It feels like just yesterday that the 2020 French Open winners were crowned, after the tournament was pushed back from May until early October courtesy of the pandemic.
This year, however, it will return to its normal time slot, just seven short months after Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek were crowned champions at Roland Garros.
Those two both head the list of favourites with most betting sites in their respective draws, but there are a host of talented players looking to knock them off their perch, so let’s take a look at all the contenders.
Men’s French Open
Nadal, of course, has had a virtual monopoly on the only Grand Slam to be played on clay court for 15 years. Winner of 13 Coupes des Mousquetaires in that time, Nadal last year won the tournament without dropping a single set throughout for the fourth time.
Even at 34 years old, he doesn’t seem close to releasing the grip he has had on the tournament for so long, and it’s easy to see why he is an even money favourite to win it again in 2021.
But he’s not without challengers. Novak Djokovic will, as always, be there or thereabouts, having made the final for the fifth time at Roland Garros last year. He has made it to the final eight at the event every year since 2009, and heads into the tournament having taken out the Australian Open to kick off the 2021 season.
He’s in form, he’s the world’s number one player, and he might just be Nadal’s biggest threat.
Dominic Thiem rounds out what appears to be a breakaway top three – he is paying $5 to win the event, while the next most fancied player is at $21. The world number four finally broke through for a maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open last year, and many expect him to go on and win many more.
Undoubtedly his best chance to do that is at the French Open – at least it will be if Nadal ever slows down. Thiem’s game style is perfectly suited to the clay court, and his results at Roland Garros prove that. Since 2016 he’s made the semi-finals twice, the final twice and the quarter-finals once, and it’s hard to imagine him not being in the final few once again this year.
As mentioned, the threats drop off significantly thereafter, but there are still a handful of players who could cause plenty of headaches for the top three.
Daniil Medvedev has managed to find his way into the top three players in the world and has to be respected, but his previous form at Roland Garros doesn’t make for good reading; in four appearances there, he has been knocked out in the first round every time. Stefanos Tsitsipas is another who could pose problems; now the world’s number five ranked player, he enters the tournament coming off a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open, and also made the final four at the French Open last year.
Women’s French Open
It’s a little more open on the women’s side of things, with bookmakers hardly able to separate the top 15 players. Iga Swiatek last year came from the clouds to become the youngest player since Monica Seles to win the tournament, and didn’t lose a single set along the way. She has been solid enough since then and is now the 16th ranked player in the world, but it could certainly be argued that her odds are slightly lower than they should be courtesy of last year’s win given the quality of competition she will face here.
Included among that competition is Simona Halep, a three-time finalist and one-time winner at Roland Garros and the current world number three. Halep’s scrambling style of play and elite court coverage makes her a constant threat on the clay, and that’s evidenced by her results over the past few years at this event. She has made at least the fourth round six of the past seven years, and the final in three of those, so expect her to be around at the business end once again.
Further down the list is Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, who could be a good value selection at $11. Barty is the world number one and a former winner here, having taken out the 2019 incarnation of the event when she defeated Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 in the final. Since then she’s missed a number of Grand Slams, including this one last year, but in the two she has played since 2019 she’s made a quarter-final and a semi-final, and we’re expecting her to do the same here.
One woman who has become a constant threat at Grand Slams and is another perhaps over the odds at $11 is Naomi Osaka. At just 23 years of age, Osaka has already won four Grand Slams, and seems destined to win a whole lot more. She has, however, struggled a little on clay; in four appearances at Roland Garros she hasn’t made it past the third round, and has been knocked out in the first round twice.
There are a host of other chances in what is a wide-open women’s draw, making for an intriguing tournament. Serena Williams will turn 40 this year but that doesn’t seem to matter to her; she’s made the semi-finals in her last two Grand Slams, and as a three-time winner here she’ll be expecting to go close. Garbine Muguruza is another former French Open winner who certainly warrants consideration – four times she has made the final eight here, and rarely does she fail to make the final 16.
French Open Tips
The men and women betting markets at this year’s French Open could hardly look more different.
Rafael Nadal is unequivocally the man to catch, and Thiem and Djokovic appear far and away the most likely to do just that. In contrast, the women’s draw is as wide open as could be, and there are a host of players who one could easily make a case for. Despite the differences, however, it shapes up as an intriguing tournament on both sides of the draw.