It’s Grand Slam time! The 2018 Australian Open feels like a different decade. It’s taken a while, and a tonne of clay court competitions, but we’ve finally reached the French Open in the tennis calendar.
Rafael Nadal is the massive favourite to win his 11th title at Roland Garros. Nadal has lost just twice all season, winning three titles along the way.
His ascent to world number one has been a true comeback tale, but there was a slight warning sign when he lost to the immensely talented Dominic Thiem in Madrid a few weeks ago.
Nadal isn’t just favourite, he leads this field by miles. Hardly surprising given his dominance in Paris and the absence of Roger Federer, but it’s just impossible to see any value in him at 11/25.
Thiem sits at eight in the world. Despite beating Nadal in Madrid, he didn’t win the tournament, falling to Alexander Zverev in the final. He then suffered a surprising defeat to Fabio Fognini in Rome.
His clay court season has already meandered significantly. There’s no doubt he has the ability to win a Grand Slam one day, however, and the 9/1 price is certainly decent value.
Zverev is the one man splitting Thiem and Nadal in this outright market. The 21-year-old German has climbed up to number three in the world, having won two of his last three events on clay.
The other tournament saw Zverev lose to Nadal in the final in Rome in three sets. He is one of the few players on the circuit capable of going head-to-head with Nadal from the baseline.
On paper, his game seems perfectly suited to clay, and he’s well deserving of his 6/1 price as second favourite to win the tournament.
A familiar face appears at 12/1. Novak Djokovic is still a shadow of his former self, but the Serbian is still a good price for me here. His defeat to Kyle Edmund caught the headlines, but Djokovic bounced back to reach the semi-finals in Rome.
While the days of competing with Nadal, particularly on clay, are behind him, Djokovic is a definite contender given his experience. It would be foolish to write the 31-year-old off just yet...
Speaking of veterans, 33-year-old Stan Wawrinka is way out at 40/1. He’s had a torrid time of late and has not won a match on the ATP tour since February.
The 2015 Roland Garros champion has usually been a standout name outside of Nadal for this competition, but it would take a brave person to bet against his recent form.
Looking towards a younger option, world number seven David Goffin is worth consideration at 30/1. The Belgian has the ideal game for the clay and he can really take a match away from an opponent with pinpoint baseline winners.
It’s still a longshot – as anyone is with Nadal in the draw – but Goffin is one of my favourite bets ahead of the tournament.
It’s impossible not to be in awe of Nadal on clay. For the sake of the tournament, though, we can only hope that he is actually beatable and someone can at least provide a significant challenge to him.
The talent is there to do so, maybe we’ll see a real breakout tournament from someone not mentioned above.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*