Ahead of the second Grand Slam of the 2016, our tennis expert, Dan Weston, takes a look at the odds of the Big Four of men’s tennis to win the French Open as well as new generation players that could cause an upset. Here’s what you should consider before placing an outright bet.
Whether you are interested in betting on the winner of the ATP French Open 2016 or looking for value bets to hedge the outright market, here is what the Pinnacle Sports’ odds suggest for the key players who will fight for the men’s crown in Paris between May 22 and June 5.
The world number one, Novak Djokovic, is the overwhelming favourite in the field with the Pinnacle Sports’s odds at 1.840 at the time of writing. Despite an illustrious career, the Serb is yet to taste glory at Roland Garros. Djokovic has been runner up in three of the last four years, losing twice to Rafael Nadal and once, in a shock defeat last year, to Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic’s loss to Wawrinka was his only clay defeat in 2015, and he has amassed very impressive hold/break stats of 90.3% and 33.0% (123.3%) on the dirt in 17 matches in the last 12 months. This makes him by some distance the best player in the field, but ironically also rates clay as his worst surface.
A venue record of 52-11 sounds impressive, but given that he has been a heavy favourite in the majority of these, a -9% ROI on Pinnacle Sports closing prices in those 63 matches illustrates that he has underperformed at the French Open.
However, Djokovic backers will be heartened to know that defeat to Wawrinka was his only loss as a favourite at the venue in the last four years - all other losses were to Nadal as an underdog. Given the current levels of the two players, it is highly unlikely that he will be an underdog to Nadal in a head to head match this year.
A first win here would put Djokovic halfway towards achieving his goal of the year, to scoope all Grand Slams in 2016 – what he calls the Djoker Slam.
With a 70-2 venue record, it’s fair to say that the Spaniard is likely to view Roland Garros as his second home. However, last year was the first that he did not claim the title since 2009, and he is looking for his tenth French Open crown - unbeaten in all of his nine finals.
Four of those wins came against Roger Federer and two against Novak Djokovic, and those memories will give Nadal confidence in a similar situation this year, but at the time of writing Nadal is ranked fifth in the world which could mean that he faces an elite level opponent as early as the quarter-finals.
Nadal’s stats on his beloved clay have also taken a battering in 2016 with him holding 80.8% and breaking opponents 31.0% (combined 111.8%) this year, making him the second favourite at Pinnacle Sports’ odds (5.670). Defeats on the surface against Dominic Thiem in Buenos Aires and Pablo Cuevas in Rio de Janeiro far from inspire confidence.
It will take a significant increase in his recent level for Nadal to compete against the best players in the world, and Djokovic in particular.
Last year’s surprise champion is looking to repeat the feat in 2016 and - should he fail to do so - would face a drop in the world rankings.
Market odds, and hold/break stats, make this rankings decline more likely than not. The Swiss number two has decent hold/break stats at 85.2% and 26.8% (combined 112.0%) but this is far from being at Djokovic’s level.
Having said this, at 11.350 Wawrinka should not be underestimated against any opponent with the exception of the Serb, and it’s also worth noting that he performed well (a semi-final defeat to Djokovic in five sets) when defending his other Grand Slam title, the Australian Open in 2014.
Clay has been well documented as being Murray’s weakest surface throughout his career but bettors should be aware that the Scotsman has improved significantly on the dirt in the last couple of years.
This assertion is backed up by his 2015 record, which was highly impressive at 14-1, holding serve 85.6% and breaking opponents 37.2% (combined 122.8%). His only defeat came in five sets to Djokovic in the semi-finals of this event last year.
Murray also claimed titles in Munich and Madrid in 2015, and some readers may be surprised to know that these are Murray’s only clay ATP titles.
At 14.010 at the time of writing, if Murray performs well in the warm-up Masters events in Madrid and Rome this year, he will be a strong contender to at least make his first final at Roland Garros.
The talented Japanese player is arguably strongest on clay, with a 13-3 record last year generating a combined 110.7% hold/break percentage.
However, injuries and inconsistency have beset Nishikori in his career and the 26 year old will need to be watched prior to the French Open to accurately assess his condition.
Should Nishikori be fit, he does have the talent to compete at the highest level, hence bettors should consider the value in his odds to win the tournament (27.560).
Arguably the greatest player of all time, Federer (29.720) will be hoping that his recovery from minor knee surgery allows him to be at his best at the French Open.
Statistically, he’s solid at 114.6% combined hold/break percentage but it’s worth noting that he hasn't made a final at Roland Garros since 2011, and has lost as a strong favourite against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Ernests Gulbis and Stan Wawrinka in the last three years, which is the reason why at 29.720 he is the 6th favourite to win the French Open at Pinnacle Sports odds.
Furthermore, since 2011, he is 3-0 down in head to head matches on clay against his nemesis Nadal, although he has taken two wins from Djokovic (from five matches) in this time period.
The demands of long points that clay brings, in five set matches, will mean Federer will need to be at his best to claim his first Roland Garros title since 2009.
With a 51-116 career record against top ten opponents, and a poor record as an underdog, it looks like Berdych (57.280) struggles to increase his level against the best players in the world.
In addition to this, he’s not made the semi-finals here since 2010, when he lost to Robin Soderling after leading 2-1. Berdych has only made the quarter-finals on one further occasion (2014 loss to Gulbis) and it’s unlikely that he will be a major contender here.
The Spanish veteran is far less illustrious than his compatriot Nadal, although Ferrer (100.5) is a tough opponent on his favoured surface.
However, the 33 year old is showing signs of a slight decline, which is natural considering his game style is very fitness orientated. Recent defeats to Nicolas Almagro and Dominic Thiem in the South American ‘Golden Swing’ certainly back this up.
Having said this, combined hold/break percentages of 113.1% make him a definite threat, although like Berdych he will have to improve his average level against the best players in the world to make a big impact here.
Young prospects Dominic Thiem and Nick Kyrgios (97.270) have started 2016 well, claiming titles, and Thiem (70.240) in particular has impressed on clay. These two young players look to have the best chances of the ‘new generation’ to reach the latter stages here.
Big-server Milos Raonic (69.160) also started this year in a positive manner, but is currently recovering from an adductor injury sustained at the Australian Open. Fellow big-server Juan Martin Del Potro (76.730) is a player the market appears to be keen to keep onside, although the giant Argentine is feeling his way back into action after a long absence following his third wrist surgery.
Another big-server, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (62.680), made the surprise effort to travel to South America for the Golden Swing but viewers of his shock defeat to the Brazilian youngster Thiago Monteiro may be excused wondering why he bothered. It will take a significant level increase for Tsonga to be a threat.
The likes of Marin Cilc, Grigor Dimitrov (76.730), Gael Monfils (113.470) and Richard Gasquet (195.610) all lack either consistency, mentality or the ability to increase their level high enough against the elite. This latter criticism certainly wouldn’t be levelled at Fabio Fognini (217.230), who has several wins on clay as a heavy underdog in recent times, although the temperamental Italian certainly does struggle with consistency.
And for those who are still undecided, read our guide on How to hedge outright markets for guaranteed profit. Rather than looking directly at identifying the winner of a competition, this article explains how you can make a profit in the outright markets even before the competition is over by using the hedging strategy.