This week sees the start of the second tennis Grand Slam event and after Swiss ace Stanislas Wawrinka surprised many to lift the men’s title in the first Grand Slam of the year in Australia, all eyes will now focus on Rafael Nadal as he sets to become the only player in history to win nine French Open titles.
Nadal lost in the final in Australia to a rampant Wawrinka but he will be more confident of earning his first Grand Slam of 2014 on the surface that he has been almost unbeatable on for the best part of a decade.
Going back to 2005, in the nine tournaments that have taken place since then, Rafael Nadal has lost only once at Roland Garros. That came in 2009, when Swede Robin Soderling became the only player to defeat Nadal since the Spaniard won his first title in 2005.
Of those nine events, Nadal has won eight, the same number as legendary French tennis ace Max Decugis. Little wonder that the Spaniard is a hot favourite to win the title at odds of around 5/4 with Bet365.
Nadal’s dominance on clay extends beyond the French Open. He has won 63 career titles. On clay he has won 8 Monte Carlo Masters, 8 Barcelona Open titles and 7 Rome Masters titles.
In short, on this surface, Nadal has achieved global dominance for almost a decade. Little wonder then that he is the firm favourite for the title with the bookmakers, but if anybody could challenge Nadal for the title this year, who is that likely to be?
Nadal’s main challengers
In the past Nadal’s chief antagonist has been Swiss legend Roger Federer, but there are clear signs that Federer’s game is starting to tail off slightly nowadays and taking on Nadal on his favourite surface means that it is hard to make a case for Federer taking Nadal down in Paris.
Sadly for British fans, the same can be said for Andy Murray. The Spaniard has a good record against the Brit and has never lost to Murray on clay. And with Murray still searching to rediscover the form that saw him win Olympic, US Open, and then Wimbledon titles in 2012 and 2013.
It is unlikely that the Scot will pose too much of a threat at Roland Garros. One player who could cause an upset however is David Ferrer.
Currently an 18/1 shot with Bet365, Ferrer reached the final last year but was comprehensively beaten by Nadal in straight sets. However, this year he beat Nadal in the Monte Carlo Masters and will be confident heading into Roland Garros.
The likeliest challenge to Nada, however, will come from Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka. Djokovic is Nadal’s clearest rival at present, but Nadal holds a 13-4 record over him on clay. Djokovic hasn’t won a Grand Slam since the 2013 Australian Open and he is overdue another Slam success.
Wawrinka is the real wild card in the pack. He is brimming with confidence after his first Grand Slam success earlier this year in Melbourne and although he has never got past the quarter finals at Roland Garros, he is in good form heading into the event.
While we can’t back against Nadal for the main title, we do feel that Wawrinka (15/2) and Ferrer (18/1) offer decent each way options to reach the final and if you fancy an upset, 11/8 on Djokovic to win outright is our choice of bet here.
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French Open – women’s singles
In the women’s singles, the question is who will follow in Li Na’s footsteps and become the second Grand Slam winner of 2014?
Unlike the men’s draw which sees just a few possible winners out of the field, the women’s draw is one of the most open and certainly in terms of betting, one of the more attractive to punters.
Currently, American ace Serena Williams is the favourite to retain the title that she won for the second time last year, defeating Maria Sharapova in the final. Serena hasn’t enjoyed huge success at Roland Garros over the years, that win coming 11 years after her first win in 2002, over sister Venus.
Indeed following Belgian ace Justine Henin’s treble of victories from 2004 to 2006, six different women have won the French Open title: Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Francesca Schiavone, Li Na, Maria Sharapova and last year Serena Williams.
Currently there is no player in the field who is going to threaten Chris Evert’s record of seven victories in the event for a woman, one more than Suzanne Lenglen, the darling of French women’s tennis and whom one of the premier courts at Roland Garros is named after.
Who will emerge as the women’s French Open champion in 2014?
Given that this is such an open event historically, it is somewhat surprising to see that Serena Williams is the 5/4 favourite for the event – the same price as Rafael Nadal in the men’s event, who has won a total of eight times at Roland Garros.
Although Williams has hit top form prior to the event with a win in Rome, she has been suffering this season with injuries and that price, for me at least, looks way too short.
Maria Sharapova (4-1) is therefore my choice as a solid bet on the win market. The tall Russian reached the final last year and has tasted victory at Roland Garros before and she certainly has the strong baseline game which seems a pre-requisite to win here.
Another former winner, and current Australian Open champion Li Na is a 5/1 shot, but I’d look beyond her to another former winner Ana Ivanovic as a solid each way choice at 16/1.
The Serbian endured a miserable 2013, but has returned to winning ways in 2014 and put up a strong performance in a recent semi final defeat to Serena Williams at the Italian Open.
Given a favourable draw, Ivanovic has already proven she has the talent to win at Roland Garros and she would be my choice as an each way bet for this event. The action gets underway at Roland Garros on Sunday May 25th, with the finals scheduled for Saturday June 7th and Sunday June 8th.