The second Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year, the French Open, starts on Sunday, and there are two clear favourites to win the singles titles at Roland Garros.
On the men’s side, Spaniard Rafael Nadal is the overwhelming favourite to lift the trophy at 5/6 (Ladbrokes). The undisputed “King of Clay” has made an incredible comeback from injury this year. After an eight month absence through injury, he has won six titles already this year so comes into Roland Garros in sensational form.
His latest victory came in the Masters Series in Rome last weekend. Nadal tore Roger Federer apart in straight sets 6-1 6-3 and looked in imperious form which should send shivers down the spines of his rivals.
Ernests Gulbis has been the only player to test Nadal on the clay so far this season. In the third round in Rome, he took the opening set 6-1 before falling in three. He’s an outsider at 100/1 (Boylesports) but I can’t see him having enough to go all the way in this tournament by any means.
Nadal’s main challengers will likely come from the following trio, Federer, Novak Djokovic and home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Federer (12/1 888 Sport) is still a class player but the red clay is not his best surface. The same can be said for Djokovic (13/5 Paddy Power), while Tsonga (66/1 BetVictor, William Hill) has the game to do well in Paris but has never won a Grand Slam. He’ll have the crowd’s backing but can that push him over the line?
I cannot see past Nadal. If he’s fit enough to go through his first Grand Slam since injury, he should claim the title.
The women’s draw is dominated by one player too. Serena Williams is proving to everyone that she is by far and a way the best women’s player on tour and she goes into the French Open as huge favourite at 10/11 (Coral).
The 31 year-old American has been the class act of the women’s tour so far this year but has only ever won the French Open title once, way back in 2002. I think this year will be the time she breaks that 11 year duck though as she has powered past all before her on the clay this year to date.
There are very few genuine contenders in my opinion to challenge Serena for this one. But one player I’ll pick out who may cause a surprise or two is Sara Errani of Italy. She is a clay court specialist and reached the final at Roland Garros in 2012. She’s available at 33/1 (Sportingbet) which could be worth an each-way punt.
The British interest all comes in the ladies draw with no Andy Murray in the men’s draw due to a back injury. Laura Robson has been playing well so far this year but she has a tough 1st round assignment in former World Number One Caroline Wozniacki.
Elena Baltacha has recently returned following a long lay-off. Baltacha doesn’t have a great record at Roland Garros, her best result being a 2nd round exit in 2011. She faces Marina Erakovic in round 1 which a good chance to match that again if she can reach the kind of form she is capable of.
And finally, Heather Watson has been drawn against Stefanie Voegele in round 1. The Channel Islander will be playing her first tournament in two months after suffering from glandular fever. If she can return hitting the ground running, she too may well get past the opening stages.