2018 ATP French Open Betting Preview: Can Anybody Beat Rafael Nadal?

2018 ATP French Open Betting Preview: Can Anybody Beat Rafael Nadal? article feature image

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Rafael Nadal


  • The 2018 French Open will start Sunday morning at 5 a.m. ET.
  • Rafael Nadal, who owns a silly 79-2 career record at Roland-Garros, is listed as a -250 favorite to take home his 11th FO title.
  • With a number of key absences and injury concerns, only a few players have any shot of taking out Nadal.

This year it seems any road to the French Open title will have to go through one Rafael Nadal, who struts into this tournament as, perhaps, the biggest favorite (-250) heading into a Grand Slam since a decade ago here — when he was odds-on at -200 to win his fourth consecutive title at Roland-Garros.


But it’s more than just the price that strikes a sense of almost unwavering confidence in the King of Clay. I mean, before losing a stunning clash with Dominic Thiem, where the latter brought his A++ game, Nadal had strung together 50 consecutive sets on clay, a historic stretch in which he passed John McEnroe for the longest winning streak on one surface. And, for the most part, the majority of Nadal’s set wins were never really close.

In similar fashion, Nadal didn’t drop a set in Paris last year, cruising through matches in “light shootaround” mode — and it’s pretty safe to say he’s playing at an even higher level this year. And, as if he needed any more help, the field has regressed this year — with the absences of guys such as Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Jo Tsonga, Milos Raonic and even Hyeon Chung — so it’s hard to see Rafa being any more hindered this time around in a tournament in which he owns a stunning 79-2 record.

Hard, sure. But not impossible. Lest we forget, tennis is, indeed, a sport — and, thus, sh*t happens, so to speak. And there are some guys floating around the draw who have the juice to test Rafa. Thiem has proven this, with a clay win against Rafa in each of the last three years. Sascha Zverev proved this just a couple weeks back in Rome, putting himself in a winning position against the Spaniard before an unfortunate rain delay derailed the German.

Question marks also surround the only two past champions in the field — Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka — and, considering the way each of them has looked since returning from injury, I’m not sure either is primed to beat Rafa on the dirt in a best of five — if they even get that far.

Djokovic was just straight-setted by Rafa in Rome, surely a bit of a gut punch to the Serbian’s confidence. And Stan bowed out in the first round of Rome (against Stevie Johnson) and the second round of Geneva (against Marton Fucsovics). It’s safe to say neither is brimming with confidence heading into this year’s French Open.

Seed Money

For your futures and daily betting throughout the French Open, we created the following wagering reference chart that I think you’ll find useful.

Nuggets to Know

Let’s now take a look at a few key nuggets to keep in mind ahead of this year’s second Slam before closing out with some thoughts on the futures market. Also, keep your eye out later today for another post on my best bets of the first round.

Seeded players who reached the R16 each of the past 3 years:

  • Novak Djokovic
  • Stan Wawrinka
  • Kei Nishikori

Players who have made the FO semis in the past 3 years:

(Past champions in bold)

  • Novak Djokovic (2015-2016)
  • Stan Wawrinka (2015-2017)
  • Domi Thiem (2016-2017)
  • Rafael Nadal (2017)

Unseeded players who have reached the R16:

  • Horacio Zeballos (2017)
  • Karen Khachanov (2017)
  • Marcel Granollers (2016)
  • David Ferrer (2005, 2008, 2011, SF 2012, F 2013, 2014-2016)
  • Viktor Troicki (2011, 2013, 2016)
  • Ernests Gulbis (2008, SF 2014, 2016)
  • Gilles Simon (2011, 2013, 2015)
  • Jeremy Chardy (2008, 2015)
  • Mikhail Youzhny (2007, 2010, 2013)
  • Thomaz Bellucci (2010)
  • Marcos Baghdatis (2007)

Players who won a clay tournament in 2018:

  • Rafa Nadal (Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome Masters)
  • Sascha Zverev (Munich & Madrid Masters)
  • Domi Thiem (Buenos Aires)
  • Roberto Carballes-Baena (Quito)
  • Diego Schwartzman (Rio de Janeiro)
  • Joao Sousa (Estoril)
  • Fabio Fognini (Sao Paulo)
  • Steve Johnson (Houston)
  • Pablo Andujar (Marrakech)
  • Marco Cecchinato (Budapest)
  • Taro Daniel (Istanbul)

Nadal’s clay losses in the past 3 years:

  • Domi Thiem (3)
  • Novak Djokovic (3)
  • Fabio Fognini (2)
  • Stan Wawrinka (1)
  • Pablo Cuevas (1)

Injury Concerns:

  • Juan Martín del Potro (groin)
  • Nick Kyrgios (elbow)
  • Stan Wawrinka (knee)
  • Borna Coric (neck)
  • Fabio Fognini (ankle)

Miscellaneous Odds and Ends:

  • No French player has won the French Open in 35 years.
  • Pablo Cuevas, who defeated Rafa Nadal on clay in 2016, has never made the R16 of the French Open.
  • Sascha Zverev is 0-7 vs. top 50 players at Grand Slams, but he won’t have to face one this year until the third round, at the earliest.
  • Stan Wawrinka is the only player to appear in the last three FO semifinals.
  • Roberto Bautista-Agut’s mother recently passed away; it remains to be seen how the Spanish player will react to such terrible news.

Futures Lounge

Pick to Win: Rafa Nadal (-250)

Dark Horse: Kyle Edmund (80/1)

Projected Semifinals: Rafa Nadal vs. Kyle Edmund, David Goffin (44/1) vs. Domi Thiem (9/1)

I think Rafa wins the tournament. The question becomes should you lay -250 on the Spaniard to take home his 11th French Open title? Well, that price implies he has ~71% chance of doing so, which I actually think is fair in a very underwhelming field. Just look at the seeds in his quarter and tell me who you see taking out Rafa?

  • Jack Sock
  • Richard Gasquet
  • Denis Shapovalov
  • Diego Schwartzman
  • Philipp Kohlschreiber
  • Feliciano Lopez
  • Kevin Anderson

Not exactly murderer’s row.

Rafa will probably get either Domi or Sascha in the final, and I think he’ll win that match. So, if you’re asking me who I think will win the tournament — it’s Rafa. But, from a betting perspective, do I think it’s worth it to perhaps sprinkle a little on Domi, Sascha or both? Yeah. I do. But manage your expectations. Best-of-five matches against Rafa Nadal are a different beast, entirely. And each has also played a lot of tennis recently, so fatigue could creep in.

On the dark horse side, while I don’t think he’s got enough juice to beat Rafa, potentially, in the semifinal, I could see Edmund making a deep run this year. He has a really big game on the dirt and enters in excellent form. I also could see Lucas Pouille wreaking havoc in Zverev’s section of the draw, but he’s just not had any recent results that give me enough confidence to throw a dart his way.

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