2018 French Open Betting Preview: Nadal, Halep Favored in Paris

  • The French Open futures odds are here, and we’re breaking down some of the best (and worst) bets.
  • The men’s card is dominated by ten-time winner Rafael Nadal.
  • Please don’t bet on Maria Sharapova at +900.

The French Open, starting May 27th, is the most singular of the four grand slams, and success on clay is the most tenuously correlated with success elsewhere. Roger Federer has won twenty slams and doesn’t bother contesting the French anymore, as he doesn’t like his chances.

Betting on the French Open can thus be a challenge, as a given player’s most recent matches were almost certainly played on hard courts, and thus don’t necessarily mean anything, and their most recent clay matches were almost certainly played last year, and are thus similarly dubious. Projecting performance on clay is tough, then, and requires close (but not too close) attention to be paid to the clay court warm-ups, as well as previous performances on the surface.

Add in young players who are developing, and you’ve got a handicapper’s nightmare.

Projecting the men’s draw is easier, as Rafael Nadal will almost certainly win, unless something truly out of the ordinary happens.

ATP French Open Favorites

Rafael Nadal: -130

It’s difficult to bet against Rafael Nadal at the French Open. This year he’ll be shooting for his eleventh win, which reaches beyond historic into the downright silly, and the only real question is that of his health. If he’s in good shape, and able to play his game, there doesn’t seem to be anyone capable of eliminating Nadal from the tournament.

So what kind of shape is he in? Positive signs: he’s agreed to play for the Spanish Davis Cup team as they take on Germany in Plaza del Toros, which should be a lot of fun to watch, and if you look at his social media he does appear to be ambulatory. The ten-time winner could likely win from a wheelchair, but is recovering from whatever it was that pulled him out of the Australian Open.

Betting Tip: If you bet against him, and lose, you’re going to feel really stupid. If you bet on him, and win, you’re not going to be that much richer.

Novak Djokovic: +500

Djokovic is always a tough one to predict, but I’m confident this is a sucker’s bet. Thinking Novak is the second favorite to win the French Open requires forgetting a lot of what has happened in the last year, and even since he returned to competitive play. He hasn’t performed up to his potential in a very long time, and has been particularly disappointing since coming back from the wrist/arm/elbow surgery/treatment/intervention that his team has told us so much about. This bet is all brand name, and 2018 Novak hasn’t done anything to earn the odds.

Betting Tip: Stay away! Nole hasn’t done anything yet to earn your money, not at this price.

Dominic Thiem: +600

The only real shot to upset Nadal here, Dominic Thiem is an elite clay-court player with just enough hard court skill that some observers feel disappointed by his lack of results. He’s a clay court specialist through and through, nobody has a bigger difference in success depending on surface, and he’s actually beaten Rafael Nadal on the surface, something very few current players can claim.

Dominic Thiem is thus the only player with a chance to beat Rafael Nadal head-on, and the favorite to win if something should happen to Nadal. He’s also a hoot to watch on clay, as he likes to cravenly retrieve and then pummel the ball in a way even Rafael Nadal cannot.

Betting Tip: The only player with a real shot at beating Nadal, at odds that aren’t too crazy.

Juan Martin Del Potro: +1600

It’s easy to write off Del Potro as a hard court guy, because his game has become more and more centred around him hitting the ball very hard and moving as little as possible, but if you dig into his clay court results even a little you’ll find that the Argentine has some chops. Last year he beat Grigor Dimitrov, Kyle Edmund and Kei Nishikori before falling to Novak Djokovic in Rome, and as ill-suited as his style might be for the surface those aren’t easy wins.

Delpo was certainly hot on the hard court circuit, beating Roger Federer in the final to win at Indian Wells, and he’s currently making his way through the draw in Miami. His recent form is thus enough to inspire a bet, if his clay-court results are enough for you.

Betting Tip: As much as I love Del Potro, it’s very difficult to bet on him to beat the best of the best on clay.

Alexander Zverev: +2000

Has so far been very unsuccesful in five-set formats, and has recently been somewhat disappointing in three-set formats. Still, an underrated clay-court player, and these are seriously long odds. If you think Rafael Nadal is going to crash out, and are looking for a youngster to hang your upset hopes on, maybe Zverev is the move. Zverev actually has a clay-court Elo higher than Del Potro, who is more expensive, and most of the guys above him on that list are either currently injured, recovering from injury, or Dominic Thiem. Zverev’s game matches up well with clay courts, he’s as long and as consistent as you could ever want, and he won Rome last year. His last loss was to Rafael Nadal, and that’s forgivable.

Betting Tip: Particularly if you think the odds on Dominic Thiem are too short for an upset pick, Zverev is a fun longshot and maybe a ton of value. The odds/clay court Elo ratio here is unbeatable.

WTA French Open Favorites

Simona Halep: +450

Defending Simona Halep is the favorite, but with a little wiggle room. This is a deep field to get through, and it might depend on how the draw shakes out.

Halep plays a game designed for success on clay courts, as she covers the court beautifully and rarely makes mistakes. She’s twice been the runner-up at the French Open, and was a set away from victory last year, but has never won this or in fact any slams. There are those that think Halep has lost a step, and those who think she can’t win the big one, but she’s world #1 and the betting favorite for a reason. If you like consistency, and think Halep can make it happen this year, these are the longest odds you’ll get on a favorite.

Betting Tip: Good odds, for a favorite. It’s not like Halep has been playing poorly recently, but bettors are probably a little tired of her coming up short.

Serena Williams: +600

Serena Williams’ return to play on tour hasn’t been quite as dominant as some expected. The American fell to her sister Venus in the third round at Indian Wells, and then was knocked out of the first round in Miami by Naomi Osaka. Neither loss is major cause for concern: Venus Williams is one of the best players on tour and Naomi Osaka is maybe the future of women’s tennis.

As far as style goes, Williams is obviously better suited to the faster courts, where her power advantage is multiplied. Accordingly, she’s won a lot more at Wimbledon than the French Open, having won seven of the former to three of the latter. She’s also coming back after a long time away, and hasn’t played on clay since losing the 2016 final to Garbine Muguruza.

Betting Tip: Again, not at these odds, considering what Williams is returning from and how she’s played so far.

Garbine Muguruza: +700

Muguruza is a really tough player to predict because her biggest victories are often preceded by a string of early-round losses that have everyone scratching their heads. She’s certainly onto that pattern again, losing int he first round at Indian Wells and the second round at the Australian Open, with making the final in Qatar her best result. The 2016 champion is a tough pick to talk yourself into, particularly at these short odds.

Betting Tip: If you can read the Garbine Muguruza tea leaves, go for it. I can’t, and these are pretty strong odds, so I’ll go elsewhere.

Maria Sharapova French Open
Maria Sharapova in 2009, back when +900 made any sense at all. (Photo credit: Misty Bushell (Flickr) CC License)

Maria Sharapova: +900

Hard no on these odds. Maria Sharapova is a great player, and a fierce competitor, but these are odds you give a player at the top of their form, not coming back from a long PED suspension and struggling to make the latter stages of tournaments. Sharapova made the third round in Australia

Since her shoulder injury, Sharapova has been much stronger on clay than other surfaces, but that’s more because she’s lost power than anything. She might have gained some tactical acuity, but it’s not like she’s evolved into a crushed-brick whisperer since losing the zip on her forehand.

Betting Tip: All brand name, no sense. Easy pass.

Naomi Osaka: +2200

Tempting, I know, and we all saw how good she was at Indian Wells and now Miami. Also, this is a great price for such a talented player with recent wins.

Here’s why it doesn’t really make sense: Osaka’s game is the opposite of a clay-courters, which is why it was so satisfying to watch her pummel Halep off the court in the first place. She uses power at every opportunity and doesn’t let points develop long enough for her more experienced opponents to gain an advantage. That strategy probably won’t work at Roland Garros, for obvious reasons, but it would be incredible if it did.

You might think you’re getting a bargain here, but you’re taking a player who didn’t make it out of the round of 128 last year because of what she can do on another surface.

I’d love these odds at Wimbledon, though.

Betting Tip: I’ll pass, but I won’t feel good about it.

Geoff Johnson

MTS co-founder Geoff Johnson is a lifelong Mets fan, something he can't do anything about. He has a great track record when it comes to wagering on baseball – largely because he's more than willing to bet against the Mets. His career profits are impressive, but not quite as good as his handsome friend Frank Lorenzo. He wishes he hadn't let Frank write his profile.