DAY one of the 2018 French Open was one of those where pretty much every bet I suggested won, with the exception of the two that I actually chose in the end.
The over games was successful in the matches featuring Pablo Carreno Busta and David Goffin (and failed despite four sets in Thomaz Bellucci’s clash with Federico Delbonis), while the handicaps were comfortably covered by Lucas Pouille and Alexander Zverev.
But of the two I plumped for, Fernando Verdasco ultimately failed by one game to cover his -5.5 game handicap and Damir Dzumhur recorded a very rare straight sets win.
I watched the entire Verdasco match and as is often the case with Verdasco he made it far tougher than it should have been, with too many unforced errors and one bizarre game in set four.
With Yoshihito Nishioka, who played well in all fairness, having a meltdown about a line call, I was looking to Nando to pile on the misery the next point and we’d have been home and hosed.
Instead of that, he slipped over, twisted his ankle and had to have lengthy treatment.
He ended up winning anyway, but the handicap had long gone by then.
We’re trusting to luck a little bit with the weather on Monday, with scattered thunderstorms and prolonged thunderstorms expected from 13:00 local time onwards in Paris.
So, it could be one of those stop/start days, and the early matches look the most likely to avoid the worst of the weather if the forecast is correct.
The odds-on favourites that look like they could be taken on on Monday include: Benoit Paire, Stan Wawrinka, Gilles Simon, Borna Coric, Albert Ramos, and perhaps David Ferrer.
The favourites who shouldn’t be beaten and can backed to cover their handicaps include Rafael Nadal, Karen Khachanov, Roberto Bautista Agut and Casper Ruud, while as ever on European clay John Isner is an option on the overs.
Benoit Paire vs Roberto Carballes Baena
Starting with the early matches then and this price of 1.46 on Paire looks rather short for his 10:00 UK time clash with RCB on Court 1.
The only factor I can really find in Paire’s favour here is the lack of Grand Slam experience that RCB has, with the Spaniard having played only two matches at this level and lost them both.
Otherwise, it’s RCB that leads the clay hold/break stats at main level over the past year and Paire’s record when priced up between 1.30 and 1.50 is poor on all surfaces and especially clay.
On the hold/break totals Paire is on a pretty average 96.3 (71.4% holds/24.9% breaks) and has won only five of his 13 matches, while RCB is 10-8 for the year and his total is 99.1 (76.1% holds/23% breaks).
Paire has lost eight of his last 17 matches on all surfaces at main level when priced up in that 1.30-1.50 range and in his 19 career matches he’s only 9-9 in completed matches in that price range and he’s lost five of the last six.
Here at the French Open Paire has won only three of his 15 matches in straight sets and he’s been taken to five sets by Radu Albot and Gastao Elias here – both ranked between 137 and 152 at the time of those matches.
Also plagued by a long-term back injury that makes his level even harder to predict than it normally would be it takes a brave punter to back Paire at 1.46 here.
RCB has been playing some good ball this season, with a title in Quito, a 3-3 record against top-50 opponents, a good showing against Nadal in Barcelona and a final set tie break loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Either the outright win at 2.70 or the +4.5 games at 1.79 or the +1.5 sets at 1.89 or over 37.5 games all have some merit in this one.
Karen Khachanov vs Andreas Haider-Maurer
Also starting at 10:00 UK time is Khachanov, who can be backed at 1.87 to cover the -8.5 games handicap against the struggling Haider-Maurer, whose comeback after long-term injury shows little sign of being a successful one.
AHM’s hold/break stats in his six main level matches on clay in the past 12 months make sorry reading: 47.7% holds/16.2% breaks and he was brushed aside comfortably after a good start by Tennys Sandgren in Geneva, winning one of the last 13 games.
Other than the soon-to-be-retired Flo Mayer, AHM’s best win since his injury in 2015 in terms of ranking was a victory over then-146 Oscar Otte in Meerbusch last August.
That one set he took against Sandgren was the only one he’s won at main level since October 2015 (1-29) and it doesn’t like he can play at this sort of level any more.
Khachanov should have too much power and has every chance of covering the handicap against AHM, who’s used his protected ranking to enter the main draw.
Roberto Bautista Agut vs Denis Istomin
A very similar wager here, with Istomin seemingly not having the match fitness after an injury ravaged career (29 retirements at all levels/9 in the last 12 months) to compete on clay with the likes of RBA.
He played well enough last week in favourably quick conditions in Geneva against Jared Donaldson for a set and a bit, but he was barely there for the second half of the match.
Clay has rarely been a good surface for Istomin and while Geneva suited him with it’s altitude these slower conditions in Paris against a super-fit wall like RBA should make this a bit of a nightmare for the Uzbek.
Indeed, RBA took care of Istomin in Geneva last season and Istomin broke only once there. One year on and with his stamina certainly suspect and in slower conditions RBA can also cover the handicap.
Of the other 10:00 UK time starts Stan Wawrinka’s up and down level since his return makes him vulnerable to a man that beat him here as a 6.55 chance in round one back in 2014, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
GGL will fancy this, but I’m not sure his price of 2.23 is big enough for me to take an interest.
Ernests Gulbis is back in the main draw of the French Open and he has a decent 103.8 hold/break mark in his Paris career, while opponent Gilles Muller is down at 78.5, holding that big serve of his only 69.5% of the time and breaking 9% of the time in a 2-8 record.
Gulbis isn’t the player he was, but he’s likely to still cover the -3.5 against Muller in these conditions.
Jordan Thompson hasn’t won a main level match since last year’s US Open and on clay he’s 3-6 at main level (one of those wins came against Paire), with his most recent clay outing ending in a 6-1, 6-1 loss in Houston to Bjorn Fratangelo.
He’s 4-12 at all levels on European clay and hasn’t played on it since Davis Cup in Belgium last September, as he’s been plying his trade in hard court Challengers this season in the main.
Casper Ruud should be too much for the Aussie on the clay of Paris and the handicaps on the young Norwegian are worth considering.
Albert Ramos’s form has gone AWOL lately and his clash with Mikhail Kukushkin has four or five set grind written all over it, with over 37.5 looking likely and I wouldn’t count Kuku out of this one, although his fitness is questionable if it goes too long.
We backed Nikoloz Basilashvili to beat Gilles Simon here last year as a 3.27 chance and it worked out nicely and could do again after Simon’s efforts in Lyon a few days ago.
If Gillou hasn’t got enough left in his legs Basil can take advantage with his heavy hitting, but the price of 2.40 is probably too short for me this time.
Simone Bolelli got in as a lucky loser, but I doubt he’ll be too happy about his draw against Rafael Nadal, especially after getting thrashed in qualies 6-0, 6-2 by Santiago Giraldo.
In these conditions against an opponent he’s had few problems against before Rafa could well cover an 11.5 game handicap.
Ten of John Isner’s last 15 opening sets at the French Open have gone past 10.5 games and he’s played an amazing 0.60 tie breaks per set on clay at main level in the last six months.
On European clay at main level 17 of his last 18 matches have featured a tie break and six of his last eight opening sets on European clay have gone to a tie break.
So, 1.97 about over 10.5 games in set one of his match against Noah Rubin, who played well in Geneva, looks decent.
On the hold/break stats Philipp Kohlschreiber should perhaps be slight favourite against Bora Coric, with the German posting an impressive 110.9, while Coric is on 106.9.
The head-to-head shows a 2-1 lead for Kohlschreiber and he should have won the third as well, having held five match points in their clay clash in Marrakech a year ago in the final.
David Ferrer has been poor since returning to the tour after taking time out to become a new dad and it is tempting to take him on with a fellow Spaniard who’s 15 years Ferrer’s junior.
Jaume Munar has been playing well lately and I’d expect a decent showing from him, but I’m not quite sure he’s ready and more importantly his price is a bit skinny for my liking at 2.85.