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.