It’s amazing how, within a week of a tennis Grand Slam event kicking off, the form of the key players involve helps to shape and model the betting market. Here we are in the at the last 32 stage, and Andy Murray – our pre-tournament jolly – has fallen slightly in price to 6/1 after needing five sets to see off opening opponents Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue.
The key point is that the Scot is still in the mix, and despite being far from his best he will enter the second week of the tournament if he can see off the big-serving but limited Ivo Karlovic. That will make him a dangerous animal heading into the last 16.
A lot of money has come in for Rafa Nadal, with the Spaniard playing very well on his favoured surface. But there are still a few chinks in his armour – that devastating backhand is now more of a defensive prod than anything else, and in the top half of the draw his chances could prove limited. Progress has been serene to date, but with Novak Djokovic lurking it takes a brave punter to support Nadal here. 5/1? Bit too short for a player who hasn’t won a major in two years.
The bottom half of the draw looks far more open. Milos Raonic is going well but his injury concerns never seem far away, and we cannot trust the Canadian to get through a fortnight without pulling, tweaking or tearing something. Others in his quarter include the improving Jack Sock, the unpredictable Gilles Simon and the defending champion, Stan Wawrinka. The Swiss ace was taken to five sets by Lukas Rosol in their first round encounter, which is hardly encouraging for the sterner tests to come. Home town favourite Jeremy Chardy could provide an equally challenging afternoon for Wawrinka in their last 32 contest.
If anyone is to benefit from Murray’s lack of consistency at Roland Garros then it could be Kei Nishikori. The Japanese star has won on clay already this term and made comfortable progress thus far with a pair of 3-0 wins. His last 32 opponent, Fernando Verdasco, is no pushover however, and then a meeting with either Nick Kyrgios or local hero Richard Gasquet awaits. Get through those and Nishikori will fancy himself of finally getting one over on Murray. If each way bets are your thing, he is surely worth a look in the opposite half of the draw to Djokovic/Nadal at a still generous 25/1.
Much is made of Novak’s desperation for a French Open title in order to complete the career Grand Slam and keep the ‘Calendar Year Slam’ very much alive. Whisper it, but this could be his best chance yet….
Okay, so all of the big guns are still in the competition (Federer and Monfils apart who withdrew before it started). But nobody really stands out above Djokovic, with Murray and Wawrinka struggling and Nadal’s game certainly not as strong as it once was. Novak himself has brushed off his two opening opponents, Steve Darcis and Yen-Hsun Lu, with consummate ease in straight sets. The adopted Brit, Aljaz Bedene, is next up, and should pose few questions of the word number one. Indeed, in their only meeting to date he saw off the youngster in straight sets at the Australian Open.
Next up would be the winner of Borna Coric and Roberto Bautista-Agut – no problems there – followed by a likely quarter final clash with Tomas Berdych, who he enjoys a phenomenal head-to-head record against. Having encountered each other 25 times on tour, Djokovic has won 23.
That would leave a possible semi-final with Nadal and then a final against the bottom half of the draw’s leading player. Given the hardships they will face to make the final, they will be on jelly legs taking on Novak.
Yes, that price of 3/4 is hardly value, and that alone will be enough to put some punters off. But as far as sensible investments go, you won’t find many better this weekend.