2021 French Open Best Bets: How to Back Casper Ruud, Daniil Medvedev & More at Roland Garros
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images. Pictured: Casper Ruud.
After a week of twiddling thumbs and playing tournaments for a second time, the Roland Garros draw is finally here.
Here are three bets — an outright, prop and match — I’m betting before the French Open.
As always, beware of the Sunday start (read, not Monday) at this slam.
Casper Ruud to Win Quarterfinal 3 (+550, BetMGM)
At 35 years old, Rafael Nadal is minus money to win the French Open for a 14th time.
Needless to say, outrights can be tricky at this tournament. I will never pass up a 40/1 who stands a good chance to make the semifinal, so that’s the direction I’m going with Casper Ruud.
Ruud is the closest thing the men’s tour has to a Nadal disciple. The Dane has been training at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca since he was 19, and the now-22-year-old’s game also resembles the King of Clay, with immense RPM off both wings affording him high average net clearance for maximum consistency.
Ruud has matured both mentally and physically over the years and now looks primed to break out in a major having made three straight clay Masters semifinals. Ruud also comes off his career-best result at a slam, having made the fourth round at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Headlines have swirled about how difficult the top half of the draw is. Much of that is overblown, but it does bode well that Ruud avoids Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas in his quarter.
Instead Ruud is paired with Dominic Thiem, who has looked far from best self in 2021, and Alexander Zverev, whose inconsistencies this season have been overshadowed by a couple strong results.
I’m backing Ruud to pick off the erratic Benoit Paire and the talented but raw Alejandro Davidovich Fokina before facing Thiem and Zverev. Ruud to the final four.
Daniil Medvedev to Make 4th round (+190, DraftKings)
Daniil Medvedev is No. 2 in the world, but he has no business holding that seed at the clay-court major. Hence, the line on this prop.
Medvedev has moped around the court throughout the European clay-court swing, often outwardly expressing his feelings for the surface.
Exactly why you never bet Medvedev on clay
— Pamela Maldonado (@pamelam35) May 5, 2021
His competition level has been non-existent, but I’d argue his price has reached a point of overadjustment.
There are certainly technical reasons for Medvedev’s clay struggles. His flat strokes don’t skid through the court like they would on select hard and grass surfaces. Instead, the clay slows down the speed of shot post-bounce considerably and makes his groundstrokes relatively easy to neutralize. Players who hit with more spin benefit from a much livelier kicking bounce on a clay court.
Although his offense is compromised, Medvedev has elite consistency and rally tolerance when he’s committed to it. He leaned on those attributes in 2019 to reach the Monte Carlo semifinals and the Barcelona final, both on the dirt.
All it will take for Medvedev to turn around his horrid clay results is a mindset adjustment. If he decides that he’s willing to dig in, suffer a bit and compete, his consistency and patience combined with his reliable first serve can carry him through his first three opponents. Hopefully, the allure of grand-slam tennis can help him do that.
I do worry about a tricky Alexander Bublick in Round 1, but I’m especially comfortable with 16-seed Grigor Dimitrov as his potential third-round opponent. Dimitrov sports a losing record on the European clay this season.
I’m happy to bet plus money on this prop since all it takes is some effort on the part of Medvedev.
Best Match Bet
Stefano Travaglia (+135) vs. Alex De Minaur (BetMGM)
Here’s an example of betting the surface.
Alex De Minaur has many of the same issues that Medvedev does when it comes to stroke mechanics, but he gives up about 10 mph on first serve and about eight inches in height. De Minaur is another supremely flat hitter who attacks by taking the ball early and redirecting the opponent’s pace. He struggles to generate his own power off both wings, making offense on clay an uphill battle. De Minaur is likely the fastest mover on tour, but he doesn’t appear to cover the court nearly as naturally on the slippery dirt.
Stefano Travaglia is going to make life very difficult for anyone who doesn’t feel confident taking offensive initiative in a baseline rally. He is a true clay-courter who cites ultimate grinder David Ferrer as his childhood idol, clay as his favorite surface and Roland Garros as his favorite tournament.
Travaglia is happy to defend well behind the baseline and run hard after every ball. De Minaur will likely struggle to hit through the Italian.
It’s not only about defense for Travaglia. His forehand delivers plenty of point-finishing heaviness. It’s the kind of weapon De Minaur wishes he had in these heavy conditions.
Travaglia made the third round in Paris last year, taking out Kei Nishikori in the process. He’s just 1-6 this season on clay, but none of the losses are bad enough to worry me, save for Gilles Simon. De Minaur has exited RG in the first round in three of his four main draw appearances. His overall record on clay at tour-level is 5-15.
I make Travaglia a favorite here.