Despite starting one week later as scheduled, Roland Garros has probably never taken place so close to its previous edition. I doubt we will see a tournament as chaotic as the one back in October when two qualifiers, namely Martina Trevsian and Nadia Podoroska, made it to the last 8, both losing to the eventual (surprise) winner Iga Swiatek. It wasn’t only them, pretty much neither player making it to the quarterfinals was expected to do so.
This resulted in what should be a first of many major wins for Polish prodigy Swiatek who goes into this year’s edition as the market favorite. She’s as low as 3.75 to win it all and even though I can absolutely see her winning back to back French Opens, I just can’t bring myself to bet an outright at that price. So let’s see if there are some different spots to attack.
Ashleigh Barty was another surprise winner back in 2019 when she beat Marketa Vondrousova in the final. The Australian actually wasn’t competing last year due to the pandemic, so she’ll enter Paris with good memories.
I have still been doubting Barty on clay even after her title here, but sharing finals (and titles) with Aryna Sabalenka in Stuttgart and Madrid once again showed that she’s capable on the surface. Her smart and consistent play riddled with drop shots are a successful formula on pretty much every court and I don’t disagree with her being the second tournament favorite. Nevertheless, I do think there are some players that could possibly take her down.
Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Jennifer Brady are the highest seeds besides Barty in this first quarter and while Brady is another player that I don’t have on my clay radar, Svitolina and Pliskova have been disappointing year after year when opportunities presented themselves at Grand Slams. It was only last year when Svitolina came into the quarters as the last real favorite standing, just to lose 2-6 4-6 to Nadia Podoroska who was competing in her first ever French Open.
They’ll probably make a run now that I finally downgraded them, but I still feel more comfortable looking elsewhere.
Yulia Putintseva and Ons Jabeur should have an exciting first round encounter and the winner could go on a little run here. However, I don’t think they have the stamina to be a real threat deep into the second week.
Fiona Ferro is someone I would have liked in that spot, but unfortunately we didn’t see her at all after she was forced to retire in Istanbul more than a month ago.
Another player I passed on is Anastasija Sevastova. The Latvian is tricky to play and can beat almost anyone on her day on clay, but given her draw, I think it’s better to bet her from match to match rather than outright.
We also have a first-time title winner here in Barbora Krejcikova who just hoisted the trophy in Strasbourg. Not in regard to fatigue, but maybe to change in expectations, I think it will be hard for her to just keep going at Grand Slam level.
Sloane Stephens just has to be a part of this section too. We all know what she’s capable of, but despite some better showings recently, her performance is still too volatile for me to actually bet her on the outright market.
For the first time since winning the junior competition of Roland Garros back in 2018, Cori Gauff was able to convince on clay. The 17-year-old (yes, she’ll still be a teenager for three more years) reached the final in Rome before winning the title in Parma, only losing to one woman in May: Iga Swiatek. I’m curious to see how she handles all the spotlight at a Grand Slam again and hope she’s already used to all the journalists comparing her to Serena. If nothing distracts her, she could pose a first real threat to Barty.
Another woman I like here is Karolina Muchova. The Czech hasn’t played much this year, but had a good showing in Madrid where she beat Osaka and Sakkari. Tennis IQ, court vision and the ability to attack at the right moment is what characterizes Muchova and with this draw, I think she can do some damage if she’s fully fit.
Barty over Gauff
Muchova over Svitolina
Muchova over Barty
There are a lot of bright young talents out there. Some can hit harder, some have better forehands, some have better backhands. The one that can do it all is Iga Swiatek.
As mentioned before, she’s the rather big favorite to win the French Open for the second time in a row. Her spin, point construction, consistency and mindset are exceptional for a player at her age and if she’s on top of her game, she will come out of this quarter. However, there still is a chance that things don’t go as expected. Remember, this is still a women’s draw.
After all, Swiatek is only the #8 seed. Topping this quarter will be her opponent in last year’s final, Sofia Kenin. After that, the American has been struggling quite a lot and while the split from her father might be worthwhile in the long run, I don’t see her going on yet another French Open run after losing all of her clay court matches this year.
One of the players Kenin recently lost to is Anett Kontaveit. That match happened in Stuttgart and as I still think both Stuttgart and Madrid are different from the slow Paris clay, I could see Kontaveit bowing out against any competent clay courter.
It’s tough for me to mention Garbine Muguruza in this section and while she could also be listed as an uncertainty, I would be surprised if she’s on top of her game on such short notice. The 2016 winner had to retire in Charleston before barely beating Pera and getting wrecked by Svitolina in Rome.
Speaking of former champions, there is one that still tops all the recent surprise winners: Jelena Ostapenko. I dare you to bet her outright at current odds, but the Latvian is the most certain player for this uncertain category as she could always go on a run again.
If you have bet Maria Sakkari or Elise Mertens on an outright market before, you will totally understand why I marked them as uncertain. Especially on clay, they have all the tools to go far, even in a Grand Slam, but none of them made it past the fourth round here in Paris yet.
Sara Sorribes Tormo is a player that kept improving this year and strangely enough, she did that on hard courts. Back on clay, she lost to Sara Errani whom she also had to retire against last week.
The draw has her playing either Muguruza or Marta Kostyuk in round two and I could absolutely see the Ukrainian pull an upset there. Given the big odds in round one, I would rather bet Kostyuk match by match though.
That being said, there are two more names that appeal to me in this quarter: Jessica Pegula and Petra Martic. The latter is now coached by Francesca Schiavone which should not be to the Croat’s disadvantage in clay court tournaments. She reached the semifinal in Rome and avoids Swiatek at least until the fourth round.
Betting Pegula on clay is something I would not have imagined in my wildest dreams, but the American had some good performances on her least favorite surface this year. The draw means really well for Pegula which is why I do think she can reach the quarterfinal here.
Pegula over Sakkari
Swiatek over Martic
Swiatek over Pegula
First of all, I hate draws. Filling this quarter of the bracket gave me a headache. At least I thought there was one name I could finally rely on in a Grand Slam: Aryna Sabalenka. Her clay results came indoors and in altitude, but looking at all the names around her, the Belarusian’s form should be decent enough to get going.
However, after the qualifiers got seeded, my headache increased. Just a few spots above Sabalenka, Elena Vesnina, entering on her protected ranking, was lucky enough to draw the even luckier loser Olga Govortsova in round one. Sabalenka on the other hand got arguably the best qualifier of the bunch in Ana Konjuh. The Croat has been a top 20 player before all her injury problems and showed everyone that she didn’t forget how to play on clay now that she’s back. Once again I’m scared of betting Sabalenka, thank you FFT.
So while Sabalenka certainly could bust, I’m tempted to mention every other name in this quarter.
Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Viktoria Azarenka or Madison Keys are all highly decorated players who will be role models for the next generation. Putting money on them as a French Open outright is something I still look to stay away from, be it based on lack of form, match practice or general comfort on the surface.
You won’t get too much information about Elena Rybakina even if you tried. According to her coach, she practiced well though, so I won’t cross her off the list completely.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova made the semifinal in Madrid, but didn’t play again after that. As always, the Russian can be a threat to anyone in the early rounds.
Apart from the seeds, I also have Danielle Collins and Clara Tauson on this list. Collins made the quarterfinal here last year, but I’m not sure about her fitness at all.
Danish teen sensation Tauson is running a bit out of steam after having won the WTA indoor event in Lyon all of a sudden. She would have been one to target if she just gave me a slight sign of form.
I had a little moment thinking about squandering some money on a Leylah Fernandez outright. The young Canadian is very promising on clay, but her recent results didn’t animate me too much.
Declaring Petra Kvitova as the value selection for a quarter at the French Open doesn’t feel too comfortable either, but I love her draw and think she can go far. If you can get her at 4/1 or better to win the quarter, that’s a go for me. Her first few rounds seem very winnable and potential rain during the second half of week one could also see her play under the roof which certainly would help.
Should she surprisingly lose early and one of the aforementioned youngsters show some form, I might add another outright during the tournament.
Kvitova over Kerber
Sabalenka over Fernandez
Sabalenka over Kvitova
Well, Naomi Osaka is the #2 seed, but does that automatically make her the favorite here? One thing is certain: this is the widest open quarter and the main reason for that is Osaka’s trouble on clay. I won’t touch on her quotes regarding press conferences, but I also don’t think she would have had to attend too many of them.
Before Swiatek’s meteoric rise last year, Bianca Andreescu was considered the dominant force besides Osaka for the next decade. The Canadian is still struggling with her fitness though and pulling out of Strasbourg mid-tournament last week doesn’t convince me otherwise. Kiki Bertens supposedly isn’t at 100% again either while Belinda Bencic and Johanna Konta would need a little better form to start the Grand Slam on their least favorite surface with confidence.
Daria Kasatkina on the contrary loves clay. Many saw a future French Open winner in her when she emerged on tour more than five years ago. After reaching the top 10 in the beginning of 2019, she struggled with expectations though and as much as I like her, the killer instinct you need to go really deep into a major tournament might be something she’s missing.
The same could be said about Caroline Garcia who, just like Kenin, finally parted ways with her father as a coach. That didn’t turn her into an ultra consistent player overnight though, so I’m not looking to bet the French on outright markets anytime soon.
A Czech armada of capable clay court players is part of the fourth quarter as well. Marketa Vondrousova can be a nightmare opponent on slow courts with her tricky play, but the form just isn’t there for the 2019 runner-up.
We haven’t seen Marie Bouzkova since her retirement in Madrid and Katerina Siniakova falls into the inconsistent category together with players like Ostapenko or Garcia.
This leaves one more name and I really gave her a long look, but after all still decided to put Nadia Podoroska a few lines early. The Argentinian burst onto the scene at this exact place last year when she made the semifinal out of nowhere. Her path just doesn’t foresee a single easy match and could look like this: Bencic, Kasatkina, Cirstea, Kudermetova, Badosa just to get out of the quarter. Combined with Podoroska perhaps thinking of the points she could lose, this prevented me from taking a shot.
I wish some of the names mentioned above were allocated in the third quarter, but that’s life.
There still are a few names left and initially, I was looking at Veronika Kudermetova in this quarter. The only thing keeping me away from betting her is the pricing. Not only is her opening match against Anisimova a near coin flip, but none of her matches will be easy. For a possible path consisting of Anisimova, Siniakova, Andreescu, Cirstea and Badosa, I would need a little more than 9/1 to win the quarter.
Instead, I took Sorana Cirstea over what could easily be Kasatkina or Podoroska too. The Romanian just finished runner-up in the final prep tournament in Strasbourg. She won the title in Istanbul before sitting out a few weeks due to a wrist injury. After all the years on tour, Cirstea knows her body well and rehab back in Bucharest seems to have worked out perfectly. At the current odds, I think she can be a value selection in this quarter.
My personal favorite hasn’t even been part of the party in the initial draw, but after Alison Riske pulled out, Paula Badosa took the #33 seed and moved into the American’s spot. The Spaniard born in New York finally added consistency to what was an already powerful game. After reaching semifinals in Charleston and Barcelona, she won the title in Belgrade last week. Taking the week off before Roland Garros seems to be the right move for her and she should be able to go on a first deep Grand Slam run.
Kudermetova over Cirstea
Badosa over Vondrousova
Badosa over Kudermetova
0.5u on Karolina Muchova to win Quarter 1 at 10.00 with betway
0.5u on Cori Gauff to win Quarter 1 at 12.00 with bet365
0.5u on Jessica Pegula to win Quarter 2 at 19.00 with betway
0.5u on Petra Martic to win Quarter 2 at 26.00 with betway
0.5u on Petra Kvitova to win Quarter 3 at 5.50 with betfair
0.75u on Paula Badosa to win Quarter 4 at 6.00 with betway
0.25u on Sorana Cirstea to win Quarter 4 at 26.00 with bet365