The French Open is upon us! There are 32 damn matches on Sunday. I will try and touch on them all below. If you haven’t yet read my outright preview, check it out @bangthebook, or listen to the @ballboyztennis podcast.
With a few long shots lined up and a bunch of cash on the prohibitive favorite, I’ll be concentrating on making a dent in a -26 unit bankroll. I’d like to cut that in half over the fortnight. $100 a day, chip away.
Time to dig in.
You can see here that Tsitsipas has a massive advantage in combined hold/break numbers on clay. And it is actually increasing, from a 5% advantage two years ago to a 25% advantage in 2019. That is significant. Tsitsipas also has a decidedly better career record on clay and a much, much better tiebreak record. He should win this match and it has been lined as such. What is important to note, and the reason why I am not just glossing over a match with such a line, is Tsitsipas’ schedule and Marterer’s history at Slams. First, Tsitsipas and his regiment. He smartly took last week off, avoiding Geneva and Lyon but, before that he played five straight weeks through the Euro clay swing. And he wasn’t making early exits - he went final in Estoril, final in Madrid, semi-final in Rome. He has to conserve energy for another deep run and that means he doesn’t have to win this match with three breadsticks. As for Marterer, he seems firmly entrenched in that quad A territory (to steal a baseball analogy). He has played one clay Challenger event in 2019 and went to the semi-finals. He has played eleven ATP events and averaged a second round exit. But, he usually gets them close. And looking back at his Slam history, if you eliminate grass which has a super small sample size and he obviously isn’t good on it, Marterer has covered the spread in all his Slam losses save for a US Open defeat to Nishikori. He easily covered 8.5 against Pouille in Australia this year and even covered 8.5 against Nadal at the French last year. Clay is his best surface and that loss to Nadal was in the 4th round!! last year at Roland Garros. I think Tsitty wins here, no doubt, but, he doesn’t have to blow Marterer out.
I’m not sure I understand Gunneswaran’s strategy here. He hasn’t played in over three weeks and comes into Roland Garros totally cold. He was actually having moderate success on clay this year too, with a run to the An-NIng final beating Pavlasek and Majchrzak. Gunneswaran has only ever played one main draw Slam match, this year at the Aussie, and he covered the +6.5 line presented here. As for Dellien, he likewise has very little Slam experience. As far as I can tell this is Dellien’s first five set match, so this is probably a straight avoid no matter the stats presented. If you have to bet it, I would take Gunner or the plus games. Pass for me.
I’m not sure how you can feel comfortable backing Dimitrov in any way. He hasn’t won a main draw match in a month and his three opponents are nothing to write home about. His confidence seems shot. On the face of it, statistically, Dimitrov is fine on clay - his combined hold/break stats are above average, he’s made the third round here a few times but he generally runs into really competent clay guys and exits. Tipsarevic is still recovering from a litany of issues and it’s hard to back him as well. His 2019 stats look great because he has two close losses but, it is a really small sample size and I don’t think you can trust him to stay healthy through a five set match yet. I expect Dimitrov to pull this out but, this line is crazy. With it being a five set situation what I would look at is for Dimitrov to drop a set. If it’s 1-1 set all or Dimitrov drops a tight first set, I would look to not only back Dimitrov on the moneyline if it’s cheap but, rather back him on the handicap. If this goes four or five sets, I would expect Tips to get breadsticked in the final set. Pass on the pre-match.
This looks like a pure mismatch. Fabbiano is closing in on 30 and doesn’t even have a winning record on clay at the Challenger level, let alone the ATP level. Cilic has dominating clay stats and is one of the more under-rated guys on clay. For a guy who has made back-to-back quarter-finals at this event he gets no publicity. The thing that also would be holding back Cilic-love is his 2019. He had an uninspiring hard court session and clay has been worse. Three of his four wins in Europe went the distance and the one easy win he did have was against the #416 player in the world. This line is crazy high and Cilic’s form makes it hard to back him in any fashion regardless of the stats. Pass.
I don’t usually try to break down or analysis or get involved with matches that are lined in this range. But, this looks like the easiest match on the board. Cecchinato is going to have to be highly, highly motivated here. He was the breakout star of last years French Open, shocking Djokovic and making the semi-finals. He announced himself with a title in Budapest before the French and backed it up with a title in Umag in the summer. He has a title already this year in Buenes Aires but If he doesn’t at least win a few rounds here he will plummet in the rankings. His clay court hold/break numbers are above average, if not elite, and the main thing here is not so much him but his opponent. Cecchinato has been gifted a great first round match. Mahut is not a clay player. He has four total wins on the surface in the last five years and his stats are abysmal. The Frenchman is here as a wildcard on his farewell tour and I expect Cecch to crush him (this is one of the few lines still on the move as money continues to come in on the Italian; now at -1200 as of publishing).
I hate betting Robin Haase matches. He loses a ton of matches he should win. Conversely, Kohl is one of my favorite guys to bet. So, this is hard. These two guys have almost identical hold/break numbers across the last three seasons on clay. It’s Haase’s best surface and Kohl has multiple titles on clay, so they are both more than comfortable. Unfortunately, they both choke hard in Slam settings. Haase is 5-10 at the French and Kohl has never been past the fourth round here. Now, in Kohl’s defense he has run into some horrible draws - his last four years here have seen him face Coric, Kyrgios, Almagro, and Andy Murray in his first or second round matches. I really think Kohl pulls this out but, based on the stats presented and the combined histories here this line is way too high. Pass.
One of the tightest lined matches of day one is between two guys who have largely struggled on clay this year. Vesely has not managed to win more than two matches in a row on the surface all year despite skipping the hard court Masters events to play clay Challengers. In fact, Marrakech, where Vesely has some history is the only event where he has won a main draw ATP match on clay this year. And that small sample in Africa is largely responsible for his 2019 hold/break stats. Mayer is also struggling; during the Euro clay swing here he has not made it past the second round yet. He only has two wins, over Marius Copil and a slumping Lajovic. His stats are in the dumpster and his history in Roland Garros is not spectacular. This is picking bad or worse. Pass.
This match seems lined almost entirely on recent form and that always worries me. It worries me because someone could have been fighting an injury, might have had some kind of personal issue the public doesn’t know about or maybe just didn’t care for awhile (see: Nick Kyrgios pre-Acapulco). All that gets sorted out and suddenly they play 100% tennis and previous form doesn’t matter. The reason I bring this up is because the combined hold/break stats for these two fellas are remarkably close: within 5% across the last three years. That’s a huge sample size. Their career winning percentage on the surface is within 20 percentage points. If DSS doesn’t make the Rome semis is this lined anywhere near here? Now, DSS made the quarters here last year so that is probably also factoring in but, this seems way high. I’m not going to get involved either way here, one, because I think the line is too high to back DSS, and two, because Fucs, despite his solid stats seems to have the Berdych-affliction. Fucs seems to handle those below him in the rankings and struggle to stay close to those above him. His last five Slam defeats, against guys in the top 20, have ended up being blowouts - 7 games to Coric at the Aussie, 8 games to Djoker at Flushing Meadows, he even lost by 7 games to Benneteau at Wimbledon, 8 games to Edmund at the ‘18 Aussie. I just can’t back him as a big dog. Pass.
OH baby, one of the real #nextgen. I don’t think Berrettini gets included in any ‘generation’ conversations because like Thiem, I think he is kind of on an island, age-wise, by himself. He’s a tad too old for the #nextgen. But, he’s a player. This kid has huge hold/break numbers on clay and he was one of the more dominant players across this season’s Euro clay swing. Maybe not in the Masters series events but, certainly in the next tier down. He won Budapest and went to the final in Munich. He only dropped five sets total in that two week span. His hold/break numbers have climbed into the level just under elite territory and his career winning percentage on clay is unreal at his age. He also, notably, has a winning record in tiebreaks, which is massively important. Last years French was his first serious foray into Slam tennis and he acquitted himself well, making the third round and losing in four sets to eventual finalist Dominic Thiem. So, I’m all in on the Italian. What about his opponent? Andujar went on an epic run, especially for a 33 year old, this spring where he won Marbella, won Alicante, and then went to the final in Marrakech. Pretty incredible. The issue was, in that stretch, he never really beat any good players and the ones he did get by he did with some awesome tiebreak luck. The only three top 100 players he beat were Paire in Marabella (won a second set tiebreak 8-6), Delbonis in Marrakech (won a first set tiebreak 8-6), Kohl in Marrakech (won a first set tiebreak 8-6). His loss to Paire in the Marrakech final and to Millman in round one in Lyon were complete blowouts and may be more indicative of his level. Andujar’s recent forays into Slam activity haven’t gone well - he hasn’t won a set since the 2016 Aussie Open and he hasn’t won a match since Wimbledon 2015. I’m on Berrettini.
Ruud is another truly ascendent player. Looks at his clay court hold/break stats. A straight uphill climb. It’s super impressive. And his 112% combined number so far in 2019 is nearing elite territory. Here’ s my worry: he is a new age clay specialist as the difference between his clay results and his hard court results is stark. And I am concerned he may be a new age ARV. His consistency is just not there; true boom or bust. Cordoba, Buenes Aires, Madrid, doesn’t make it out of qualifying. Sao Paulo, Rio, Houston, Rome he makes the quarters or better (final in Houston). I can’t bet on that, especially not at this price. Gulbis doesn’t have impressive stats but, he is solid on clay and as a vet who’s been to Roland Garros 12 times he could easily show up and push Ruud. Pass.
This is not a match I want to write about. Jaziri is about as average as it gets. His hold/break numbers are usually in the mid-80’s to mid-90s, with 2018 being an outlier based on one successful event. On top of that Jaziri hasn’t played in almost a month. Otte came through qualifying as a lucky loser. I have no interest in either player and wouldn’t advise getting involved.
I’m sure Federer rolls here. He covered a -6.5 line in every 1st round match at Roland Garros from 2004 to 2015. But, this is his first five set match on clay and his opponent isn’t someone ranked in the 60-100 range who is maybe in their late 20’s and hanging on. Sonego is a decent clay player and he shouldn’t be a pushover. I’m happy to sit this one out and see how Fed holds up in set three. Should Fed win the first two sets, Sonego +2.5 games in the third set would be a solid live bet.
Clay is Nishikori’s best surface but, funny enough, he doesn’t often cover spreads or escape matches with out dropping a set at the French. in five of his last eight first round Slam matches he has failed to cover the -6.5 line offered today. Last year at the French he went four rounds but, only covered the -6.5 in one of the matches. in 2017 he went to the quarters and again only covered the -6.5 one time. Halys is a decent young prospect who I have actually been following for a while. He’s got the right build and ability to play on multiple surfaces but, he has never really broken through and really has no chance to win this match. The moneyline is probably low. But, Nishikori can’t be counted on to not get in his own way. Pass.
I don’t have enough data to make an educated decision on this match. Neither one of these guys has an impressive track record in the run up to the French; Ugo lost to Rublev, Taro Daniel, RCB and blew a match to Shapo, while Popyrin has been losing to the likes of Steve Diez and Elliot Benchetrit. I suspect Ugo wins just based on pedigree but, neither guy has even impressed on clay at the Challenger level yet.
I have an outright on Djere and this is probably his toughest match before the quarters if Nishi falters as I suspect he might. ARV and Djere are extremely similar in combined hold/break stats, within three percent across each of the last three years. Their career winning percentage on the surface is within ten percent and ARV won their only clash on clay. Now, that match was two years ago when Djere was 21 and not yet ‘arrived’. Since then ARV has gone straight downhill and Djere has ascended, finally winning a title this year in South America. Budapest went well and I think he’ll win a few matches this week. I’ll double down.
Goffin should win going away, Berankis hardly plays on clay. But, I am done betting on Goffin for the foreseeable future. So, do as you will.
Marterer +8.5, +100
Cecchinato -7.5, -120
Berrettini -6.5, -120
Djere -2.5, -120