Rafael Nadal may not have won a Grand Slam title for three years, but he is the overwhelming favourite to once again be crowned the King of Clay. The Spaniard has been irresistible on the red dirt this season, winning tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid whilst barely dropping a set, and a tenth victory at Roland Garros looks a probable outcome. The odds-on price will deter many punters, though, so it may be an idea to consider some of the other contenders for an each-way bet at the very least.
A maiden French Open title had been at the top of world No.1 Andy Murray’s targets for 2017, but a string of early exits at recent events have left him short of court time and confidence. He has pointed to poor movement as one reason for his troubles, but his second serve and return have also been below par and he will hope that linking back up with Ivan Lendl in Paris will result in an upturn in fortunes. Novak Djokovic’s rut dates back even longer than Murray’s, to last summer, although there have been signs of a revival in Madrid and Rome following his shock-therapy tactic of sacking his entire support team. If he can build some momentum in the first few rounds at Roland Garros, he could be ready to challenge Nadal by the latter stages, and odds of 5/1 suddenly won’t look too bad.
Stan Wawrinka, French Open champion in 2015, has the capability to beat Nadal or Djokovic on clay but has been typically inconsistent this year. Milos Raonic’s game is not suited to clay and Roger Federer is skipping the event to focus on the grass-court season. Juan Martin del Potro is a dangerous floater but may not be ready to win seven straight matches after all his injury problems. Rising star Alexander Zverev could be worth a punt at 66/1 following his stunning success in Rome, but Dominic Thiem is perhaps the man most likely to make the breakthrough at Grand Slam level. The Austrian has been the second best player on clay this year, behind Nadal, and reached his first Masters final in Madrid. A lot depends on how the draw unfolds, but Thiem has the power, fitness and defensive skills to go one better than his semi-final showing last year and a price of 14/1 looks decent value.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Each Way on Dominic Thiem - 14/1
In the absence of the pregnant Serena Williams, Romanian world no.4 Simona Halep has emerged as the favourite to triumph in Paris. She is a tenacious competitor and excellent mover who is in great form after winning the Madrid Open, and certainly seems a better bet than out-of-form world no.1 Angelique Kerber and No.3 Karolina Pliskova, whose huge serve will be less of a weapon on clay.
Defending champion Garbine Muguruza has slipped to seventh in the world after a poor start to the year, although, like Djokovic in the men’s draw, there have been indications in Rome that she is getting her mojo back. Another interesting contender is Elina Svitolina at 18/1. The 22-year-old Ukrainian is enjoying the best season of her career; she is a good defender who is well suited to clay and has the potential to improve significantly on one previous quarter-final appearance in Paris.
The home favourite will be Kristina Mladenovic, who has reached finals in both Stuttgart and Madrid on clay this year. She is a wonderful ball striker and excellent volleyer, who has the sort of personality that would relish trying to become the first French winner since Mary Pierce in 2000. Mladenovic can be backed at 20/1 and, with a favourable draw, she will be hard to stop.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Each Way on Kristina Mladenovic - 20/1
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.