Mon, May 28, 8:50am by Staff Writer
The eyes of the tennis world turn to Paris for the second Grand Slam event of the year at Roland-Garros.
After a grueling week of qualifying, the men’s draw is set with 128 of the world’s best set to light up the clay courts over the next fortnight.
10-time winner Rafael Nadal will be seeking his 11th French Open crown and is a short-priced favourite to do so. At $1.40 at Sportsbet, it is hard to dispute that Nadal is the man to beat in the men’s draw
He has had an impressive start to the 2018 clay season, winning the Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Rome, as well as the ATP500 event in Barcelona.
Nadal looks primed for another title run and will face potential challenges in the third round from Denis Shapovalov or Richard Gasquet.
Novak Djokovic is being rated generously by the bookmakers at $11 given he has been injured riddled for the past eight months.
Djokovic won his maiden French Open crown in 2016 and has been slowly returning to full fitness during the recent Masters events.
His best performances of the season to date came a week ago in Rome where he made the semi-finals before losing to Nadal.
Novak’s fitness must still be questioned in best-of-five set tennis and he is an incredibly risky proposition at $11.
Young gun Alexander Zverev is also rated as an $11 shot, but has a quirky Grand Slam stat that he is hoping to change.
Zverev has never beaten a top 50-ranked opponent in best-of-five set tennis at Grand Slam or Davis Cup level and will need to do so if he is to make his mark at Roland-Garros.
Zverev is the tournament’s second seed so won’t have to face Nadal until the final. Glancing over his draw, a third round match against an out-of-sorts Stan Wawrinka shouldn’t pose an issue for the young German, with Kei Nishikori or Dominic Thiem his nearest competitors in that half of the draw.
Nishikori has been battling injuries himself for much of the 2018 season, but has regained some form in recent weeks. He is a $67 shot at winning the French Open, but can’t be trusted given his wretched injury record.
Dominic Thiem won an ATP250 event in Lyon last week, but statistics are against him if he hopes to back that victory up with a long run to the title in Roland-Garros. He is $15 to do so, with the Austrian made to fight hard against veteran Gilles Simon in Lyon. He faces a tricky second round match against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 19-year-old is certainly one to watch in coming years after he made the Barcelona final before losing to Nadal, beating Thiem along the way. He also made the semi-finals of Estoril and has been strong on clay this season.
If he can beat Thiem in the second round, his next big challenge would most likely be in the fourth round against Nishikori. He is $151 to win the title and certainly worth a shot, with an idea to cash out later in the tournament.
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios begins his campaign against qualifier and fellow Aussie Bernard Tomic. Clay is not Kyrgios’ favourite surface and he is $101 to win the title in Paris. He has had an incredibly limited lead-in, playing doubles in Lyon but not playing single for six weeks. His round one match against Tomic could be tricky for the world number 23.
Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro ($41) and Belgium’s David Goffin ($51) usually perform well on clay, with question marks surrounding del Potro after he retired in Rome.
World number three Marin Cilic is recently married and a $41 shot at Roland-Garros glory. He made the final of this year’s Australian Open and is one the world’s most consistent players at present.
French fans will be cheering on Gael Monfils as a $101 shot, but the Frenchman has been in woeful form this season and shouldn’t progress to the second week.
Kyle Edmund ($126) has shown promise on clay this season and is warming to the Grand Slam arena after a solid performance at the Australian Open this year.
Veterans Richard Gasquet ($151) and David Ferrer ($201) may struggle in Paris over best-of-five sets, with Germany’s Phillipp Kohlschreiber ($301) another who can throw in a limp performance on the big stage.
The stage is set for Nadal to claim his 11th French Open crow, but his nearest competition is certainly youngster Alexander Zverev who will be hungry to make his mark in Grand Slam events.
Best bet- Name the finalists Nadal v Zverev $4.33
Value bet- Zverev to win the French Open at $11
Value bet- Stefanos Tsitsipas to win the French Open at $151, with a view to cash out later in the tournament
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