Someone asked me how can Rafael Nadal be odds-on to win the French Open when Novak Djokovic has been so dominant in the past 18 months? Well, six French Open wins in seven years, 35 clay-court titles, the stamina of a dog and three titles on the surface this year would be a good start.
Nadal is the greatest clay-court player in tennis history and though 8-11 (top price) is very short for anyone to win seven matches in a fortnight, if anyone deserves it, it’s him. The Spaniard has a good draw and if the weather stays hot, he is going to absolutely love the conditions.
Coming into the clay-court season, there were a few question marks about his form and fitness but his knee trouble seems in the past and his wins over Djokovic in the finals in Monte Carlo and Rome (and his title win in Barcelona) will have given him added belief. Providing injury does not strike, I can’t see him not reaching the final.
On the other side of the draw, it’s all about Djokovic (9-4) and Roger Federer (10-1). The draw seems to have put most of the other dangers – at least to causing one upset – in the bottom half with Nadal and Andy Murray – so the path is clear for a repeat of last year’s semi-final between the Serb and the Swiss.
Then it was Federer who won, with probably his most impressive performance of the year but this time, Djokovic is on a mission. The Serb is chasing a fourth straight grand slam title – the first man to do so since Rod Laver in 1969 – and don’t forget that last year he looked great before having four days off before playing Federer due to withdrawals, and was rusty as a result.
I know Federer is a big price at 10-1, which could yet reward each-way backers, but whichever way I think about it, I come up with yet another final between Nadal and Djokovic. The Serb has won the past three in grand slam finals but this is clay and this is Paris. This is Rafa’s house.
Behind the top three there is a staggering gap in the prices, to No 4 Andy Murray and David Ferrer, who are both 40-1. I can’t remember seeing such a gap before, which just shows you how strong the top three are on this surface. Juan Martin Del Potro is actually as short as 20-1 in a couple of prices, but since you can get 50-1 with SportingBet he comes in fifth at top prices.
The same goes for Tomas Berdych, the player outside the top three in the very best form. The Czech is a top-priced 50-1 and since he reached the final in Madrid and pushed Nadal hard in Rome, there is a good case to be made for him. If you’re going to go each-way, then he has a chance, albeit a slim one, but I’d keep stakes low.