Roger Federer has elected to stay home, Novak Djokovic has a new coach and Rafael Nadal is chasing more history. The men’s draw is certainly an interesting one for this the 116th edition of the French Open (May 28th-Jun 11th).
There seems to be a similar thread running through both the men’s and women’s draws of the French Open as for the first time in history, both reigning Australian Open champions withdrew from competing on the year’s only clay court major, prior to the tournament’s start. Serena Williams pulled out due to her pregnancy and Roger Federer opted not to compete in order to conserve his energy for majors he has a better shot at winning, such as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Without Federer, the men’s draw looks a little different as it has in the past. That being said, it is a draw that still features and heavily favors Andy Murray, defending champion, Novak Djokovic, and of course the king of clay himself, Rafael Nadal, who is looking for his remarkable 10th title at the French Open. These three are the ones to keep your eye on with Nadal, who was forced to retire in the third round of last year’s event, emerging as favorite (10/11).
It would be no surprise to see Nadal build on his own record and lift a 10th title in Paris. The nine-time French Open winner is coming off another strong clay court season, which saw him win three of the 10 tournaments. No other player won more than two and it’s worth noting that neither Murray, Djokovic or Stan Wawrinka, seeded third, won a single title during the season. In fact, both Murray and Djokovic are coming off somewhat miserable clay court seasons, which is all the more reason to back Nadal as the favorite.
But if his injury history is a deterrent to placing your money on Nadal throughout the tournament, others worth noting in the odds with the online betting sites for United States players include Djokovic (4/1), Wawrinka (12/1), Murray (12/1) and two interesting underdogs in Domonic Thiem (12/1) and Alexander Zherev (18/1).
While not a winner on the tournament circuit prior to the French Open, Thiem is coming off of reaching two finals at top events in Barcelona and Madrid. At just 23, Thiem is one of the young and emerging stars of the game. The world No. 7, Thiem’s best career finish in a major came just last year when he reached the semifinals at the French Open, losing to eventual champion, Djokovic.
Zherev is another one to keep an eye on as far as an outside dark horse pick. Just 20 years old, Zherev is the youngest player currently in the top-10 rankings as he sits as the 10th best player in the world entering this French Open. Zherev has never gotten further than the third round of a major, which he achieved last year at Roland Garros, but he is coming off a crisp clay court season. Zherev won two titles, at Munich and in the most recent tune-up in Rome, where he defeated Djokovic in the final.
Unlike the women’s draw which is wide open, the men’s seems like it will continue to hold to form with the safe money being on one of the top four seeds to bring home the trophy. As good as Thiem and Zherev are becoming, age is on their side. So while this year may not be their year, the future is bright for both players. As for this year however, it seems the trip down memory lane as far as 2017 major winners will continue.
- Expect Nadal, who is coming off a 17-match winning streak as well as an almost perfect clay court season (he lost to Thiem in the quarterfinals at Rome), to win his 10th French Open title without too much trouble. He is well-rested and looks as good as he has in years. My betting prediction and pick is that he will make good on his favorite status.