|Petra Kvitova||16/1||William Hill|
The second Grand Slam of 2019, the French Open, is almost upon us with Simona Halep set to defend her title at Roland Garros.
Romanian Halep has been the top woman on clay for the past three years, finally breaking her Slam duck in Paris last year. However, she lost the world number one spot to US Open and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in January and has just dropped below Petra Kvitova into third in the rankings.
The WTA Tour has seen its fair share of tennis betting shocks so far this year with only Kvitova winning more than one tournament. And the two Premier Mandatory events, at Indian Wells and Miami, went respectively to Canadian wildcard Bianca Andreescu and Australia’s Ashleigh Barty.
Three-time winner Serena Williams and twice champion Maria Sharapova will play at Roland Garros, but both are recovering from recent injuries and approaching the end of their illustrious careers.
The French Open is the only one of the four Grand Slam tournaments held on clay. The slow, high bounce often leads to long rallies with the surface’s lack of pace favouring solid baseline hitters over more attacking players. The men's 2019 French Open will take place at the same time, with Rafael Nadal favourite to seal a 12th title at the venue.
History of the French Open
The first French Championships for women was held in 1897 but restricted to French nationals and members of French clubs. Foreign players were first admitted in 1925 and, three years later, the tournament moved to Roland Garros which was built for France’s first defence of the Davis Cup.
The start of the Open Era in 1968 saw the event renamed the French Open. Chris Evert is the most successful player in its history with seven titles, overtaking Suzanne Lenglen’s six victories in the 1920s. The trophy awarded to the winner is the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and the second court (after Court Philippe Chatrier) at Roland Garros also bears her name.
Steffi Graf won her last of six French Open titles in 1999 to draw level with Lenglen. And more recently, Justine Henin claimed four titles between 2003 and 2007.
There are no fewer than six former champions in action this year. Serena Williams (2002, 2013, 2015) is 8/1 with Paddy Power to win a fourth French Open title with the only other multiple winner, Maria Sharapova (2012, 2014) a 33/1 shot generally.
Jelena Ostapenko, who beat Halep in the 2017 final, is 50/1 with Unibet and 888Sport after a dismal start to 2019, while out-of-form 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza is as big as 14/1 with William Hill.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, champion back in 2009, is a 200/1 chance with 888Sport.
Last 5 French Open Women's Winners
|2018||Simona Halep||2/5||Sloane Stephens|
|2017||Jelena Ostapenko||5/2||Simona Halep|
|2016||Garbiñe Muguruza||7/5||Serena Williams|
|2015||Serena Williams||2/5||Lucie Safarova|
|2014||Maria Sharapova||7/10||Simona Halep|
French Open 2019 Recommended Bet
At the prices, Petra Kvitova is my current pick for the French Open. While she is probably at her best on faster surfaces - both her Grand Slam wins have come at Wimbledon - her form suggests she could go a long way at Roland Garros.
The left-hander started the year in fine style, winning the Sydney International before reaching the Australian Open final where she went down to Osaka in three sets. That was Kvitova’s first Grand Slam final since suffering nerve damage to her racket hand in a stabbing attack at her home in December 2016.
She was one of the favourites at Indian Wells but threw away a winning position in her opener against Venus Williams. The 29-year-old fared better in Miami, reaching the semi-finals before going down in three sets to eventual winner Ashleigh Barty.
I actually tipped her at both Indian Wells and Miami before deserting her at Stuttgart, much to my cost. She was high on my shortlist for the indoor event but I chose Karolina Pliskova who lost her opener to Victoria Azarenka. And it was Kvitova who prevailed, beating two good clay yardsticks in Anastasija Sevastova and Kiki Bertens before defeating Anett Kontaveit in the final.
The quicker conditions of Stuttgart certainly play to Kvitova’s strengths but she has won a number of tournaments on slower clay including her third Madrid Open last year. My view is that she is currently in the form of her life and I would expect her to go deep at La Caja Magica.
If she does, you can expect to see her odds of 16/1 with William Hill to be slashed. Her best showing at Roland Garros was a semi-final appearance in 2012, going down to eventual champion Maria Sharapova.
I can understand why Halep and Serena Williams are ahead of her in the market but, for me, Kvitova should be next best.
French Open Outright Betting Odds
Halep very much makes the market here at a best price of 5/1 with the best bookies. From what we have seen of her this year, this looks at least a point or two too short. I was struck by her defeat to Marketa Vondrousova at Indian Wells with the Czech able to chase everything down as well as hit winners.
She went down to another in the Miami semi-finals before beating Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia in Fed Cup on clay in Rouen. Halep has taken some time off after those exertions, but she’ll be back to try and regain her Madrid Open title next week.
There have been no fewer than 19 different winners on WTA Tour this year with Halep conspicuous by her absence. She did split with long-term coach Darren Cahill at the end of last season and it is possible that the Australian’s presence has been missed.
Osaka also parted company with her coach, Sascha Bajin, after completing back-to-back Slam wins at the Australian Open. That has coincided with something of a slump, and the Japanese star withdrew ahead of her Stuttgart semi against Anett Kontaveit with an abdominal strain.
Given that she has neither reached the fourth round at Roland Garros in three attempts, going out to Madison Keys in straight sets last year, nor reached a clay-court final on tour, I am slightly surprised to see Osaka quoted at a best-priced 10/1 with Bethard. She is a formidable talent but her current form and her seeming lack of affinity for the surface make her one to avoid in my book.
Where Serena Williams is at right now after she pulled out of the Miami Open with a left knee injury is anybody’s guess. And with clay being her weakest surface, single-figure odds are far from appealing.
Another player I’m happy to leave out of calculations is Garbine Muguruza. She may have won April’s Monterey Open but it was a weak field with Victoria Azarenka retiring injured in the final. The Spaniard has been a shadow of her former self this season and I would want at least double the best price of 14/1 with William Hill to even consider backing her.
Kiki Bertens is a player who can certainly go far and 16/1 with BetVictor accurately reflects her chances. A semi-finalist in 2016 when starting the tournament as a 300/1 outsider, the Dutchwoman has five WTA titles to her name on clay. She has also won three events on hard courts since last summer suggesting she is at the peak of her powers.
Right now, Bertens is currently one of the most consistent players on the tour and I would not put anyone off backing her in Paris. But as I took 33/1 about her some months back, I have no inclination to get involved again!