The French Open, the second major championship of the tennis season, begins Sunday on the red clay of Roland Garros in Paris. It can be a very unpredictable tournament because of the unusual surface. Many players around the world don’t have much experience playing on clay. The Sports Interaction tennis betting favourites are Rafael Nadal on the men’s side and Simona Halep for the women. If Halep plays, that is.
2017 French Open Favourites
This might be the weakest French Open field in many years because of some top players missing the tournament. On the men’s side, Switzerland’s Roger Federer opted to skip the event as clay is his worst surface and he wants to prepare for the grass-court major Wimbledon, where he is tied with Pete Sampras with a record seven titles. Federer is the all-time Grand Slam king and the reigning Australian Open champion but has just one French title. This year, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are not in the field. Serena, the reigning Australian Open champion and Grand Slam queen, would have been the heavy betting favourite in Paris but is taking a break to have a baby. You won’t see her again until 2018. The American has won the French Open three times.
Men’s French Open Odds
It’s no surprise that Nadal is the -118 betting favourite as he’s the greatest male clay-court player in history and has won a record nine French Open titles. No player in the Open era has ever won the same Grand Slam event 10 times. Martina Navratilova also won nine times at Wimbledon. Margaret Court won 11 Australian Opens but seven of those were in the Amateur era. Injuries have hampered Nadal in recent years and can partly explain why he lost in the French Open quarterfinals in 2015 and the third round last year. The only other time he didn’t win the tournament was 2009.
World No. 2 Novak Djokovic is +330 and No. 1 Andy Murray +1175. Djokovic completed the career Grand Slam by winning his first French title last year, beating Murray 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in the final. The Serb had been a runner-up three times. Murray, from Scotland, has never won the French and 2016 was his best result.
Women’s French Open Odds
On the women’s side, things are very much in flux right now because of who isn’t playing and who might not. In addition to Serena and Sharapova out, so is former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who just had a baby, and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who suffered a hand injury during an attack.
Sharapova recently returned from a drug suspension and was hoping for wild-card entry into the French but that was denied. In fact, the French Tennis Federation also denied Sharapova entry into the qualifying tournament. That’s a moderate surprise because Sharapova is the second-biggest draw among women and won the French Open in 2012 & ’14. Sharapova has, however, been granted a wild card for the Rogers Cup in Toronto, which begins on Aug. 7.
Romanian and world No. 4 Simona Halep was the opening +350 favourite. She’s having a fine season with an 18-6 singles record and a title in the clay-court Madrid warmup event a few weeks ago. However, Halep has never won a Grand Slam event and has advanced past the fourth round once in Paris: She lost to Sharapova in three sets in the 2014 final. Halep is in question for the French because of a torn ankle ligament suffered in the recent Italian Open final.
So we could be looking at Elina Svitolina (+700) or Garbine Muguruza (+900) as the tournament favourite once it gets under way. Muguruza is the defending champion, having upset Serena in straight sets for her only Grand Slam title. Svitolina has yet to advance past the quarter-finals of any Slam.
Top Canadian Players Odds
No Canadian man or woman has ever won the French Open. A Grand Slam field might never be easier for world No. 56 Eugenie Bouchard (+4000), but she needs a “miracle” to play after withdrawing from this week’s Nuremberg Cup tournament with a right ankle injury. Bouchard reportedly tore a ligament in that ankle during practice last week. She had an impressive win over Sharapova in Madrid a few weeks ago and reached the quarter-finals there, losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Bouchard reached the semi-finals of the 2014 French Open but didn’t advance past the second round in three other tries.
Milos Raonic is ranked sixth in the world and is +6100 to win his first Slam. He’s playing in the warm-up Lyon Open this week and looking for his first singles title of 2017. A hamstring injury forced him to withdraw from the Delray Beach final back in February and then from the Round of 32 of the Miami Open. He’s healthy now. Raonic’s best result in the French was the quarter-finals in 2014. He was eliminated in the fourth round a year ago.
French Open Predictions
It has been years since there has been a women’s field so wide open in a Grand Slam tournament. The last major Serena missed was the 2011 French Open. China’s Li Na won that year. It sounds as if Bouchard will not be able to go, and even if so clearly is not 100 percent. Our pick is world No. 1 Angelique Kerber at +1400 on the women’s side despite an iffy track record in this tournament and 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka (+1000) for the men.