2018 French Open ATP/WTA First Round Betting Preview and Tuesday Picks
Luttiau Nicolas/Presse Sports via USA TODAY NETWORK. Pictured: Tomas Berdych
Weeding through the first-round card during Grand Slam season is one of the finer notes of tennis betting. 128-player field. Best-of-five sets. Sixty-four first-round matches. It’s why you play the game, really. Oh yeah, and double those player and match numbers because we can’t forget about the WTA.
With the French Open kicking off at 5 a.m. ET Sunday, it’s time to really dig into the first-round slate to find some winners. Before we get into my five favorite ATP first-round bets (all Monday matches) and Stuck’s WTA take, here are a few things that jumped off the page, or draw, to me.
- Alexander Zverev (-10000) vs. Ricardas Berankis (+1400)
- Marin Cilic (-10000) vs. James Duckworth (+1400)
- Karen Khachanov (-1667) vs. Andreas Haider-Maurer (+750)
- Kei Nishikori (-2500) vs. Maxime Janvier (+900)
I’d be shocked if any of these guys lose. So if you’re one of those people who likes to browse the board for the biggest underdog and take a punt — I’d suggest staying away from the above matches.
- Karolina Pliskova (-1000) vs. Barbora Krejcikova (+733)
- Caroline Garcia (-1600) vs. Duan Yingying (+1050)
- Maria Sharapova (-1100) vs. Richel Hogenkamp (+750)
- Elina Svitolina (-1300) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic (+850)
The WTA is a different animal; I’m never truly surprised by any upset. However, these four should move on with ease. — Stuckey
- Pablo Cuevas (-133) vs. Aljaz Bedene (+104)
- Sam Querrey (+104) vs. Frances Tiafoe (-133)
- Nick Kyrgios (-333) vs. Bernard Tomic (+240)
- Philipp Kohlschreiber (+104) vs. Borna Coric (-133)
Man, all of these matches should be edge-of-the-seat-caliber tennis. I’m especially looking forward to the Kyrgios-Tomic all-Australian duel, for obvious reasons. It’s scary, but you could argue Tomic is the more in-form player of the two; Kyrgios hasn’t played since mid-April. I think we will see a much closer match than that price suggests. Bernie is certainly a live dog.
Kohlschreiber-Coric should be a cracker, too. I lean Kohli there, especially with the fitness issues surrounding Coric. I think the in-form Kohlschreiber could enjoy a deep run if he passes his first test.
- Julia Goerges (-130) vs. Dominika Cibulkova (+110)
- Victoria Azarenka (-215) vs. Katerina Siniakova (+180)
- Garbine Muguruza (-330) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (+270)
- Alize Cornet (+125) vs. Sara Errani (-145)
I expect wars in the first two. Also, you never know what you’re going to get with Muguruza, who comes in off two straight losses. Kuznetsova doesn’t arrive in Paris in any type of form, but the 2009 French Open champion has the pedigree and tools on the dirt if Mugu doesn’t bring it.
And the potentially most entertaining match of the first round? Errani vs. Cornet. Bring extra popcorn. I wonder what language Cornet will speak during the match? For those not familiar with the reference, see below. — Stuckey
First-round Upset Alert
- Federico Delbonis (-167) vs. Thomaz Bellucci (Q) (+140)
- David Ferrer (-250) vs. Jaume Munar (Q) (+190)
- Grigor Dimitrov (-1000) vs. Viktor Troicki (+550)
- Stan Wawrinka (-167) vs. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (+129)
Garcia-Lopez will most likely give Wawrinka a tough match. Whether or not Wawrinka will find a way to dig in and come away the victor remains to be seen. I think I actually just prefer the over there. In regard to Dimitrov — who’s priced at an absurd -1000 — remember he lost to Troicki here at the French in 2016, a five-set win for the Serb. And with the way Dimitrov has looked recently, I can’t say I’d be shocked to see a repeat performance.
- Caroline Wozniacki (-355) vs. Danielle Rose Collins (+295)
- Serena Williams (-200) vs. Kristyna Pliskova (+170)
- Barbora Strycova (-230) vs. Kurumi Nara (+190)
- Magdalena Rybarikova (-255) vs. Luksika Kumkhum (+215)
Not Wozniacki’s best surface by any means, and Rose Collins will fight. The reigning Australian Open champ will have to earn it. Meanwhile, Serena hasn’t played a Tour-level clay match since the 2016 French Open. Playing an in-form, big-serving lefty is less than ideal for the 23-time Slam champion. Lastly, fading Strycova and Rybarikova on clay as large favorites is a profitable long-term strategy. Both are winless on the red dirt this season. — Stuckey
First-round Parlay Potential
- John Isner (-455) vs. Noah Rubin
- Kevin Anderson (-715) vs. Paolo Lorenzi
- Pierre-Hugues Herbert (-275) vs. Peter Polansky
- Ernests Gulbis (-200) vs. Gilles Muller
Gulbis, who made a semifinal here in 2014, matches up well against a guy such as Muller. Also, Isner shouldn’t be bothered too much by fellow American Rubin. They make good parlay pieces along with Herbert, who should take care of business on his home turf. And even Anderson could serve nicely as a piece to pair with a slight favorite in a parlay that pays out close to even money.
- Aleksandra Krunic (-230) vs. Peng Shuai
- Petra Martic (-430) vs. Wang Yafan
- Donna Vekic (-330) vs. Kateryna Bondarenko
- Zhang Shuai (-445) vs. Kristina Kucova
Just simple pure fades of four players who have absolutely no current form. — Stuckey
ATP Daily Hitters
Frankly, not much intrigued me on the Sunday “early bird’s special” menu.
I think there’s some value with Thomaz Bellucci at +140 against Federico Delbonis. Bellu is working his way back after the whole steroid thing and looked pretty strong in qualifying (beating Ruben Bemelmans (a Lucky Loser), Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Matthias Bachinger).
Delbonis hasn’t really had much success at the French Open, as he’s never advanced past the second round. Plus, Bellu is surely the better big-stage player. The Brazilian has a lot to prove, and at +140, there’s definitely some value with Bellucci. That said, I’m not sure it’s “hitter” quality.
Other than that, I think we might see a very chalky Sunday. I could maybe see American Denis Kudla taking out the ever-fickle Damir Dzumhur if he brings his A game. Also, local favorite Corentin Moutet (+110) has surely got a shot at doubling up his luck against Ivo Karlovic — in a match that likely comes down to tiebreakers. Their last match went 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6) to the Frenchman.
Ernests Gulbis (-200) looks like a decent parlay piece against Gilles Muller. The same could be said about Santiago Giraldo (-180) — who smoked Simone Bolelli, a now Lucky Loser, 6-0, 6-2 in the last round of qualifying.
Now, without any further ado, let’s get to my five favorite first-round ATP bets — two of which fall on Tuesday.
Frances Tiafoe (-133) vs. Sam Querrey
Monday 6:30 a.m. ET
H2H: Querrey leads 1-0
I like Tiafoe here. Querrey hasn’t been able to get out of his own way lately, especially on the clay, where he has exited his last three tournaments in the first round. Tiafoe, on the other hand, has played some really solid clay-court tennis this year, including a final appearance in Estoril.
Querrey’s a nightmare when he doesn’t play with confidence — and, unfortunately for him, he hasn’t had much reason to be confident of late. There’s definitely value with Tiafoe at a pick ’em price.
Maximilian Marterer (-125) vs. Ryan Harrison
Tuesday 5 a.m. ET
Marterer is simply the better clay-court player. The German finally had a minibreakthrough on the dirt earlier this month, when he reached the semifinal of Munich. During that run, he had impressive wins against Diego Schwartzman and Marton Fucsovics, and I think he’s primed for a nice run in Paris.
I just don’t think Harrison has enough weapons — especially on clay — to hurt Marterer, who enjoys playing points on his terms and punching first. He’ll have the opportunity to do just that against Harry here.
Jeremy Chardy (+170) vs. Tomas Berdych
Tuesday 10:30 a.m. ET
H2H: Berdych leads 5-0
Berdych has not looked very comfortable on the clay this season, and I get the feeling his best days are behind him. He’ll find a tough first-round matchup in Paris, with the big forehand of Chardy, and I don’t fancy his chances of overcoming it. Chardy has enjoyed some success here in Paris, making the round of 16 as an unseeded player in 2015. He’s also played pretty decent tennis all season after a disappointing year in 2017.
Ultimately, the Chardy forehand should be the biggest weapon on the court. A couple of years ago, Berdych was known for his deep, penetrating groundstrokes — but that aspect of his game has really regressed as he’s fallen down the rankings. Look for Chardy to capitalize on any and all short balls that Birdy leaves around the center of the court. We call those forehand winners.
Mikhail Youzhny (+270) vs. Malek Jaziri
Monday 7:30 a.m. ET
H2H: Jaziri leads 1-0
Usually, Jaziri is on the opposite end of generous oddsmaking — but, at +270, I just can’t pass up the value with Youzhny, who has made the round of 16 three times at the French Open. The two met last month in Rome qualifiers, and Jaziri took that one in three sets. In that match, Youzhny had 0-40 on the Jaziri serve in the first game of the third set before squandering all three break chances and dropping his serve late in the set.
Youzhny’s got the game to beat Jaziri — and I certainly respect the pedigree, so to speak, of Youzhny and his past performances at Slams. Youzhny’s still playing good ball, albeit at the Challenger level. His backhand is still a dominant shot when he’s feeling himself — and I see him dictating the points against Jaziri. I think this match is a pick ’em. Gimme Colonel Youzhny.
Guido Pella (-110) vs. Joao Sousa
Monday 9:30 a.m. ET
I expect a tight match here between Pella and “Psycho” Sousa. My worry for the latter, however, is his current form. Since peaking at Estoril — his home tournament — he hasn’t won many matches. He lost in the second round of Rome qualifying against Nicolas Jarry, and then in the first round of Lyon against the likes of Filip Horansky — as a -833 favorite.
Needless to say, he’s struggling at the moment. And Pella is a nightmare matchup for anybody dealing with a shortage of confidence. I like Pella to grind down Sousa, consistently looking to make him hit an extra ball. Pella’s no slouch on the offensive side of things, either. He’ll pick his spots to counterpunch and hit winners. I make Pella -125, so can’t pass him up at -110.
I like to hunt for live dogs and take chances in the first few days. On the surface, there are some good spots — but this is the WTA, a true box of chocolates.
Not much sticks out on the WTA side on a light Sunday opening day except for that fade of Strycova I mentioned earlier. Nara definitely warrants at least a half-unit throw at +190.
I also could see fading Johanna Konta (-330) vs. Yulia Putintseva (+270). Over the last three seasons, Konta has a very poor 8-12 record on clay — her least favorite surface. She’s actually never won a match at Roland-Garros, losing in the first round the past three seasons. Conversely, Putinsteva has a 4-0 record in first-round matches here. She reached the third round in 2017 and the quarterfinals in 2016 — where she lost a tight three-set match to Serena. Overall, Putintseva has an 8-4 record at the French Open, with those losses coming to Serena, Muguruza, Svitolina and Errani. Nothing to be ashamed about.
Check back here in the morning for more insight, and make sure you check out our comprehensive tournament preview if you haven’t already. I did already play Stefanie Voegele (-108) vs. Lesia Tsurenko and Oceane Dodin (-117) vs. Heather Watson.
Update: In addition to Voegele and Dodin, I played the following on Monday:
- Bernarda Pera (+100) vs. Elena Vesnina
- Danielle Rose Collins (+320) vs. Caroline Wozniacki
- Lara Arruabarrena (+120) vs. Timea Babos
- Luksika Kumkhum (+220) vs. Magdalena Rybarikova
- Laura Siegemund (+131) vs. Coco Vandeweghe
- Anna Karolína Schmiedlová (+172) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu
- Natalia Vikhlyantseva (+220) vs. Ashleigh Barty
- Dominika Cibulkova (+101) vs. Julia Goerges also took a half unit shot on Krystina Pliskova (+176) against Serena Williams.
Feel free to reach out anytime with WTA questions, thoughts or just random sweats. You can find me @stuckey2. Good luck with your wagers and embrace the sweat.