French Open Preview 2018.

We approach that time of year when it comes to kneck on the line. Do you risk saying Rafa cannot get beat in Paris?

I haven’t had as much time to study the draw as I usually do, so I have gone into autopilot mode. That’s a nice little disclaimer if ever I saw one.

So in the quarter’s betting, I think the following.

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Q1- Obviously it is difficult to oppose Rafa but 1/7 is not that appealing, so if you wanted a saver I would have to stick with my man Diego Schwartzman who is priced at 33/1 for the quarter with tote and Betfred. He gave Rafa a good match in Madrid and should something happen to the Spaniard he might be able to step up and take advantage.

Q2- I would oppose Cilic and Delpo here. Cilic just doesn’t tickle my fancy on clay and Delpo still has huge concerns over his groin injury. So it is between Edmund, Fognini and Isner for me. Edmund is a top priced 13/2, Fognini 12/1 and 16/1 Isner. Maybe spread your money accordingly.

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Q3- David Goffin looks the bet at 11/2. Djokovic may well up it, but he still hasn’t shown me enough to get involved at 7/4. I cannot be having Dimitrov right now and players such as Verdasco and Monfils have little to no form currently. Pablo Carreno Busta has a squeak but I will stick with my man Goffin. Should you want a huuuuuugggge price, side with Nicolas Jarry at 100/1. I really like the Chilean and he is a useful operator, he would face Dimitrov in the second round.

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Q4 – Zverev and Thiem are the top two in the betting in this quarter. Zverev unquestionably has a great chance of going deep here but I cannot be lumping on at 15/8. Thiem has once again overplayed going into Paris, making the final in Lyon this week. I normally like Lucas Pouille but his form has dipped of late. I think I am going to side with Kei Nishikori as a result. Not my normal clay court tip but he has started to find his feet again. The quarter’s of Rome and runners-up spot in Madrid make me like the 7/1 here. Bigger prices Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov also have a squeak. Tsistsipas is a top priced 18/1 and Khachanov is 33/1 as both youngsters looking to make a dent at a slam. It will happen, it is just when.

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In betting terms on the outright, Rafa has always been the biggest cast iron certainty over the years. A remortgage job some would say. In all honesty, I cannot see past him again. There are two ways he can get beat here, (1) Injury or (2) Someone playing the match of their lives against him. It is a huge ask to take this lad out over 5 sets and I am pretty sure there is not much belief amongst the players that this can happen. Sascha may fancy it and so may Djokovic (if he can rediscover a little more form). I don’t see it happening though. How much would Rafa’s level have to drop in addition?
You are not going to get rich at 2/5 but a winner is a winner as they say. Maybe just don’t remortgage!

 
Who is the each-way bet then? Maybe David Goffin is worth taking the risk on. He let me down badly in Oz, so he could be blacklisted if he lets me down twice. Novak Djokovic is in the same section and his form looks to be improving but the market shows firms still have a lot of respect for him.

 
Sascha Zverev is rightly second fav after his recent exploits but I still find it a risk to be siding with him over 5 sets when there is not enough form in the book. He is priced between 7/1 and 10/1 depending on the each-way stips. Nole is between 10/1 and 12/1 with the same stips. Goffin can be backed between 40/1 and 50/1 and therefore represents more value to me. As does the 66/1 Kei Nishikori which is worth a nibble too. As I said earlier his form has been decent off late and he has it in the locker to be a big match player.

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Should you think Rafa is beatable you may want to look at Fabio Fognini who is priced between 125/1 – 150/1(500/1 with Victor Chandler), same with Kyle Edmund (VC only go 250/1 him) or John Isner a top priced 200/1. People still don’t believe it, but this is possibly Isner’s best chance of a run at a slam when he is over in Paris. The American took Rafa to 5 sets a few years back. These look the three who could take advnatge in the top half.

In the Women’s event, we have a very open looking draw.

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Q1- I always think it is worth taking on Halep and at 6/4 for the quarter I will be doing so again. Caroline Garcia at 6s looks better value to me with the home advantage, despite losing to Halep comfortably in Rome. Her form has picked up again and she could be coming into shape at the right time. I also think Elise Mertens and Marketa Vondrousova have decent chances. The major problems there are that Mertens has been suffering from a virus and Vondrousova has had a thigh injury. 12/1 Mertens is around and 33/1 Vondrousova.

 
Q2- A section that contains Serena, Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Sharapova. That is not even mentioning players like Kuznetsova, Barty, Goerges, Cibulkova and Vandeweghe. Muguruza and Sharapova are favourites due to Serena’s downtime. I think everyone knows who I will back here, 23 Slams speak volumes, but in fairness, it is a huge ask for Serena. To the public, I would possibly recommend a no bet. I will take the 11/2 or 6/1 as it might be a while until you see that sort of price for her to win her quarter again.

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Q3- 11/8 shot Elina Svitolina will take some beating in this section. A tough third round against Mihaela Buzarnescu should be passed in a quarter that also contains defending champion Jelena Ostapenko, Vika Azarenka, Venus Williams and Jo Konta. Though still unproven to a large extent at this level I believe the Ukrainian should get over the line here. I can certainly see the more aggressive approach when required and that is what is required at this level.

 
Q4- Petra Kvitova is jolly here and has a great opportunity to make severe headway. Her poor form in Paris over the years is enough to put me off though. Rightly or wrongly so. Caro Wozniacki’s form on clay has never been to the level she would have wanted and even as second seed I will be swerving her (unlike in Melbourne may I smugly add). So I will go with Daria Kasatkina and Anett Kontaveit as a result. Both players look ready to make the step up and a top priced 6/1 and 7/1 look worth taking. Sloane Stephens and Sevastova are obvious threats here but not enough for me to get involved.

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On the outright, I would rather take Elina Svitolina at 6/1 than Simona Halep as you may well have discovered from the quarter’s preview. It sounds bizarre but I would probably be having her as a cover bet as opposed to my main bet. It is surely only a matter of time for the Ukranian but she has crumbled (like Halep) under the pressure at times.

I am going to take the 25/1-33/1 Caroline Garcia and also get involved in the 22/1 Daria Kasatkina. I just have the feeling that the crowd could play a huge part in Garcia’s assault and she could ride the wave with them. Kasatkina is making inroads to making the step up and as far as clay goes she looks as comfortable as most around her in that section of the draw.

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How can I not back Serena at 14/1 too? Heart ruling head again and a huge ask as I say but we know Rena loves to be written off and prove the doubters wrong. I do not remember a time when she last went off for a slam at this price and would not forgive myself if I wasn’t involved. She is the GOAT afterall! Anett Kontaveit does tempt me at 40/1 but I think she may have a better shot at SW19.

 
Anyway, there are my tips for what it may be worth. Happy punting and best of luck to everyone.

 
Andy Del Potro

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