French Open: Betting Tips, Stats & History

Roland Garros Flag
Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky, Bigstock

The French Open is one of the highlights of the tennis calendar. It makes up one of the four majors, alongside the Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon. It’s a tournament that if you win, can immortalise a player within the true greats of the game, such is its stature.

The tournament has been held at numerous venues over the years, but since 1928 is resided at Rolland Garros, Paris. The courts that they play on there are all clay, but there was a time when these courts were actually sand, believe it or not. They are the only one of the four majors that are currently played on clay.

Men's Singles Betting Tips for 2018

Nadal the Firmest of Favourites for Yet More Roland Garros Success

Roger Federer is, for many tennis fans, the greatest player ever to pick up a racket. At 36 he remains vying for the number one rank in the world but when it comes to clay court tennis it’s Rafael Nadal who reigns supreme. The Spaniard extended his own French Open record last year when he won the title for the 10th time.

Nadal’s dominance on the clay has made him an incredibly short priced favourite to win the 2018 French Open. His competition may find it tough to stop him but Alexander Zverev came close to toppling Nadal in the recent final of the Italian Open and there are several other world class players capable of doing something special over the coming fortnight at Roland Garros.

Rafael Nadal (1/2)

The best price you’ll get on Rafael Nadal winning the French Open is just 1/2. That looks like a very short price and, to be frank, it is. The question is, can you afford not to back Nadal to win given just how good he is on the clay.

Punters will always want to take on such a short priced favourite if they can and the man that many turned to last year was Stanislas Wawrinka. The Swiss star blitzed his way through the field with some of the most stunning clay court tennis that the Parisian crowd at the French Open had ever seen. Those who were impressed enough to believe Wawrinka could get the job done in the final were quickly made to look silly by Nadal though as he showed the gulf between himself and the competition by winning in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

Wawrinka could be a danger this year at a general price of 50/1 but even if he is back to full fitness following knee surgery he’ll have to up his levels significantly to get close to Nadal. That goes for the entire competition and for that reason it is tough to leave Nadal out of your betting even at such heavy odds on.

Dominic Thiem (10/1)

Nadal has had his problems with injury and at 31 may well be coming towards the end of his time at the top. That’s inevitably led tennis fans and punters to wonder about who the next dominant clay court player will be. The performances of Alexander Zverev when winning the Madrid Open and reaching the final of the Italian Open mean he is the first name on everybody’s lips but it’s Dominic Thiem who looks the best bet at the French Open.

Thiem ended Nadal’s 21 match winning streak on clay when the two met in the quarter finals in Madrid. While that defeat has clearly spurred Nadal on, it also did wonders for Thiem’s confidence. It also improved his credentials as the heir to Nadal. The 24-year-old Austrian has all the power necessary to compete at the very top of world tennis while he also improving all the time in terms of nous and his tactical ability.

If Thiem has one area on which he needs to improve, it’s in consistency. The Austrian has thrown in a few strange performances already this European clay court season (just look at his defeat in the second round of the Italian Open against Fabio Fognini) but he will still be feeling good about the state of his game as he heads to Roland Garros. Thiem has the game and it could well be worth betting that he now has the mentality to go all the way in the French Open at odds of 10/1.

Pablo Carreno Busta (80/1)

Pablo Carreno Busta isn’t exactly a household name and many tennis fans tuning into the French Open will know little if anything about the 26-year-old. They may be about to learn a lot more about him very quickly.

As a Spanish player, Carreno Busta has looked up to Nadal for a long time. He’s also very comfortable on the clay as is shown by his decent record in the European clay court season to date. Carreno Busta has been steadily climbing the rankings and finds himself just outside the top 10. As he approaches what should be the peak years of his career he should claim many more headlines and he’ll certainly be a dangerous opponent for whoever he faces at Roland Garros. Therefore, Carreno Busta could well be worth a small stakes bet at a tasty price of 80/1.

Women's Singles Betting Tips for 2018

Wide Open Draw to Produce More Shocks

Caroline Wozniacki’s win at the Australian Open got the year off to a great start in women’s tennis. That the popular Dane had never before won one of tennis’s big four tournaments said more about the level of competition at the top of the game than it did about her abilities. You only have to take a quick look through the betting for the French Open to see just how many players there are capable of competing at the top level.

The bookies have around 20 players priced up at 33/1 or shorter for glory at Roland Garros and only two – Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina – are available at less than 10/1. It’s not just the calibre of the players competing in the women’s draw that makes it so wide open. The medium pace courts at Roland Garros favour neither big servers nor the best returners while the shorter format of three sets always throws up more shocks than the men’s five set matches.

With so many women who can genuinely challenge for the Coupe des Mousquetaires, punters have a wide choice. So, let’s try and narrow it down by picking out the best betting value for the women’s French Open.

Elina Svitolina (6/1)

World class tennis players each have their own way of going about their business but it’s noticeable how many of the women most favoured by the bookies chose not to play competitive tennis in the week leading up to the French Open. The majority feel they already have enough clay court tennis under their belts but few will be feeling as comfortable about their game as Elina Svitolina.

Just like last year, Svitolina heads to Roland Garros on the back of an impressive win at the Italian Open. The 23-year-old comfortably saw off the challenge of world number one, Simona Halep, in the final in Rome to lay down a marker for the French Open. There is absolutely no doubt that Svitolina has the ability to win the French Open but she has yet to get beyond the quarter finals in any of her previous Grand Slam appearances.

Svitolina sounded a note of caution after her win in Rome but playing down her chances may actually prove to be a wise move. She cannot help but be enthused by the nature of her 6-0, 6-4 win over Halep and must be considered to have the best chance of the two favourites at 6/1.

Petra Kvitova (12/1)

She may be one of the best tennis players of her generation but few people expected Petra Kvitova to win the Madrid Open. She likes to make the most of her powerful, accurate serve and her excellence at the net which means she’s tended to perform best on grass and hard courts. Kvitova proved that she is adaptable though when she stormed through to the final in Madrid before digging in to get the better of Kiki Bertens in the final.

That Kvitova could work out a way to win against an opponent who is much more confident on clay was a big tick about her chances of French Open glory. She’s also no stranger to playing well at Roland Garros having made the semi finals back in 2012. Kvitova’s quality means she’s been far from overlooked by the bookies but you’d have to say she still looks good value at 12/1.

Kiki Bertens (25/1)

Women’s tennis has seen several young stars break their Grand Slam ducks in the very early stages of their careers. While such success is always well respected in the locker room, it must be tough for the plethora of world class players who are yet to taste success on the biggest stage. By any normal standards, Kiki Bertens is approaching the peak of her career and while she may be jealous of players like Garbine Muguruza and Jelena Ostapenko, she can may just follow in their footsteps by winning the French Open at a generous price of 25/1.

The suitability of Bertens’ game to clay court tennis is in no doubt. Not only does she have the best record on clay of any woman this season but her appearance in the semi finals at Roland Garros in 2016 is comfortably her best Grand Slam performance. She chose to play the week before the French Open and the extra momentum her tennis in Nurnberg brought will mean nobody wants to be draw against the Dutch star.

About

What’s unique about the French Open is that theoretically any player can qualify for the event. There are a number of spots that are reserved for player with certain world rankings, but via a series of qualifiers, a host of players are able to make it through. It’s a bit like a David v Goliath story, especially in the earlier rounds where top seeds play bottom or unseeded players in what’s often the biggest match of their lives. 

There are 32 seeds that are distributed in the men’s and women’s games. This is loosely based on World ranking points over the previous year and past performances within the past 12 months, but it is essentially down to the committee of the event to determine who is seeded and where.

The whole concept of seeding players is to give players with a higher rank a reward for being so, often playing lower ranked players along the way. The top 2 players are drawn at different ends of the draw, so theoretically if they both win all their matches, they will meet in the final.

There are essentially 8 sections within each draw, although everyone is linked as a knock out format. So, seed number 1 will be the top player in Section 1 and seed number 2 will be the top ranked player in Section 8. The top 8 players will then be assigned a section each. Then the next players ranked from 9-16 will also be added to each group. 

With each set of groups of rankings, say from 17-24, 25-32 and so on will be assigned one player from that bracket into each group. After each of the top 32 players have been assigned groups, the draw becomes a little more random, with qualifiers and wild cards being assigned places in each group. 

There are 16 qualifiers in total, with 1 Lucky Loser from the event, who is essentially drawn at random from the losing finalists within the qualifying process. There are also a number of different groups of players that are able to win trophies, which include:

  • Men’s Singles
  • Women’s Singles
  • Men’s Doubles
  • Women’s Doubles
  • Mixed Doubles

For each of the events there will be a trophy awarded to the winner along with a cheque, granted to either the individual or the team in the case of doubles and mixed doubles. The prizemoney for the men’s and women’s singles is the same these days, with a €36mil kitty to be paid out overall, a record set in 2017 for the French Open. 

The Surface

Tennis Ball on Clay Court Surface

As the French Open is the only one of the majors that is played on clay, it is seen as something of a specialist surface. Although, there are much more regular tour events played on clay than say there is grass for example, so it’s not totally alien to most players.

What you will find is that the ball reacts different on clay than most other surfaces. It comes off the surface rather slowly, which means that it requires a particular set of skills to be successful on there. For example, grass is often thought of as being fairly quick and provides a lot of bounce, so players with big serves have often done well there. But, on clay the bounce is lower and the ball reacts slower off the clay, meaning that the serve is not as effective as it might be. 

With clay, players need to be both very fit and almost have a dogged approach to the game. Rafael Nadal is the epitome of this and this is the main reason why he is the most successful men’s player at the French Open. Compare this to someone like Pete Sampras, who won 7 Wimbledon championships, but never won a French Open. 

It’s also worth noting that as the clay actually marks where the ball lands, hawk eye isn’t actually used and instead they go off the umpire’s judgement. If a call is close, it’s not uncommon for the umpire to exit his chair and look closer at the court to see if a mark has been made. The pressure to utilise the technology is growing though, with many people arguing that they may as well use it if it’s there, so in years to come this might change. 

The Courts

The Rolland Garros estate covers over 21 acres and with it, 20 courts are available for use throughout the 2 weeks of the French Open. There are three main stadium courts though, that are Court Philippe Chatrier, Court Suzanne Lenglen and simply, Court 1. 

The main court is that of Court Philippe Chatrier, which was built in 1928 and was the first court within the establishment. It seats over 14,000 and creates one of the most intimidating atmospheres in tennis, mainly down to the fact that the seats are so close to the court. The court is named after the French Tennis Federations long-time President, who was also a pioneer in getting tennis back into the Olympics in 1988. 

Court Philippe Chatrier Paris

Court Suzanne Lenglen is slightly smaller in stature, holding just over 10,000 people and was built in 1994. The court is named after one of the most successful women’s tennis players of all time. Lenglen managed to win both The French Open and Wimbledon on 6 different times each, also winning two gold medals in Antwerp in 1920. 

Finally, court 1 has actually been about since 1980, but has undergone some extensive renovation work during that time to really make it one of the feature courts. It only holds 3,800 fans, but it’s another of their stadiums that are cauldron-like, with the feeling that the fans are almost sat on top of you when it’s full. It’s also seen as a bit of a seeded graveyard, with some huge upsets to have taken place there over the years. 

Prize Money

The prizemoney on offer at the 2017 French Open was that of €36million. It’s worth noting that in just two years from the 2015 tournament, this number has increased from €28million. The money is split equally between the men’s and the women’s game, working the same for doubles and mixed doubles. Depending on where you finish in an event will depend on the money that you get. Below is how the men’s and women’s singles and the doubles matches breakdown per tier within the French Open, which, of course, is calculated in Euros. For doubles and mixed doubles events, the money is given to the team and it can then be divided by however they wish.

Stage EliminatedMen's & Women's SinglesDoubles & Mixed Doubles
Round 1 €27,000 €9,000
Round 2 €50,000 €18,000
Round 3 €85,000 €33,000
Round 4 €145,000 -
Quarter-final €250,000 €61,000
Semi-final €450,500 €112,500
Runner-up €900,000 €250,000
Winner €1,800,000 €450,000

Statistics

Men's Singles Titles

The most successful player in the men’s game in the modern era of the French Open (from 1925 onward) is that of Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, winning the tournament on 10 different occasions from 2005 through his latest, 2017.

The youngest men's winners to date is Michael Chang, aged just 17 years and 3 months. Chang however would never go on to win another major title.

In the amateur era before that of 1968, the French absolutely dominated the event, with 37 wins. But, since the Open era started, they have only been able to win the tournament once, with that of Yannick Noah winning in 1983 against Swede, Mats Wilander. 

Within the open era, the Europeans have dominated the French Open though, with Spain leading the line on 16 wins, mainly down to Rafael Nadal’s 10 wins. The United States players have found clay notoriously difficult to adjust to and with it only 3 players have prospered on the surface, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. 

Graph of Men's French Open Winners by Country

Major Men's Clay Titles - Last 5 Seasons

The French Open tournament is by far the biggest the biggest clay court fixture in the season but the ATP 1000 events of the Monte-Carlo Masters, Madrid Open and the Italian Open give an indication of who is in form in the lead up to Roland Garros. Rafael Nadal has regularly been joined in the latter stages of these tournaments by Novkak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem in recent seasons.

TournamentYearWinnerRunner-upLosing Semi-finalists
French Open 2018 TBD TBD TBD
2017 Rafael Nadal Stan Wawrinka Thiem, Murray
2016 Novak Djokovic Andy Murray Thiem, Wawrinka
2015 Stan Wawrinka Novak Djokovic Tsonga, Murray
2014 Rafael Nadal Novak Djokovic Murray, Gulbis
Italian Open 2018 Rafael Nadal Alexander Zverev Djokovic, Cilic
2017 Alexander Zverev Novak Djokovic Isner, Thiem
2016 Andy Murray Novak Djokovic Pouille, Nishikori
2015 Novak Djokovic Roger Federer Ferrer, Wawrinka
2014 Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal Raonic, Dimitrov
Madrid Open 2018 Alexander Zverev Dominic Thiem Shapovalov, Anderson
2017 Rafael Nadal Dominic Thiem Djokovic, Cuevas
2016 Novak Djokovic Andy Murray Nishikori, Nadal
2015 Andy Murray Rafael Nadal Nishikori, Berdych
2014 Rafael Nadal Kei Nishikori Bautista Agut, Ferrer
Monte-Carlo Masters 2018 Rafael Nadal Kei Nishikori Dimitrov, Zverev
2017 Rafael Nadal Albert Ramos Vinolas Goffin, Pouille
2016 Rafael Nadal Gael Monfils Murray, Tsonga
2015 Novak Djokovic Tomas Berdych Nadal, Monfils
2014 Stan Wawrinka Roger Federer Ferrer, Djokovic

Women's Singles Titles

In the women's game, Chris Evert has been most the successful player at Roland Garros, with 7 wins to her name, spanning from 1974 through to 1986.

The youngest women’s winner is Monica Seles no less, winning at just 16 years and 6 months. Seles saw 2 more wins at the French with 9 major wins to her name in total when she finally retired in 2008.

Overall, the women’s side of this is actually almost the total opposite of the men's, with the United States winning more than 3 times more than any other nation, with 15 open wins. But, they also hold 14 wins from the pre-open era as well, so it’s a tournament where they have always seen success. The catalyst behind their dominance has come in the form of Chris Evert, Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova. 

Graph of Women's French Open Winners by Country

Major Women's Clay Titles - Last 5 Seasons

The Italian Open and Madrid Open also provide the key women's clay court tournaments as preparation for the French Open. In recent seasons Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Petra Kvitova have all been victorious in these events.

TournamentYearWinnerRunner-upLosing Semi-finalists
French Open 2018 TBD TBD TBD
2017 Jelena Ostapenko Simona Halep Bacsinszky, Pliskova
2016 Garbine Muguruza Serena Williams Stosur, Bertens
2015 Serena Williams Lucie Safarova Bacsinszky, Ivanovic
2014 Maria Sharapova Simona Halep Bouchard, Petkovic
Italian Open 2018 Elina Svitolina Simona Halep Kontaveit, Sharapova
2017 Elina Svitolina Simona Halep Muguruza, Bertens
2016 Serena Williams Madison Keys Begu, Muguruza
2015 Maria Sharapova Carla Suarez Navarro Gavrilova, Halep
2014 Serena Williams Sara Errani Ivanovic, Jankovic
Madrid Open 2018 Petra Kvitova Kiki Bertens Pliskova, Garcia
2017 Simona Halep Kristina Mladenovic Sevastova, Kuznetsova
2016 Simona Halep Dominika Cibulkova Chirico, Stosur
2015 Petra Kvitova Svetlana Kuznetsova Williams, Sharapova
2014 Maria Sharapova Simona Halep Radwanska, Kvitova

History

The first opening of the French Open as we know it today came about in 1891 and was called the Championnat de France, which translates to the French championships in English. The first tournament was actually only open to player who were members at French tennis clubs, which in those days was an exclusive shop. The games were played as amateurs and with it a local man from Pairs, named H. Briggs won it, although it later turned out that he wasn’t actually from Briton, but had resided in Paris for several years. 

A number of venues were sued in opening 30 or so years, which included Ile de Puteaux, The Racing Club de France, Societe Atheltique de la Villa Primrose in Bordeaux and Tennis Club de Paris. All but one of the events were held on clay, with the other being held on sand, bedded in over rubble, which wasn’t ideal to say the least. 

It wasn’t until 1925 when the French Open was officially recognised as a major by the ILTF. It was at this point that the tournament was welcoming players from around the world, and not an exclusive shop within France. Over the next 3 yerars the tournament continued to jump around from different venues, before finally settling on Stade de Roland Garros in 1928, where the event has been held ever since. 

The tournament was one of the most iconic over the next 40 years or so, none more so than in 1968 where they were able to go ‘Open’ and allow both professional and amateur players to compete. It was within the first year and on the back of the success of the French Open that the likes of the Australian Open and the US Open followed suit, with Wimbledon retaining it’s more exclusive feel. 

Most Successful Open Era Women – Chris Evert and Steffi Graff

Born in 1954, Chris Evert will go down as one of the most successful players to have played the game of tennis. The American has been able to rack up a massive 18 major titles in her years, with the French Open proving to be her most successful. 

Evert has won the French Open on 7 different occasions, more than any other women. The only women to have got close to her recorded is that of Steffi Graf, who has won a respectable 6 French Opens. 

The pair actually tie in nicely with each other as Evert’s last win was in 1986, with Graf’s first win coming just 12 months later in 1987. Unfortunately, we never got to see these two greats battle it out in the final of the French Open, but after Graff’s victory in 1987, it certainly felt like a changing of the guard, with Evert’s domination slowly coming to an end at Roland Garros. 

Graff went on to win 6 French Open titles and 22 majors in total over her illustrious career. 

Most Successful Open Era Men – Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal

There are two men that stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to the French Open and that’s Bjorn Borg and Rafael Nadal. Between them that have been able to win 16 French titles and is a huge reason as to why the pair will go down as two of the true all-time greats within tennis.

The players played in two different generations though, but remarkably had very similar skill sets. Both were powerful players, but they were dogged and never gave up, two traits that are so vital to clay court tennis. They may not have been the prettiest on tour, but they knew how to win, something that can’t be taught and is just instinctive.

Borg won his first title in 1974, beating Spaniard, Manuel Orantes in 5 sets, after being 2-0 down. This proved to be the start of something special for Borg as he went on to win 6 of the next 8 French Opens. Some of his most memorable matches were that of his opening win, but also the marathon against Ivan Lendl in 1981, eventually winning in 5 sets a game that is dubbed to have been one of the best of all time. The 1981 victory over Lendl would also prove to be Borg’s last at the tournament. 

Rafael Nadal grew on the clay courts in Spain, so his first win coming in 2005 wasn’t all that surprising against Mariano Puerta. It signified the start of something very special and a feat that has never been bettered, going on to win 10 French Open titles, and as we write, thee is likely more to come. 

Nadal went on to win 4 in a row at the French and was starting to be dubbed as the ‘King of Clay’. But, in 2009 he lost a shock 4thtie to Swede Robin Soderling, allowing long-time rival Roger Federer to win his one and only French Open title. The following year Nadal took clay court tennis to the next level, going to win 5 French Opens in a row, a record for most consecutive wins in the French Open. 

But, plagued with injury, Nadal was dumped out of the 2015 Open in the Quarterfinals and then withdrew with an injury in the 3rdRound in 2016. He came back in 2017 with a bang, and with almost no form leading up to the tournament, went on to win his 10th title and possibly his greatest achievement in his career, given the sheer volume of injuries he’d had and the time out the game that he had missed.

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