It’s that time of the year again when the world’s best tennis players head over to France to contest the 2nd Grand Slam of the season on the red clay of Roland Garros.
World number 1 Rafa Nadal (evens, Bet365)) has not been his usual self during the 2014 clay court season, however he has still gained very good results as you would expect. His losses to Almagro and Ferrer where big upsets, but he still managed to defeat an injured Kei Nishikori to win the Madrid Masters. Nadal has an awesome record at Roland Garros and as ever will be very tough to beat over best of 5 set matches. He will grind and grind his opponents down.
Novak Djokovic (7/4 Bet365)) won the Rome Masters last week. The Serbian is looking to take back his world number 1 from Rafa and if fully recovered from his injury lay off he could go well again at this year’s French Open. Novak is more than capable of fighting hard with Nadal on clay as he did in Rome, but that semi-final from last year which Nadal somehow won 9-7 in the 5th could stay in the back of the mind of the Serbian. Still Novak has had the better of his recent matches against Rafa and will be very confident after his display in Rome.
Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka (11/2 Bet365) could also be a contender in Paris. The Swiss world number 3 won the Monte Carlo Masters this year and looks to be in a better position mentally to give a good account in the 2nd Grand Slam of the year. Losing to Thiem in Rome will not help his confidence though and Stan only won 6 games in his QF last year against Nadal.
Roger Federer (12/1 Bet365) has had a good season reaching the final of Monte Carlo and Indian Wells and well as winning in Dubai and reaching the SFs of Melbourne. The 32 year old is back up to world number 4 and if he can get his game together Roger could have another good run at Roland Garros. Again don’t read too much into his early loss in Rome to Chardy. He knows how to play 5 set tennis if he needs to and fitness should not be a problem. Never discount the 5 times finalist.
2013 French Open runner up David Ferrer (18/1 Bet365) has lost his consistency a little in 2014. The Spaniard did defeat Nadal though in Monte Carlo so that will at least give him a confidence boost as he has a very poor record against Rafa, doesn’t everyone! Ferrer hasn’t reached a European clay court final this year and also lost embarrassingly to Gabashvili in Barcelona. The Spaniard though again has vast experience and his clay court record emphasises this. He is defending a lot of points at Roland Garros though and not amongst the top 4 seeds could well find a difficult QF match awaits if he gets that far.
Can Andy Murray (16/1 Bet365) cause any upsets at this year’s French Open? It would be great to think so! The Wimbledon champion gave Rafa Nadal a fright in Rome, a match he really should have won. Although not a natural clay courter, Andy can set up points from his serve and powerful penetrating shots. He doesn’t want to get involved in long rallies on every point! The 27 year old has reached the SFs in Paris back in 2011 and been a quarter finalist a further 2 times. He didn’t play last year due to injury and it will be exciting to see what the Brit can do. He needs a favourable draw as there are a lot of clay court specialists floating around outside the seedings who feel extra confidence on this surface.
Tomas Berdych is dangerous, though losses to Garcia-Lopez and Berlocq on the clay already in 2014 don’t give his fans much confidence of being able defeat one of the top seeds this year. The Czech has only made it past the 4th round at Roland Garros once in his career, back in 2010 where he was a semi-finalist.
If Kei Nishikori (16/1 Bet365) is fit after his back injury scare in Madrid then the Japanese player could be a very dangerous player. Under the guidance of 1989 champion Michael Chang, Kei was in control against Nadal early in that Madrid Masters final. Whether he would cope if he got involved in a 5 setter with one of the top 2 is another matter, but the signs in 2014 are very good!!!
Milos Raonic (100/1 Bet365), Richard Gasquet (125/1 Bet365), Jo Wilfried Tsonga (66/1 Bet365) and John Isner (150/1 Bet365) are all capable of playing big tennis on their day and all on clay, though I don’t see a future French Open champion amongst them.
Grigor Dimitrov (50/1 Bet365) has moved up the rankings again this year and is now on the verge of a top 10 place. The Bulgarian lost to Nadal easily in Rome last week, but Grigor is definitely good enough to trouble the top players. He needs to start making more of an impact in Grand Slams and this should be made easier now his ranking is high and he avoids the Nadals and Djokovic’s until at least the 4th round. The Bulgarian is comfortable on clay and has very powerful groundstrokes. He needs to work on his consistency and his confidence, which are improving tournament by tournament.
Fabio Fognini (661/1 Bet365) and Ernests Gulbis (100/1 Bet365) are two of the ‘crazy’ players on the ATP tour at the moment. They blow hot and cold way too much to challenge for a Grand Slam title at the moment, but never discount either of them from causing a massive upset on any certain day, especially Ernests.
Dolgopolov (150/1 Bet365), Monfils (100/1 Bet365) and Bautista-Agut (300/1 Bet365) are 3 other names I have picked out that again can cause upsets, but unlikely to play consistently enough to challenge for the major honours.
As always a lot depends on the actual draw and which seeds meet each other at the later stages. There is always one player who has it tougher than the others. So wait for the draw before taking a punt, but there is plenty of value about if you fancy an outsider to take 8 time champion Rafael Nadal’s crown.
Its hard to look past Nadal or Djokovic in this years French Open, but if you want some value then look at Murray, Federer, Nishikori and Dimitrov