There is no Men’s Tennis this week, so it looks a perfect opportunity to take an early look at the French Open (the second Grand Slam of the season) to see whether Novak Djokovic should really be odds-on to claim that so far elusive French Open title he needs to complete his Grand Slam.
The French Open, played on the slow clay courts of Roland Garros, is universally accepted as the most brutal test of the tennis season, and the winner will not want to endure too many five-set matches on the way to the final. It’s a test that should suit the supremely fit Djokovic but, as he’s yet to claim the crown, let’s take a look at which of the world’s top-10 players may stand in his way.
Andy Murray 12/1
Murray has made the semi-finals in 3 of the last 5 years, but lost an epic 5-set match to Djokovic last year. That may well have left Djokovic fatigued for the final, but it’s Djokovic that has won all 3 of their matches on clay, and 11 of their last 12 matches on all surfaces.
Federer has won one French Open title, but it has always been his least favourite of all the Grand Slams. The slow courts are of no benefit to him, and his ageing legs really aren’t up to two weeks of elongated rallies. The score between he and Djokovic is 4-4 on clay court encounters, but reaching the latter stages may be a problem for him.
Last year’s winner may not be up for the run-of-the-mill tournaments week in week out, but his A-game is one of the few that can unsettle Djokovic even when the world number 1 is at the top of his game. Has won 2 of their 6 clay court matches, and 2 of their 6 most recent head-to-heads.
The nine-time French Open Champion is more at home on these courts than anyone, and his heavy top-spin is a formidable weapon. Leads Djokovic 14-6 in clay head-to-heads (though did win first 9), but will have to discover his best form after losing in straight sets to the Serb here last year.
Reached the quarter-finals for the first time last year, but has lost both his clay court matches to Djokovic, and their last 5 head-to-heads.
Reached the semi-finals in 2010, but hasn’t repeated that since. Slow courts aren’t really his thing either, though he’s won 1 of his 3 matches on clay against Djokovic.
Has won plenty of clay-court titles, but never really seemed to recover from his 2013 final defeat. Lost his last 3 matched against Djokovic on clay, and has a terrible recent record against him.
Always had the power to trouble anyone, and no surprise that he’s reached the semi-finals in two of the last three years. Tends to make life hard for himself with too many long matches, but made Wawrinka work hard last year. Lost all his clay court matches to Djokovic though, including here in 2012 and 2014, and only won 1 of their last 11 matches.
Never ventured past the fourth round here, and was brushed aside by Djokovic in straight sets here in 2011 and 2015.
Djokovic could easily win but if you didn’t take the 10/11 about him winning the Australian Open, a tournament he’s dominated in recent seasons, it’s hard to see why 5/6 about winning a tournament he’s yet to win is value.
Instead, the value looks to be in backing both nine-time champion Nadal at 5/1, and last year’s winner Wawrinka at 8/1.
Nadal @ 5/1 (Skybet)
Wawrinka @ 8/1 (Various bookmakers)