Wins for both Thiem and Wawrinka last week, leads us nicely into this week’s second grand slam of the season – The French Open. First established in 1891, the French Open is the world’s premier clay court event and, more importantly, a tournament that world number one Novak Djokovic has yet to win.
Djokovic, runner-up in 2012, 2014 and 2015, needs the French Open to complete his personal grand slam and, in doing so, join tennis’ elite. However, just as we saw in last year’s final, the chance to do that puts an amazing amount of pressure on Djokovic, who much prefers grass or hard-courts to the clay.
The tournament runs for two-weeks from Sunday 22nd May.
Despite the pressure on Djokovic, he’s not expected to have much difficulty making it to the semi-finals, and he should have no problems in the early rounds, before a likely quarter-final clash against Tomas Berdych or David Ferrer, over whom he has outstanding records.
Rafa Nadal will be hoping to win his tenth French Open title this year, having won it from 2005 to 2008, and from 2010 to 2014. However, if he makes it through his quarter, he will most probably have to beat Djokovic in the semi-finals to do so. His quarter is no pushover either, with Nice finalists Zverev and Thiem, David Goffin, and last year’s semi-finalist Tsonga all potential hurdles. Tsonga, who often raises his game for these big occasions, could be the biggest hurdle.
It was no surprise to see Wawrinka come back to winning form the week before his defence of his French Open crown, and the Swiss player knows this is his best chance of winning any grand slam this season. His brilliant backhand is a lethal weapon on clay and, though Raonic beat him in this year’s Australian Open, he is expected to take revenge if they both make it to the quarter-finals.
Andy Murray will be feeling confident of reaching his first French Open final after his recent victory over Djokovic, and only Kei Nishikori looks to be standing in his way to the semi-finals. However, Murray holds a 6-1 head-to-head lead, and has won their only match on clay.
Djokovic has now won his last seven games against Rafa Nadal, and their last three matches on clay, and he’s expected to make it to the final. However, it is Wawrinka who is expected to beat Murray in the other semi-final, as the Swiss player has won their last three encounters, and all three of their matches on clay.
French Open Final
If, as expected, this year’s final is a repeat of last year’s final, it is Djokovic who is most likely to be feeling the pressure. Wawrinka also has the best recent record of anyone against Djokovic, having won two of their last six matches, and two of their last three matches in grand slams – and he has to be the value bet.
Stan Wawrinka each-way @ 14/1 (Betfair Sportsbook) ¼ odds 2 places