French Open Expert Picks | Best Bets For Frech vs Zhang, Podoroska vs Ponchet

French Open Expert Picks | Best Bets For Frech vs Zhang, Podoroska vs Ponchet article feature image

Insidefoto/Getty. Pictured: Nadia Podoroska.

The first round of the French Open is here and Sunday's matchups are fascinating!

I’ve found value on two of Sunday's showdowns — Frech vs Zhang and Podoroska vs Ponchet.

Read on for my French Open expert picks and predictions.

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French Open Odds, Picks

Magdalena Frech (-365) vs Shuai Zhang (+280)

5 a.m. ET

Most recently, Magdalena Frech qualified for Rome and made the second round, but ultimately fell 3-6, 2-6 to Madison Keys. Frech only won 47% of her service points, getting broken on five occasions. Facing Keys' big serve, the Pole handled herself fairly well, winning 52% of her second-serve returns and breaking twice.

Frech has gone 9-4 in 2023. As a professional, Frech has a strong 151-100 record on the dirt. The Pole doesn't have much power, but she is a crafty player. Frech spreads the court well, gets consistent depth and utilizes her variety to throw her opponents off balance. She does a great job of keeping the ball out of her opponents' strike zones and keeping her opponents on the move, as opposed to ripping groundstrokes from the baseline.

Shuai Zhang was an absolute disaster in her most recent tournament in Strasbourg, losing 0-6, 0-6 to Anna-Lena Friedsam. Zhang, who relies on her serve heavily, won just 36% of her service points and was broken in all six service games. On return, Zhang won just 14% of her return points, failing to generate a break point.

Zhang has a mediocre 88-92 career-record lost her only two matchups on the dirt this season. Overall, Zhang has lost her last seven matches, winning just two sets during that time. When she's playing well Zhang has a big first serve and plays with controlled aggression from the baseline, particularly with her forehand.

But, nowadays Zhang's rally tolerance and controlled aggression have completely left her. And, while it was a warmup event, Zhang will likely have very little confidence right now.

Frech is a rough opponent for Zhang in her current form. Frech's consistent depth should expose Zhang's lack of baseline game at the moment.

She should also utilize her variety, with her cutting slices and drop shots, to keep Zhang off balance and further frustrate her. Zhang will start pressing on her groundstrokes at some point.

And while Zhang's serve is usually a strength, she hasn't won over 65% of her service points in any match during her current seven-match losing streak.

Pick: Zhang to NOT win a set (-126 via FanDuel)

Nadia Podoroska (-145) vs Jessika Ponchet (+118)

5 a.m. ET

Nadia Podoroska most recently lost 1-6, 4-6 to Jaqueline Cristian in an ITF $100k in Madrid. Podoroska went down *0-5 to start off the match. And, while she found her footing more-and-more as the match went on, Cristian was eventually able to grind the Argentine down from the baseline.

Podoroska, a former Roland Garros semifinalist, is still 10-7 on clay this season with a clay WTA $125K title in Cali (although at altitude). Podoroska's game is centered around her powerful, heavy forehand. The Argentine dominates from the baseline from this wing, as opponents struggle to handle her combination of pace and placement.

She does a great job of constructing points that highlight her forehand and while the Argentine's backhand is fairly solid, it can break down at times.

Jessika Ponchet played last in a $25k in Platja D'Aro, losing in the quarterfinals 6-7(1), 4-6 to Sonay Kartal. Ponchet does have a 7-3 record on clay on the season and has a solid 92-70 career-record on the surface. But, clay does help to neutralize the Frenchwoman's powerful serve and groundstrokes.

When Ponchet is playing well, she hits aggressive groundstrokes from the baseline. But, Ponchet can be hit-or-miss from the baseline, with her rally tolerance lacking. Opponents are able to rush Ponchet on her forehand, as her long windup is not conducive to facing powerful opponents. She is also not the best mover.

Podoroska is on another level on clay compared to Ponchet. Podoroska's forehand should be the best shot on the court and she should be able to drag Ponchet around, exposing the Frenchwoman's mediocre movement.

She constructs points on clay better than Ponchet and she is the craftier player, so I trust her more in cat-and-mouse points. The Argentine should also be able to rush Ponchet on her forehand wing.

Finally, Podoroska's overall Elo is 51.4 points higher than Ponchet's and her clay-court Elo is 73.2 points above the Frenchwoman's.

Pick: Podoroska ML (-145 via PointsBet)

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