The second major championship of the tennis season begins Sunday on the storied clay courts of Roland Garros in Paris as the French Open gets underway. The two major story lines are on the men’s side are world No. 1 Novak Djokovic looking to complete the career grand slam and Rafael Nadal trying to win this tournament for an incredible 10th time. Djokovic is a -135 favorite in online betting with Nadal at +350. On the women’s side, American Serena Williams, as usual, is the favorite at +225.
An Inside Look at the Betting Odds Favor Djokovic, Serena To Win French Open
— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) May 20, 2016
Let’s start with the big news first, however: All-time grand slam king Roger Federer of Switzerland will miss the tournament. He had played in 65 straight grand slam tournaments but was a fairly long shot here. The 34-year-old did not play in the Madrid Open earlier this month after hurting his back during practice for the tournament. Federer returned for the Italian Open but was beaten in the third round by Dominic Thiem. The Swiss star has struggled with injury this year, having undergone knee surgery after January’s Australian Open.
The 17-time grand slam champion took to Facebook to announce his decision to pull out, stating that his back injury has improved but he has yet to reach 100 percent and therefore considers the French Open an “unnecessary risk.” Federer’s run of 65 straight grand slam appearances is a record — the last one he missed was the 1999 U.S. Open. He has won just one French Open.
Djokovic has come so close to winning here. He has played in 11 French Opens and lost in the finals in 2012, 2014 and last year. He was favored in the 2015 finals against Stan Wawrinka, but Wawrinka hit almost 60 winners to stun Djokovic and win his second Grand Slam title. Djokovic could barely hold back the tears in his post-match speech.
With Federer out and Nadal also having some injury problems of his own, there may never be a better chance for Djokovic to complete the career grand slam. The older he gets, the more difficult it’s going to get to win the French, which is the most physically demanding of the majors.
Nadal, meanwhile, is without question the top clay-court player ever. Since winning his first Roland Garros in 2005 as a teenager, Nadal has gone a whopping 70-2 in Paris. His only losses came in the fourth round in 2009 to big-hitting Swede Robin Soderling and to Djokovic in last year’s quarterfinals. Nadal’s nine Roland Garros titles are unprecedented in the men’s game in the Open era. Nadal’s equal in the women’s game is Martina Navratilova, who holds nine Wimbledon titles.
Wawrinka is +1400 to repeat. Andy Murray is the third-favorite at +450. Murray has won 85 percent of his matches on the red dust this year and last, more than any other player. He just beat Djokovic in the Italian Open.
Serena is the defending French Open champion, but there’s no doubt that clay is her worst surface. Only Margaret Smith Court (24) and Steffi Graf (22) have won more Grand Slam singles titles than Serena’s 21 (three in Paris), and Williams can equal Graf’s professional-era record by claiming another trophy in Paris. The French Open is only major tournament she hasn’t won twice in a row.
Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka are each +500 second-favorites on betting odds. Halep has never won a major title and lost in the 2014 French final. Azarenka has never reached the French final. She led Serena by a set and a break at Roland Garros a year ago before dropping 10 of the last 12 games in a third-round match.
Expert Betting Predictions
Sometimes it’s not much fun to bet chalk at online sportsbooks, but I’m going with Djokovic and Serena this year.