- The 2018 French Open starts Sunday at 5 a.m. ET — so set your alarms or just stay up like a normal person.
- Serena Williams (15-1) highlights a stacked field. She will make her first Slam appearance since the Australian Open final in early 2017.
- The draw is without a doubt completely wide open, as I can realistically see a dozen women winning the championship.
While the men’s field is riddled with critical absences and injury questions throughout, the women’s draw is absolutely loaded. Serena Williams (15-1), Maria Sharapova (13-1) and Victória Azárenka (50-1) will compete in the same Major for the first time since the 2016 Australian Open. That trio has won a combined 30 Slams — including five at Roland Garros.
Most of the talk will revolve around the return of the unusually unseeded Serena, who will look to add another Major title to her all-time record 23. However, she didn’t get a kind first round draw against the hard-serving lefty Kristýna Plíšková, who comes into Roland Garros on form.
Not only will Serena make her first Major appearance since winning in Melbourne in January 2017, she will amazingly play her first Tour level match on clay since winning the French Open in 2016. That means Monday will mark her first clay match in almost two years. She’s certainly on upset alert in Round 1, but if she can grind through her first few matches — look out.
Although even without Serena, there would be no shortage of storylines. Can Simona Halep finally get over the hump and win her first Slam? You can ask the same question about Karolína Plíšková. Can Elina Svitolina finally break through at a Slam? And how will 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko handle the pressure of defending her title? The feel good story would end with Petra Kvitová holding a trophy. I could go on and on.
I’d expect the unexpected with at least one dark horse making a deep run. I count at least twelve women that could realistically win this tournament, which could provide some nice opportunities in the futures market. However, before we get into the three futures I did bet, let’s take a look at the seeds and a few tidbits worth noting for your wagering.
Also, keep your eye out for our ATP and WTA first round preview tonight in which we will go over the lay of the land for the first round and provide our best bets on Monday. Nothing really jumps out to me on either side on a light opening Sunday.
For your futures and daily betting throughout the French Open, I created the following wagering reference chart that I think you’ll find useful. I highlighted (in green) the ones I could make an argument for at their current prices.
Previous French Open Champions in Draw:
- Serena Williams (2015, 2013, 2002)
- Maria Sharapova (2014, 2012)
- Jelena Ostapenko (2017)
- Garbiñe Muguruza (2016)
- Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009)
French Open Semis in Past 3 Years:
- Serena Williams (2)
- Garbiñe Muguruza
- Jelena Ostapenko
- Karolína Plíšková
- Simona Halep
- KiKi Bertens
- Sam Stosur (unseeded)
- Lucie Šafářová (unseeded)
Reached FO R16 Each of Past 3 Years:
- Garbiñe Muguruza
- Elina Svitolina
2018 Clay Tournament Winners
- Petra Kvitova (Prague, Madrid)
- Elise Mertens (Lugano, Rabat)
- Elina Svitolina (Rome)
- Karolína Plíšková (Stuttgart)
- KiKi Bertens (Charleston)
- Anna Karolína Schmiedlová (Bogota)
- Pauline Parmentier (Istanbul)
- Johanna Larsson (Nürnberg)
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Strasbourg)
Junior French Open Champions
- Daria Kasatkina (2014)
- Belinda Bencic (2013)
- Elina Svitolina (2010)
- Kristina Mladenovic (2009)S
- Simona Halep (2008)
- Alize Cornet (2007)
- Kaia Kanepi (2001)
- Agnieszka Radwanska (back)
- Timea Bacsinszky (back)
- Monica Puig (hip)
- CiCi Bellis (elbow)
- Beatriz Haddad Maia (back)
- Monica Niculescu (leg)
- Simona Halep (back)
- Ashleigh Barty (back)
- Sorana Cîrstea (left leg)
Odds and Ends:
- Simona Halep has never won a Slam, but has finished as the runner-up three separate times — including at last year’s French Open. She is 1-6 in her last seven Tour finals.
- In addition to Serena and Azárenka, four other unseeded players have previously played in a French Open final: Sam Stosur (2010), Francesca Schiavone (2011), Sara Errani (2012) and Lucie Šafářová (2015).
- Timea Bacsinszky withdrew early Saturday morning, which is a real shame. The always dangerous clay-courter made the French Open R16 in each of the last three seasons. She and Serena are the only two players to make two semifinals here in the last three tourneys here.
Quick Draw Analysis
Quarter 1: The Opportunity Section
While Halep might potentially have to start off with two players in Alison Riske and Johanna Larsson who just made the Nuremberg final on Saturday, she should walk through to the R16. Elise Mertens is the only potential hurdle I could see for Halep before the quarterfinals. The in-form Belgian is one of only two players (Kvitova) with multiple clay tournament titles in 2018, Halep just washed her, 6-0 6-3, in Madrid.
On the bottom half, I don’t give Angelique Kerber much of a shot on her least favorite surface, which should really open up an opportunity for either Kiki Bertens or Caroline Garcia. Bertens has been one of the best clay-courters on tour for the past three season, compiling an absolutely silly 62-13 record at all events. Not only did she win a clay tournament this season, she made the semis here in 2016. Meanwhile, Garcia has made only one major QF appearance in her career — last year at the French Open. While she has played more consistently and comes in on form, I still don’t fully trust her on the big stage.
Projected Quarterfinal: Halep vs. Bertens
Quarter 2: The Loaded Section
You never know what you’re going to get with Muguruza (15-1), but her path to the quarterfinals looks relatively clean. She does have a few veterans with past success in Paris (Kuznetsova and Stosur) in her half of the quarter, but both are far past their prime. Pavlyuchenkova should also have no legs after her marathon final against Dominika Cibulkova. If you’re looking for a deep sleeper, maybe throw some pennies on Laura Siegemund. Her fitness remains a question, but if she’s firing on all cylinders — the German is one of the trickiest players on Tour to knock out on the dirt.
The bottom half of this quarter is one of the most loaded you’ll ever see at a Slam, as it features Serena, Sharapova, Ka. Pliskova and you can even throw in an unseeded Safarova, who made the French Open final in 2015. If Pliskova can get by Safarova (who won their only two previous meetings on clay) — it could potentially set up a third-round blockbuster between her and Sharapova. And if Maria wins that, she could then potentially face Serena, who has won 19 of 21 career meetings with the Russian. However, I’m not sure Serena can get it going after so much time off, as she might get bounced in the first round.
A true stay away section from a futures perspective in my eyes.
Projected Quarterfinal: Muguruza vs. Sharapova
Quarter 3: The Easiest Section
As long as defending champ Jelena Ostapenko (16-1) can get through Azarenka (who doesn’t love clay and is still finding her way back) — she might have one of the easiest paths to the quarterfinals in the field. However, the Latvian is maddeningly inconsistent and might not handle the pressure well. I just can’t tip her at 16-1, despite having her half of the quarter filled with either subpar clay courters or out of form players.
Similarly, the bottom half doesn’t look like it will present much resistance for the odds-on favorite Elina Svitolina (+575). While she has never made a Slam semi, she thrives on clay and has made the R16 here in each of the past three seasons. I think the Ukrainian, who comes in peaking after a title in Rome, finally breaks through to her first major semifinal.
Projected Quarterfinal: Ostapenko vs. Svitolina
Quarter 4: The Wide-open Section
Kvitova (12-1) is always vulnerable to a stinker early on in a tournament, but look out if she gets a couple wins under her belt. It looks like we should get a popcorn-worthy, third-round match between her and Anett Kontaveit (40-1) — which should decide who comes out of the top half. Kontaveit made the semis twice and the R16 in her last three clay tournaments — with those losses coming against Kvitova, Ka. Pliskova and Svitolina — respectable to say the least. Petra comes in just as hot, having won both of her most recent tourneys in Prague and Madrid — going 11-0 in the process.
The bottom half is truly wide open, as Caroline Wozniacki (22-1) doesn’t excel on clay. That could provide a chance for Daria Kasatkina to reach her first Slam quarterfinal. The Russian loves the dirt and should come in with a lot of confidence after a stellar 2018. If she can get through a semi-tricky first-round match against Kaia Kanepi, the draw should really open up for her. If the seeds do hold and we get a Wozniacki-Kasatkina fourth-round showdown, note that Daria is 2-0 against the Dane in 2018. And both of those wins came on a hard court — Wozniacki’s best surface.
Projected Quarterfinal: Kvitova vs. Kasatkina
What Really Matters
Pick to Win: Elina Svitolina +575
Futures I Bet: Elina Svitolina +575, Kiki Bertens 25-1 and Daria Kasatkina 28-1