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Monday French Open Predictions, Analysis: Bet Kovinic as a Big Underdog (May 23)

Monday French Open Predictions, Analysis: Bet Kovinic as a Big Underdog (May 23) article feature image
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Quality Sport Images/Getty. Pictured: Danka Kovinic hits a backhand at the Madrid Open.

Despite plenty of matches to choose from on the women’s side of the opening day at Roland Garros, the value was fairly sparse.

Monday, however, has a few matches that seem appealing, especially if backing underdogs in women’s tennis is your jam. Let’s breakdown a pair of these first-round women’s matches on day two from Paris!

Ludmilla Samsonova (-233) vs. Danka Kovinic (+190)

7 a.m. ET

There will be a theme through both handicaps in this preview and that will be to fade some of the poorer movers in super slow conditions. The clay and grass seasons being back-to-back and right up against each other provide quite a contrast and it’s evident when watching Ludmilla Samsonova.

The tall, big-hitting Russian is so hard to play against on the slick grass. However, on the red clay the pace isn’t nearly as daunting. Her success on clay since last season has been limited to qualifying wins, the ITF Tour or the much quicker indoor event in Stuttgart last month. The lower bounces aren’t to her liking and the slower conditions, where opponents can track down more balls and exploit her lack of movement, aren’t the most preferential conditions either.

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On the other hand, Danka Kovinic is a clay-court specialist. She’s not a world-beater and a lot of that success comes at the higher echelons of the ITF Tour — as opposed to the WTA Tour — but that also lets her fly under the radar and is one of the primary reasons this match has been priced the way it has.

While the last match she played prior to Roland Garros resulted in her retiring after losing a set 1-6, it’s worth nothing that was on the heels of winning a separate — and high level — ITF the week prior in a different country. That ITF in Wiesbaden saw her beat the likes of Donna Vekic, prospect Eva Lys and promising youngster Nastasija Schunk.

The market seems to be siding heavily with the more known commodity, despite noticeable weaknesses on clay. Don’t be afraid to go the other way and take the nice plus-money underdog who’s more adept on the red dirt.

Pick: Kovinic ML (+190 with FanDuel)

Elena Rybakina (-476) vs. Arantxa Rus (+350)

10:30 a.m. ET

Note: Match is delayed until Tuesday at 6-1, 2-4 in the second set due to rain.

Another match where the overall talent level and name recognition are skewing the odds a bit too much features the big-serving and big-hitting Elena Rybakina taking on Arantxa Rus.

While more competent on clay than Samsonova, Rybakina’s resume over the past two clay seasons isn’t one that should price her as an overwhelming favorite against someone who is competent on, and enjoys playing on, the clay.

This season, Rybakina has beaten the likes of Lauren Davis, Elina Avanesyan (by three games as a -1000 favorite), Katerina Siniakova via retirement, Oceane Dodin and Nastasija Schunk. The best of those is either Schunk or the retirement win. Granted, she lost a close one in Stuttgart to Paula Badosa, but the conditions there aren’t all that relatable to Roland Garros. Even last year’s run to the quarters in Paris saw wins over Elsa Jacquemot, Nao Hibino and Elena Vesnina in her first three matches, followed by an aging and less mobile Serena Williams.

As for Arantxa Rus, her season has also seen success against lower-level players, but she’s coming off a quarterfinal at the WTA 250 in Rabat last week, where she played eventual champion Martina Trevisan relatively close. Clay is her preferred surface and her style matches up nicely with someone who doesn’t move all that well. Her lefty serves out wide could give Rybakina fits, and the spins and angles she creates with her groundstrokes are also useful in ensuring Rybakina can’t stand centrally on the baseline and just rip her powerful groundstrokes.

Ultimately, spotting the Dutchwoman 5.5 games on a surface she prefers is a bit too much to pass on.

Pick: Rus +5.5 games (-116 on DraftKings)

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