French Open betting preview: Relentless Rafa Nadal to reign again at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal: Good price in the tennis betting markets

With the French Open rapidly approaching, our man Derek Bilton looks at where to put your money.

Here we go then. Bright sunshine? Red dirt? Popping champagne corks? The Eiffel Tower as a stunning backdrop? It can only mean one thing.

The French Open, one of the most iconic tournaments on the international sporting calendar, kicks off on Sunday and the bookies feel the men’s event is a one horse race. Put simply, Rafael Nadal has absolutely owned Roland Garros for the past decade.

Can Spain’s raging bull earn title number 11? The odds suggest yes, with Rafa no bigger than 2/5 for glory.

He has been handed a great draw too and the 10-time champion opens up against Ukrainian box of tricks Alexandr Dolgopolov. He has avoided Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic, and could only meet them in the final.

Djokovic’s recent form has been iffy, but there were signs in Rome he might be getting back to somewhere near his best level. Zverev has been red hot on clay this year, winning in Munich and Madrid and making a final in Rome (and a semi in Monte Carlo).

He beat Thiem in the Madrid final, and the pair have been paired in the same quarter in Paris. And while the form lines suggest the big German should emerge from that, I still feel Thiem is Nadal’s biggest threat on clay.

The gifted Austrian has been playing well himself this summer, and was the man responsible for snapping Rafa’s 50-set and 21-match win streak on clay recently.

He played aggressively on that fateful day but didn’t spray too many unforced errors around either against the World No 1. It’s 4/1 that Thiem meets Nadal in the final and that looks a decent shout if he can oust Zverez. Over three sets, on slow clay, Thiem might fancy his chances and he’s done well in Paris on each of his last two visits.

Whether he can overcome Nadal again is another matter entirely though.

The legendary Iberian didn’t drop a set last year and his prep work in 2018 has arguably been better than 12 months ago. He’s healthy, hungry and has lost just once on dirt this summer.

Indeed it seems outrageous to go against Nadal given he has won three of four clay tournaments he has entered so far this year and is looking in frighteningly good nick.

It’s 100/30 he wins another title without losing a set and that‘s another bet that makes plenty of appeal, as taking that Thiem loss out of the equation he has lost two sets on clay all year. Two bloody sets! And while it’s hardly rocket science picking Nadal to win on clay, the reality is it is going to happen. He’s too strong, too relentless and too mentally tough for this field (and the whole of the men’s locker room knows it).

Almost as intriguing as Rafa’s potential run to title number 11 of course is the return to Paris of new mother Serena Williams, who has dropped to 453 in the world.

She’s 36 years of age these days and some commentators feel her star is slowly falling to earth. However she is still the most successful female player of the Open era and someone who strikes fear into her opponents every time she loads up with that serve.

She will not be seeded, but at 14/1 I would rather be punting her than laying her.

Simona Halep is the women’s betting jolly at 6/1, but she has form for falling apart in Grand Slam finals and I’m not sure she’s even over last year’s incredible capitulation when she somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

You could make a strong case for at least half a dozen female players and the big three clay events on the WTA Tour – Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome – were won by three different players this season.

Karolina Pliskova (18/1), Petra Kvitova (14/1) and Elina Svitolina (13/2), all power players, will all fancy their chances along with Halep, but when the red dust settles do not be surprised if, as has so often been the case, Serena is all that remains.

Bilko’s Banker #1 – Rafael Nadal to win the French Open without losing a set at 100/30 (Paddy Power)
Bilko’s Banker #2 – Serena Williams to win the French Open at 14/1 (Bet Victor/Paddy Power)
Best of the Rest: Name the Finalist: Nadal and Thiem at 4/1 (Paddy Power)

Deggsy Bilton