As the plucky qualifiers take to the courts of Roland Garros this week, attention switches to the clay season’s headline event.
Rafael Nadal again consolidated his strangle-hold on the surface as he defeated Alexander Zverev in the Grand Slam precursor at the Italian Open last week.
Nadal will always be the man to beat at this part of the season. But who could challenge the world number one and will Jelena Ostapenko retain her title?
Simona Halep has always been on the cusp of something special in this tournament. Reaching the final in two of the last four years and being runner-up in the Australian Open earlier in the year.
She will begin the tournament as world number one but may see this as her best chance to convert her growing reputation into something tangible.
Elina Svitolina has never made it past the last eight of a major before but is constantly improving. She’s just defeated Halep and former world number one Angelique Kerber on the way to Italian Open victory and at 6/1 could have her say.
Petra Kvitova comes in at 12/1 and is on an 11 match winning streak on the red dirt. Meanwhile the previously banned Maria Sharapova has snagged a seeding spot after all. Ostapenko joins Kvitova and a clutch of others at 12/1.
In the men’s game Zverev is 7/1 shot to triumph here. The 21-year-old is being hailed as a future Grand Slam champ but will Paris be too soon?
You can never rule out Novak Djokovic on the big-stage but it’s Aussie Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung who looks like the best outside bet. The 22-year-old South Korean defeated Djokovic in Melbourne and has enjoyed quarter-final runs at the Miami and Indian Wells Masters. Chung is 33/1 to deliver a shock result. At 9/1 Dominic Thiem could be one to watch.
Williams back on the scene?
Andy Murray, Roger Federer and French hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all look set to miss out on this year’s showpiece. However, it’ll be a welcome return to the Grand Slam scene for Serena Williams.
The three-time former Champion has yet to publically confirm her participation but was seen training on the clay of the Philippe Chatrier yesterday.
Despite not competing since her Miami Open first-round defeat in March, Williams will be a massive draw. If she does return then you’ll be hard-pressed to back against her at 12/1 when it comes to the big occasions.
Nadal: The King of Clay
On clay there’s no-one comparable to Rafael Nadal. His name’s now synonymous with Roland Garros. But the majestic crown that’s ‘King of Clay’ has never weighed heavy on his head.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication