THE first round of the French Open begins on Sunday with 16 first-round matches on day one followed by 28 on day two and the final 20 on day three.

That's weather permitting of course and of the 64 opening-round clashes last year there were six genuine upsets, the biggest of which was Adrian Ungur's 13.0 victory over David Nalbandian.

Indeed, of the 64 first-round matches last year, 48 were won by favourites and two were void having not completed set one. That is pretty much the same as the Australian Open this year where there were 47 winning first-round favourites.

So, we're looking for about 16 odds-against shots and here's my top five where that could be the case.

Nicolas Mahut 5.0 vs Janko Tipsarevic 1.23

Tipsy is in dire form and a foul mood at the moment and would be on this list against most of the draw such is his slump right now. Although Mahut is no clay-court specialist many will recall his good run here in Paris last year when he defeated Andy Roddick and Martin Klizan before taking a set from Roger Federer.

Any repeat of that level will be enough against the ailing Serb who has to be a lay or lay-to-back at around 1.23.

Lukas Lacko 5.0 vs Sam Querrey 1.25

Both of these players have appalling records at Roland Garros, with Querrey a perennial selection of mine in the criteria of potential first-round losers in a Slam.

He can get away with much more on a hard court using just his big serve and forehand but the old one-two combo isn't as effective on the dirt unless it's quick and he struggles in the longer rallies.

Lacko is in poor form but he has won both career meetings with Querrey and the American is a lay at 1.25.

Gael Monfils 4.3 vs Tomas Berdych 1.3

An obvious choice really based on the form of the last few weeks exhibited by the Frenchman whose ranking had plummeted due to injury but who roared back to form in France picking up the Bordeaux Challenger title and making the final in Nice to be played today.

I suspect the Berdman will come through this one eventually but it won't be easy if Monfils continues to display the attacking intent of the last fortnight. Could be a good one for the overs.

Guido Pella 2.5 vs Ivan Dodig 1.60

Another player with a poor record at Roland Garros is Dodig who has won just one of his five matches at the French Open and his first-round opponent Pella showed some decent form and a good level at the Power Horse Cup in Dusseldorf in heavy conditions earlier this week.

The Argentine had his chances against eventual champion Juan Monaco and took down Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki in Germany and Dodig is perhaps favourite for this based on his easy win over Pella at Indian Wells earlier this year. Pella has every chance in these conditions on clay.

Steve Darcis 2.3 vs Michael Llodra 1.78

Diminutive Belgian Darcis has qualified here with wins over Victor Crivoi, Josef Kovalik and Simon Greul and he takes a 1-0 head to head record on clay into this clash with Llodra who won their meetings on quicker surfaces.

Indeed, that one clay meeting was here at Roland Garros in 2011 when Darcis won in four sets and Llodra has lost in the first round in three of his last four visits to this tournament and an incredible nine times in all.

The Frenchman did reach the final of the Bordeaux Challenger, but for me, now that Darcis has seemingly found his form again after personal problems he has to be the bet at odds against.

Others that look too short include Grigor Dimitrov at 1.12, who still has plenty to prove in majors against Alejandro Falla, who often raises his level for slams and Andreas Seppi would be on the list if he wasn't facing the out of practice Leo Mayer.

Milesey (Betfair)

  1. Milesey 6 years ago


    Nico Rosberg secured his third consecutive pole position in Monaco – is there anything Sebastian Vettel and the rest can do to stop him taking the win?

    Going into Monaco both Mercedes and Red Bull had qualifying records to fight for. Red Bull, had taken the last three pole positions in Monaco and the treble defending World Champions converted all three into victories, while Mercedes have been the fastest qualifiers in the previous three races this season and knew that securing a front row start for either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg guaranteed them a strong chance of victory.

    From the start of the weekend it looked as if Rosberg would be the man to beat, the #9 Mercedes looking fast and smooth on the Principality’s roads, and the German, who lives just a stone’s throw from the track, duly secured pole position – his third in a row – while teammate Hamilton lines up alongside, less than a tenth of a second slower.

    Rosberg was available at over 4.0 to take pole position prior to the weekend, and with that secured his victory odds currently stand at 2.4, with Hamilton at 4.8. In the last ten years, only once has the Monaco Grand Prix been won from anywhere other than pole position, that coming in 2008 when Hamilton triumphed from third in a wet-dry race. With nothing but sunshine expected tomorrow I don’t see anything, barring unforeseen mechanical dramas, to stand in Rosberg’s way of taking victory.

    What of their tyre wear issues, I hear you cry? Odd as it may seem given Monaco’s extremely tight and twisty nature, the track is not particularly challenging on tyre wear given that there is little in the way of high lateral cornering speeds throughout the lap. With temperatures expected to be in the region of 17-20 degrees, this should play into their hands by allowing them to get their tyres up to speed quickly but not stress them too much during the race.

    Additionally, Mercedes are in a great position with Hamilton lying second, who can do a job for the team by allowing Rosberg to escape up the road in the first stint, to give him that platform for victory. You can bet Lewis won’t like it very much, and he’ll surely be going all-out to get ahead into the first corner, but Nico feels he is owed one by the team after dutifully holding station behind Lewis in Malaysia, and will no doubt be reminding the team hierarchy of that this evening.

    Jean-Eric Vergne did a solid job for Toro Rosso by getting into the Top Ten and is available at 1.5 to finish there tomorrow. For a slightly longer shot, have a look at Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber. He’ll most likely start, from 11th, on a contrary strategy to the cars in the Top Ten, so has the ability to run longer at the start. Monaco is a track where you can gain track position which is not easily regained by the people you’ve passed, and last year three drivers who started outside the Top Ten secured points, including Nico himself who went from 11th to 8th. Back him at 1.7 to repeat the trick this year.

    I also think Sergio Perez can secure a Top Six Finish for McLaren. The young Mexican loves the Monaco track and has won in GP2, so could offer a decent return at 2.6 to move up a spot from his starting place of seventh.

    Recommended Bets

    Back Nico Rosberg to win the Monaco GP @ 2.4
    Back Sergio Perez to finish in the Top Six @ 2.6
    Nico Hulkenberg to finish in the Top Ten @ 1.7


  2. Milesey 6 years ago

    The action in Paris is beginning to heat up as the top seeds make their entrance in the tournament, and amongst the underdogs hoping to join them will be Laura Robson.

    The world number 35 takes on Caroline Wozniacki in the first round, and given the Dane’s struggles on clay in recent weeks she will fancy her chances of sending the former world number one packing.

    Wozniacki suffered a disappointing first round exit in Rome just a fortnight ago, before the top seed in Brussels fell at the first hurdle again just last week. As a result, her confidence will be shaky heading into this clash, with Robson looking to continue her ascent up the world rankings with another major scalp.

    Tuesday sees several of the top seeds take to the clay for the first time in the French capital, with Agnieszka Radwanska kicking things off on the Suzanne Lenglen court. The fourth seed has had her troubles on clay and has lost to Shahar Peer twice on this surface in their previous meetings. However, the Pole has come a long way since and will be hoping to avoid an early exit.

    Defending champion Maria Sharapova returns to the scene of her biggest triumph of last year, hopeful of getting her title defence off to a strong start. The 26-year-old has a problematic run ahead in the latter stages, and so she will hope to wrap her opener up in commanding fashion when she takes on Su-Wei Hsieh.

    2011 champion Na Li also gets her campaign underway and faces another tricky opponent. She has come up against Anabel Medina Garrigues on five previous occasions, with her only win coming last year at the Australia Open, and that was via a retirement.

    The Spaniard has won all three of their clashes on clay, but the Chinese world number six is a completely different proposition six years on from their last meeting on this surface, and Li will be confident of prevailing.

    In terms of value bets though, Carla Suarez Navarro has proven herself to be an astute player on clay, but her opponent Simona Halep is coming off the back of a memorable semi-final run in Rome. It promises to be a close encounter, but the Romanian may be worth a small investment at 2.12.

    Italian ace Flavia Pennetta will also fancy her chances when she takes on Kirsten Flipkens on Tuesday afternoon. She returned to form at just the right time after reaching the last four in Strasbourg last week, while her rival has failed to make it past the second round in her last two tournaments.

    Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens has been tipped to have an extended run in Paris and will be confident of making short work of Italian world number 111 Karin Knapp.

    With Serena Williams breezing through her opening match, it promises to be an intriguing Day 2 as the rest of her challengers aim to show they are capable of stopping her.

    Recommended Bets

    Back Robson to beat Wozniacki @ 1.86
    Back Halep to beat Navarro @ 2.12
    Back Pennetta to beat Flipkens @ 1.75
    Back Stephens to beat Knapp 2-0 @ 2.3


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