Tennis’ second Grand Slam, the French Open, starts on Sunday 24th May. It takes place over two weeks on the clay courts of Roland Garros, and is universally accepted to be the toughest two weeks of the season.
As it’s a Grand Slam, all matches are best of 5 sets, and the final set cannot be settled with a tie-break; unlike the regular ATP events.
The King of Clay, Rafa Nadal, has won 9 of the last 10 French Opens with only victory for Roger Federer in 2009 breaking his stranglehold. Federer has also been runner-up on 4 occasions (Last in 2011), whilst Novak Djokovic was runner-up in 2012 and 2014.
However, there will be no repeat of last year’s final as Djokovic and Nadal have been drawn in the same quarter due to Nadal slipping down the world rankings after a poor season. Usually odds-on for outright victory here, the fact that you can get 5/2 for Nadal to win the first-quarter highlights just how poor his form has been in the run up to the tournament, and in tournaments he has tended to dominate before winning here. Nadal may well get beat before the quarter-final stage but, even if does meet Djokovic there, the Serb is fancied to overcome the Spaniard.
In the second quarter, Andy Murray and David Ferrer are scheduled to meet in the quarter-final, and Ferrer boasts an excellent 4 wins from 4 matches over Murray on clay. However, he hasn’t beaten Novak Djokovic on any surface since 2011, should they meet in the semis.
Kei Nishikori and Thomas Berdych will both be fancying there chances of a good showing, and should they play each other in the 3rd quarter-final, their head-to-heads make interesting reading. Nishikori has won their 3 hard-court encounters, yet Berdych won the only time they met on clay. However, they have not played each other since 2012; and Nishikori has arguably made the most progress on clay since then.
The 4th quarter sees Federer as the favourite to progress, but recent Grand Slams suggest he now finds the pressure of two weeks of potential stamina sapping 5-set matches difficult. If that proves to be the case, this may be a perfect opportunity for Gael Monfils to thrill the home crowd and at least reach the semi-finals.
However, despite a potentially difficult quarter-final, Djokovic’s current dominance makes him difficult to look beyond – though a best priced 10/11 doesn’t make me want to rush to back him.
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