the average rank of opponent’s faced over that period.
Avg Spread – This is the average games more(or less) the player wins than their opponent. For example, 1.3 means that player averages 1.3 games per match more than their opponent.
Avg Total – This is the average total games in matches this player has played
Hold% – % of total games won on service
Break% – % of total games won on return