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Sunday, 24 May 2015

French Open Outright Picks 2015 (May 24-June 7)

The second Grand Slam event of the season begins on Sunday 24th May and I think we are going to have a fun two weeks after seeing the draw which was made on Friday. On this thread I will put down my outright picks from the French Open with both men's and women's draws analysed.

Men's Tournament
After the way the clay court season has developed and taking into account the entire 2015 season to date, it is little wonder that Novak Djokovic has hardened as favourite to win his maiden French Open title.

There is no doubt that the French Open has been the prize that Djokovic has wished to win more than any other over the last couple of years as he looks to complete the career Grand Slam. After winning the titles in Monte Carlo and Rome, Novak Djokovic would likely have been favourite to win the French Open, but Rafael Nadal's struggles on the European clay courts have just strengthened the belief in Djokovic.

Nadal's lack of titles over the last six weeks of the season means he has dropped in the World Rankings and was always going to meet one of the top four players in the Quarter Finals stage. The draw has put together Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to meet at that stage, although the latter has a tougher four matches to negotiate to get to that Quarter Final.

Someone like Grigor Dimitrov can be very difficult to play on his day and is a potential Fourth Round opponent for Nadal, while Richard Gasquet looks to be the most difficult hurdle for Djokovic to negotiate in the first four Rounds.

Novak Djokovic would be a clear favourite to win any potential Quarter Final match between the two players because Rafael Nadal's confidence is far lower than the last two seasons when the Serb had his backers to overcome Nadal. You have to respect what Nadal has managed to do in Paris through his career and his 66-1 record makes his 5-1 quote to win the title look huge, but I would make Novak Djokovic a huge favourite to win this title and continue his strong run of wins.

Andy Murray is the third favourite to win the title in Paris having shown his best clay court form of the season by winning the events in Munich and Madrid in preparation for this event. However I am not convinced that Murray is really capable of winning seven best-of-five set matches on his worst surface and I think he should take the confidence of his run into stronger runs at Wimbledon and the US Open in the final two Grand Slams of the season.

He hasn't been helped by being placed in the same half of the draw as the top two favourites for the title, although Murray did beat Nadal comfortably in the Final in Madrid. However, that tournament is played on a much faster clay court than the one he will see in Paris and I wouldn't be confident backing Murray to beat Nadal at this event if they were to meet in the Semi Final. Suffice to say I'd be less confident in any win he could manage over Novak Djokovic and I think Murray looks short enough.

In fact it could pay to challenge Andy Murray in this second quarter of the draw by picking David Ferrer to come through on his favourite surface. You can't ignore the fact that Ferrer seems to be on the way down from his peak in his career, but the Spaniard is able to play the long gruelling rallies on the clay and has a draw that should see him work through to a potential Quarter Final with the British Number 1.

Ferrer has never been beaten by Andy Murray on the clay courts and I think he would challenge the latter more than most have on this surface during Murray's 10-0 run. At 4.00, Ferrer looks a big price to win this quarter and has to be worth a small interest.

With the top two favourites to win the Paris title in the top half of the draw, there is a real opportunity for someone from the bottom half to get all the way to the Final in two weeks time. Whoever that is will be a real underdog, but the likes of Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych, Fabio Fognini, Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer have to be very pleased with the draw and the opportunities that it has presented them.

Fabio Fognini and Tomas Berdych are Seeded to meet in a huge Third Round match and the Italian could be the surprise package of the tournament at triple digits to win, but half of that just to reach the Final.

That Third Round match makes both of those players tough to figure which one will go deepest in the draw, while Kei Nishikori has an awkward draw with some big hitters in his section that could cause problems.

I am still not convinced Stan Wawrinka is back to form after his run at Rome to the Semi Finals with the Swiss Number 2 struggling to balance his personal and professional lives and that leaves Roger Federer as the player that could take most advantage of the draw.

Federer can clearly point to the clay courts as being his worst surface these days and he might privately be thinking about his preparation for Wimbledon which quickly follows this event. However he has been given a boost by the draw where his biggest threat prior to the Quarter Finals might be Gael Monfils who has given Federer all he can handle in their last few meetings.

Monfils has been struggling with an injury that means he could be vulnerable early in the draw and may not get to the Fourth Round to face Federer, which would mean the latter has every chance to get to yet another Paris Final.

I can see a situation where Federer takes advantage of players who have had to battle through much more difficult matches in the Quarter Final and Semi Final. That will give him every chance to reach the Final in two weeks time although Federer is unlikely to be a favourite even if he does reach that stage unless something crazy has happened in the top half of the draw with Djokovic and Nadal both knocked out.

I can't look beyond Novak Djokovic here and he has to be the main point of interest for the picks, although I will also have a small interest on Rafael Nadal because of his history here. Roger Federer also deserves a small interest in the each-way market which would create a profit if he was to reach the Final on Sunday 7th June.

I will also have a small interest on David Ferrer to win the Second Quarter where Andy Murray is a strong favourite because I think the Spaniard is the better clay court player. The draw has given Ferrer every chance to face Andy Murray in the Quarter Final, although the British Number 1 has a couple of tough roadblocks to negotiate and Ferrer could give us a profit by simply reaching the Quarter Final.

Women's Tournament
The favourite for every WTA event she enters is Serena Williams but there have to be some huge red flags up for anyone that is thinking about backing her to win the French Open. Serena Williams has been struggling with some kind of injury which is affecting her service action, while the American has only won the French Open twice and she has been stunned in early losses here twice in the last three years, although winning the other tournament.

Add in the fact that Serena Williams has the likes of Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams as potential opponents BEFORE the Quarter Finals and you can see why Serena Williams looks a vulnerable favourite. In saying that, her price reflects the issues that Serena Williams is going to need to overcome to win the title, although it is not big enough to attract me to putting her in my pricing plan for the next two weeks.

One player who could take advantage in her half of the draw has to be Petra Kvitova who seems to have been revitalised by her decision to take six weeks off from the Tour. Kvitova has won the title in Madrid in preparation for the French Open, where she also beat Serena Williams, but the one concern has to be that Kvitova has never been beyond the Semi Final here and that was the only time she has been beyond the Fourth Round in Paris.

There is no doubt that the clay courts are not the best surface for Kvitova who hits the ball very hard and has a big serve, but her movement can be a problem when the rallies are extended.

Kvitova does seem to have a favourable draw, although she would probably like to see someone knock out Svetlana Kuznetsova from her section, and she could be the player to take advantage of Serena Williams' issues.

Maria Sharapova also looks to have received a favourable draw and she has reached the Final of the French Open in three consecutive years while winning twice. The clay courts never used to sit well with Sharapova, but it can be argued she is the best player on these courts and I can see the Russian clean up after players have had to play tough matches ahead of meetings with her.

There are some dangers in her section with the likes of Sam Stosur playing well, but Sharapova would feel confident in her chances to get through that kind of match. The likes of Simona Halep, Carla Suarez Navarro, Angelique Kerber all have played well during the last six weeks to think they can be a threat to Sharapova in the bottom half, but they all have to get through some difficult matches before they face the Russian who may just have more both physically and mentally when those matches take place.

With her previous experiences at Roland Garros, Maria Sharapova will feel confident she can go all the way again this year and I think she is worthy of a couple of units to do that.

It is always difficult to pick an outright winner in a tournament where Serena Williams is involved that is not called Serena Williams because she is clearly the best player in the World on her day. However, the injury doubts and the awkward looking draw might give someone else a chance to take the title and I will have interests in Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova to be those players.

I really did consider Caroline Garcia to win the third quarter of the draw too considering her record against Ana Ivanovic who is the second highest Seed in that section. My concern was that Garcia is still very inconsistent and has to deal with the pressure of playing at home and so I will take a watching brief with the expectation that Simona Halep is the player most likely to come out of that quarter.

MY OUTRIGHT PICKS: Novak Djokovic @ 1.91 Paddy Power (8 Units)
Rafael Nadal @ 6.00 Coral (2 Units)
Roger Federer @ 11.00 Coral (1 Unit E/W)
David Ferrer Win Second Quarter @ 4.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Petra Kvitova @ 12.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit E/W)
Maria Sharapova @ 5.50 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Final7-7, - 2.04 Units (28 Units Staked, - 7.29% Yield)

Season 2015+ 39.95 Units (681 Units Staked, + 5.87% Yield)

Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)

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