French Open WTA Preview

I love the French Open. Clay is my favorite surface and for the next 2 weeks I’ll get up every morning and watch the greatest players one earth giving their all to hoist La Coupe des Mousquetaires. It’s my favorite grand slam tournament just ahead of Wimbledon. I could not be more excited for the next fortnight. Defending champion Simona Halep showed great form on the dirt in Rome and is in a great position to repeat. Kiki Bertens looks ready to finally win a grand slam on a surface that’s perfect for her game. Well known mother, Serena Williams, will be out of her wheelchair and playing tennis. We’ve got 14 days and 127 matches of long rallies, dirty sneakers, and top notch tennis. Let’s look at some historical data and break down every quarter to see what value the markets might be offering.

The table above shows the rate at which matches go over certain totals. The top table shows just Roland Garros and the bottom table shows averages for all clay tournaments from 2010 through 2018. Start by comparing the bottom row which shows all rounds combined. You can see that the in total, the French Open looks just like your average clay tournament. There is some variance when you look at the rates by round. Matches in earlier rounds look to be quicker here than average and matches in later rounds look be longer. Grand slams are the only events with 128 players and no byes in the first round. This creates a lot of matches in round 1 where a top level player is facing a qualifier or a player ranked well outside the top 50. If you look at round 1 lines you see a lot of big favorites and a lot of small totals. As you get to later rounds you’re left with the best players in the world and matches get longer as the competition becomes more even. Don’t be afraid to take unders in the early rounds and look to bet overs in the later rounds.

This table shows us how close matches are in terms of game spread. The top one is just matches at Roland Garros and the bottom is the averages for all clay tournaments. Again things in total are close to average, but looking at the individual rounds you see a similar story as we saw in totals. Early round matches are blow outs and later round matches are much tighter. Laying big spreads in the first few rounds and grabbing the underdog in later rounds looks to be the move this fortnight.

Quarter 1

Naomi Osaka continues her reign as the #1 player on tour and is the top seed in Paris and the #3 favorite in the betting markets at 10-1. She has played some great clay tennis this season, well above any level we’ve seen before from Naomi, but she has a rough draw. Schmiedlova in round 1 is a solid clay player then a red hot Azarenka in round 2 followed by Maria Sakkari or Garcia in round 3 and Madison Keys or Caroline Garcia in round 4. She has to get through all of that just to make the quarterfinals. I’m excited to see what she can in this event, but I’m not investing any capital at those prices. Looking at the market to win the first quarter I see both Garcia & Sakkari at 14-1 to win the quarter at 5dimes. Sakkari is in top form and has the game to succeed in these conditions. Garcia found her form this past week in Strasbourg and will have the full support of the home crowd. 14-1 is a great value since both are much better suited for than dirt than Osaka. I’m going to put a quarter unit on each to win the quarter.

World famous clothing designer and mother Serena Williams is in the bottom half of this quarter. Williams played in Indian Wells, Miami & Rome winning her first match in each event before withdrawing from the event. She is clearly not healthy as there we pictures of her in a wheelchair earlier this week. Despite all of this she is 4th favorite in the markets at 12-1. This is bordering on absurd whichi is good for us, because it provides us some value on Ashleigh Barty. Barty is looking at a path of Pegula, Collins, and Petkovic/Hsieh before possibly facing Williams to get to the quarterfinals. I don’t expect Serena’s body to hold up for that long. Ashleigh is 22-1 to win the tournament which is probably about right given that even if she wins the quarter she would likely be an underdog to Halep in the semifinals which would be a tough spot to hedge. I do see some value in Barty’s price to win the quarter at 6-1 at Bovada. I think she has an easy route to the quarterfinal and could definitely beat Osaka on the slow clay. I’ll put half a unit on Barty to win the quarter at 6-1.

2nd Quarter

The aforementioned defending champion sits atop the 2nd quarter and will make it very difficult to find any value in the outright and quarter markets. She is arguably the best clay player on tour as evident in her spectacular hold+break numbers this year and last. She is the favorite in the outright markets at 4-1 and just 1-1 to win her quarter. She has a lovely draw. Her first real test would come in the 3rd round against Daria Kasatkina or Iga Swiatek. I’m excited fort the Kasatkina/Swiatek match, but whoever wins that match will be head home shortly thereafter. They are very talented, but Kasatkina doesn’t really do anything better than Halep and Swiatek is too young to trust in such a big moment. I think she’s in a great position to repeat as champion, but there’s not any value in either of those prices.

The bottom half of the quarter is stacked. Aryna the Amazonian Warrior Sabalenka looked to finding her form this past week. Amanda Anisimova just gets better every time she plays. Anett Kontaveit continues to be one of the better clay players in the WTA. Buzarnescu continues to improve and finally looks to be recovered from her injury. Petra Kvitova is playing some of the best tennis of any woman in the world this season. On top of all that talent, whoever makes it out alive will likely face a well rested Simona Halep. Buzarnescu is 66-1 to win this quarter, which is interesting, but I think I’ll be better served betting her in individual matches. Pass on everything in this quarter from an outright and to win the quarter perspective.

3rd Quarter

The top half of this quarter could be a lot of fun and it could be a complete disaster. Sloane Stephens made the final last year and has all the tools needed to succeed on the dirt. Good luck trying to figure out if she’s going to stay focused and composed for 2 consecutive weeks. Although I’m optimistic given her recent play, I am not investing in my favorite American player. Are we going to get Garbiñe Muguruthless who won this event without dropping a set in 2016 or are we going to get Garbiñe Muguruseless who plays slow and sloppy? I have no idea so I couldn’t possibly bet on her. Elina Svitolina has been injured and still carries with her a reputation for falling apart in grand slam events. Let’s cross our fingers and hope all 3 are healthy and motivated, because if they are we will be treated to some fantastic clay tennis.

Sitting at the bottom half of the draw is Kiki Bertens who should be smiling when she sees this draw. Her first 3 matches should be fairly easy. Her 4th match will be against Belinda Bencic or Donna Vekic and she should be a favorite over either. To win the quarter she’ll face Stephens or Muguruza I think and she is much steadier and easily as talented as either woman. She is deservingly the second favorite to win the entire event at 8-1. That price looks just about right to me, but I wouldn’t say anything bad about anyone who took it. I was lucky enough to grab here at 14-1 just before she won Madrid. I do however see some value in Donna Vekic’s pricing. She’ll face Belinda Bencic or maybe Laura Seigemund, if she really even is still alive. I like Vekic to beat both of those women and then to face Kiki Bertens. Bertens would be favored, but Vekic will have a chance to win that match and advance to the quarterfinals. She is 250-1 to win the tournament at 5Dimes and 33-1 to win the quarter at Bovada. Both are worth some small wagers. I’ll put .1 units on 250-1 and a quarter of a unit on 33-1.

4th Quarter

I bet on 3 players to win the French Open just before clay season started. Unfortunately, all 3 are in the top half of the same quarter. I’m holding Vondrousova at 150-1, Mertens at 50-1, and Sevastova at 50-1. Unfortunately the Vondrousova price is long gone and Mertens shoulder issues give me too much pause to advise anyone else to jump on board. Sevastova, however, is now priced at 100-1 and I love that price. I expect her to face Vondrousova to advance to the quarterfinals and be favored in that match. I have .2 units on Sevastova at 50-1 and I think you should grab 100-1 for .2 units. Angelique Kerber is up there too and although she’s gotten better on clay, she priced far too expensively.

This bottom half of this draw could be tough or it could be very boring. Caroline Wozniacki and Julia Goerges are big names, but Wozniacki is struggling with her RA and Goerges is not built for the slow dirt. Karolina Pliskova, the San Antonio Spurs of the WTA, sits all the way at the bottom and has a pretty favorable draw. Her toughest opponent will the winner of the Martic/Mladenovic match and although both are very talented, I expect Plisova to be the favorite and to advance. Mladenovic has been a brand new woman with Sacha Bajin as her coach. Pliskova is favored to win the quarter and is a top 5 favorite to win the event. All of that pricing looks right to me.

Recap

History tell us:

·         Unders and favorite spreads in the early rounds

·         Overs and underdog spreads in the later rounds

My bracket:

·         Barty over Sakkari in quarter 1

·         Halep over Kvitova in quarter 2

·         Bertens over Stephens in quarter 3

·         Pliskova over Sevastova in quarter 4

·         Halep over Bertens in the final

My pre-tournament bets:

·         Barty to win quarter 1 at 6-1 at Bovada for a half unit

·         Garcia to win quarter 1 at 14-1 at 5Dimes for a quarter unit

·         Sakkari to win quarter 1 at 14-1 at 5Dimes for a quarter unit

·         Vekic to win quarter 3 at 33-1 at Bovada for a quarter unit

·         Vekic to win the tournament at 250-1 at 5Dimes for .1 units

·         Sevastova to win the tournament at 100-1 at 5Dimes for .2 units

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out the Net Worth podcast as well. Myself and 2 other top notch WTA handicappers preview every event each week. You can find us anywhere podcasts are available and @NetWorthPod on twitter. You can find me @_Noops and I’d love to hear your thoughts, answer any questions, or just chat tennis. Best of luck!!!