Roland Garros – The French Open preview
For two weeks every summer the eyes of the world are on a tennis complex named, oddly, after a French aviator. Roland Garros hosts the French Open in May and June every year, and this year’s tournament promises to be another great spectacle. While the men’s tournament looks like a two horse race, this year’s women’s tournament is wide open.
As in 2011, the bookies believe that this year’s French Open is a straight fight between the king of clay, Rafael Nadal, and the world number one Novak Djokovic.
Nadal is the 5/6 favourite to secure his seventh title in Paris and is a worthy favourite. The Spaniard’s fourth round defeat to Robin Soderling in 2009 remains his only defeat at Roland Garros and so it’s no surprise to see the reigning champion installed as favourite for this year’s tournament.
After his dominant 2011, Novak Djokovic has failed to hit the same heights so far in 2012 despite winning the Australian Open back in January. And, Nadal got the better of the world number one in their most recent clay court meeting – the Spaniard winning 7-5, 6-3 in the Rome final last week.
I genuinely expect one of these two men to win the tournament, and Djokovic is 2/1 to win his first French Open title.
Beyond the top two, the bookies don’t give much of a chance to any other player. 2009 champion Roger Federer is a distant 7/1 third favourite in the betting and despite a clay court tournament win a couple of weeks ago, the Swiss player doesn’t have a great record on clay. The clay court form of Andy Murray has also been pretty mediocre over recent weeks – he was beaten by Richard Gasquet last week despite winning the first set of their match – and the Brit can be backed at 25/1.
There are plenty of long shots here but it’s tough to look further than the established top two for this one. David Ferrer has a decent clay court record and is available at 25/1, while two time French Open finalist Robin Soderling is a 200/1 chance.
While the men’s championship looks like a two horse race, the women’s championship is as open as it has been in years.
Victoria Azarenka has won more matches than any other woman in 2012 and the world number one is the 4/1 second favourite in Paris. I like the Belarusian’s chances, but just be mindful that she pulled out of the WTA event last week with a shoulder injury.
Azarenka would have been the clear favourite were it not for the recent form of former world number one Serena Williams. Williams has won her last 17 matches on clay after returning from injury, but also had to withdraw in Rome last week.
“I had some problems with my lower back earlier in the week – it was feeling a little stiff, and I don’t think it’s the right moment to force it,” Williams told reporters at her press conference. “It’s just life. I’ve been playing a lot, and my body is just getting used to playing a lot of matches again, that’s all.”
Assuming she remains injury free, Williams is the one to beat at 5/2.
World number two Maria Sharapova was 6-4, 4-0 down in her Rome final with Li Na last week and came through to win in three sets. The Russian is in good form and can be backed at 13/2, but remember she has never reached the final at Roland Garros. The Chinese reigning champion may offer better value at 9/1.
It may also be worth keeping an eye on Angelique Kerber. The German has just entered the world’s top ten having beaten Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Julia Goerges in Rome, before going the distance with Sharapova. Kerber can be backed at 22/1.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki was the 9/2 favourite a year ago. The fact that you can back the Dane at 30/1 this year tells you everything you need to know about her form and chances here. 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone is a 90/1 chance while 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova can be backed at 125/1.