Saturday WTA French Open Third Round Bets: Backing Youth

Saturday WTA French Open Third Round Bets: Backing Youth article feature image

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY SPORTS. Pictured: Monica Puig

  • WTA betting action will continue at the 2019 French Open on Saturday with eight matches on the docket.
  • Brett Farrenkopf details his two favorite plays on the women's side on the final day of the third round.

This isn’t my favorite card of the French Open, but one favorite and one underdog have made it. Both names might look familiar as I’ve played them in each of the first two rounds.

Let’s dig in.

Aliona Bolsova (+124) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova

Saturday, 10:30 a.m. ET

I’ve previously detailed Bolsova’s unprecedented success this week in Paris, but this is also Alexandrova’s biggest week ever.

Saturday’s match will mark her first ever in the third round of a Grand Slam. Both players have an incredible opportunity to notch a huge win, pick up a lot of rankings points and collect a big pay day.

The 21-year-old Bolsova is not as accomplished on Tour as Alexandrova, but her key advantage in this match is her ability to move on red dirt. Alexandrova has never been a proficient player on this surface against Tour-level talent.

When she first came on Tour, Alexandrova played a lot of clay court ITF events but never excelled despite her superior talent. It wasn’t until the winter of 2016 when she made major strides on indoor hard courts where she lifted her ranking enough to make the main draws in WTA level events.

Since then, Alexandrova mainly focused on hard court tennis. She has an abysmal 6-20 career clay record at Tour level events, which includes plenty of qualifying matches. The Russian is just 5-10 as a favorite on clay at this level, including 1-4 in 2019.

Alexandrova’s two wins in Paris came against two impressive names — Mihaela Buzarnescu and Samantha Stosur — however, neither came to the French Open with any form. Both Buzarenscu and Stosur really beat themselves, hitting 10 or more unforced errors than winners during each match.

Bolsova, despite being ranked No. 137 in the world, arrived in Paris in much better form. She’s hit 45 winners to 46 unforced through two matches. She’s not an especially big hitter, but she has a very high tennis IQ and can exploit her opponents when they get in vulnerable positions. In her second-round match, Bolsova hit multiple winners behind an off-balance Sorana Cirstea.

The joy of qualifying for a Grand Slam main draw for the first time.

Aliona Bolsova was outside #400 thirteen months ago, now in top 140 and rising.#RolandGarros #FrenchOpen

— Ashish TV Slams (@ashishtvslams) May 24, 2019

Alexandrova has a much bigger game and plays with much less margin, so she will hit plenty of winners just due to sheer power. But Bolsova beat another Russian with a similar style in the first round in Vera Zvonareva, who also wants to bash from the baseline. That win should offer a good blueprint for how to advance to the second week of the French Open.

While Alexandrova has more raw talent, I still make Bolsova a slight favorite in this matchup. If she can continue to hold serve at a respectable clip and extend points when returning, I think the Spaniard moves on.

Iga Swiatek (-160) vs. Monica Puig

Saturday, 8:15 a.m. ET

This could be a tough matchup for the newly-turned 18-year-old Swiatek, though I have confidence in her mental game to withstand the potential Puig onslaught.

Swiatek was simply stunning versus Qiang Wang on Thursday. She hit 33 (!) winners to just 12 unforced errors. Relative to most WTA matches, Qiang did not even play that poorly, hitting five winners to seven unforced errors.

The issue was Swiatek simply controlled the entire match in dominant fashion, blasting the ball past Wang with ease.

Iga Swiatek turned 18 today and she spent her b-day defeating Wang Qiang to make her 1st Slam 3R in her 2nd MD appearance.

"I don't have any expectations and that's kind of cool because I'm not stressed or anything. I don't expect to win because I'm, like, new here.” #RG19

— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 30, 2019

I’ve followed Swiatek closely since last spring when she was blistering ITF opponents off the court. Thursday’s match was the best I’ve ever seen her play. That performance will be difficult to replicate, but I still think she’ll do enough to advance.

Puig should offer a similar opponent to Qiang. Both players want to stand on the baseline and over-power their opponents. Puig had a very solid performance versus Daria Kasatkina in the second round, but I doubt she will duplicate her 68% first-serve in percentage. That number is simply unsustainable, considering she hovers around 62% for her career.

Plus, Puig is an incredibly erratic player. It’s a coin flip whether we see peak Pica Power on Saturday or if she loses 6-2 6-1. Both results are in play.

What I believe I do know is we will see a solid performance from Swiatek, who has been playing so consistently on clay. Her only two losses on clay this season came in three sets. One in the Lugano final to Polona Hercog and the other against Karolina Muchova after Swiatek sustained an injury.

It’s difficult to price Puig matches due to the mercurial nature of the Puerto Rican’s game. She also has a tendency to develop injuries and retire. (She’s retired three times in the past year to date or in 6% of her matches.) Therefore, if you have the option to bet with a book that grades moneylines after only one complete set, that’s the route I’d take.

For what it’s worth, Swiatek opened at many books around +100 or -105, so money has steadily come in on the Pole. Puig could have moments or even take a set where she appears unstoppable.

However, I have confidence in Swiatek’s game and mentality to withstand the runs. Her experience from previously making a clay final should pay dividends in the biggest match of her career so far.

And not to look ahead, but a vulnerable Simona Halep looms in the Round of 16.

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