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 Roland 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 2019
Novak Djokovic’s return from the depths of injury despair and possible retirement from tennis to the winner of the last three men’s Grand Slam trophies is nothing short of incredible. The 32-year-old believes there is plenty of fuel left in the tank and some believe that he’ll go on to break Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles. If he can upset the favourite here he will hold all four Slams once again (he won the same four in a row over the 2015 and 2016 seasons to complete the career Grand Slam)
It’s much less certain that he’ll be able to complete a clean sweep of the majors by winning the 2019 French Open. The bookies give the Serbian a decent enough chance, as he is second favourite, but it’s the man at the top of the betting, 11-time Roland Garros winner Rafael Nadal, who is getting the vast majority of support in the betting.
Of course, there will be no Andy Murray this year but Roger Federer is back after a three-year absence from the French Open. Federer is widely available at odds of 20/1, but 33/1 for those that shop around, but it is hard to see the Swiss ace being able to deliver on his least favourite surface at the age of 37.
Will this be the year one of the young guns finally ends the dominance of the old guard or will Rafa or Djokovic show they still have more majors in them? Here are our three betting suggestions for the brilliant tennis that lies ahead.
Rafael Nadal (11/10)
Tennis fans always keep a close eye on the early stages of the clay court season hoping to get pointers for the French Open. In truth, for the last 15 years they may as well have not bothered and simply put Nadal in their betting slips. There are some very big events held on clay on the ATP Tour which in theory should hold useful clues as to who will play well in Paris.
But time and time again, it is Nadal that dominates, both those warm-up events and, of course, at Roland Garros. This year things have been a little different though. The recent wins for Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem have certainly given those two reasons to believe they’ll be major players in the 2019 French Open but, some would argue it was the form of Rafael Nadal that was most intriguing.
The Spaniard is without any doubt at all the greatest clay court player in the history of tennis. He is, therefore, expected to win every tournament on clay that he enters, so it’s a shock when he falls short of those incredibly high expectations. That was the case in recent weeks with Nadal looking below his imperious best. However, he is an absolute master of peaking when it really matters and Nadal’s preparations were made complete with his win in the Italian Open.
Winning an event of that magnitude was important following his defeats in Barcelona and Madrid and beating Novak Djokovic 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in the Rome final was the icing on the cake. That Nadal was able to reassert his dominance on clay over his main rival was a huge boost and it is no surprise that he is the clearest of favourites for the 2019 French Open at a best price of 11/10 with bet365. Given his unbelievable record at the tournament that has to be viewed as value, with his current win percentage at the French standing at 97.7%!
Dominic Thiem (6/1)
The gulf between Nadal and the rest at Roland Garros is only truly seen in the final. Year after year, players who have romped through their half of the draw are given the billing as potential king slayers only to be taught a lesson by Nadal on the biggest stage.
Dominic Thiem became the latest man to suffer at the hands of Nadal in his absolute pomp during last year’s French Open final. The Austrian had no answers to Nadal’s brilliance and was comprehensively beaten 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Thiem returns to Paris a better, more confident player this time around though. Not only did he beat Nadal 6-4, 6-4 en route to winning the Barcelona Open but he claimed his first ATP Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells just a couple of months ago.
Nobody is going to beat Nadal’s record at Roland Garros but Thiem is the man who many believe will most benefit from the Spaniard’s eventual retirement. A French Open title is in his future and given a bit of luck he could well claim this year at odds of 6/1 with Ladbrokes. The experience of playing Rafa in the final last year will certainly help should the same thing happen again in 2019. Moreover, with that recent victory over the Mallorcan, and others before it, he knows he can beat Nadal. The question is, can he do it when it counts the most?
Stefanos Tsitsipas (20/1)
If Nadal is the worthy favourite for the French Open then it makes sense to support the two men who have beaten him on clay recently. Like Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas took an aggressive approach to his meeting with Nadal in the semi final of the recent Madrid Open. He came out swinging from the start and actually managed to make Nadal look a little slow in patches. He was beaten in the final by Djokovic but Tsitsipas has taken nothing but confidence from his performances of late.
The 20-year-old has a long way to come and yet he is already being spoken of as potential tennis star of the future much like Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev. He has played very well on all different surfaces but excels on the clay and with the same sort of fearless attitude he’s employed lately is a tempting outsider for Roland Garros at 20/1 with Betfair.
Women’s Singles Betting Tips for 2019
It’s not that long since Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams had the French Open title sewn up between them. They won two Roland Garros titles apiece between 2012 and 2015 but neither has won since and the French Open has been won by three different women. Like the men’s game, the women’s is going through a big change right now and it will be interesting to see if we will have new dominant powers establishing themselves over the next year or so.
Defending champion, Simona Halep, is the latest women to try and successfully defend at Roland Garros and one of the contenders to win multiple Slams in the years ahead. The Romanian is the bookies’ favourite and has every chance but she’ll have to come through tough test after tough test, so where does the value lie in Paris?
Halep is a warm favourite and rightly so in our eyes, but Kiki Bertens will have backers at 9/1 (bet365). Those two are the only players priced at single-digit odds, with Naomi Osaka one of a number of women priced at odds of between 14/1 and 25/1 who have a real chance. This really is a wide open tournament if you don’t fancy Halep but here are the three players we feel offer the most value in Paris.
Simona Halep (9/2)
Simona Halep is a great example of the importance of the mental side of tennis. The Romanian has possessed the technical ability to be the best player in the women’s game for some years now but problems with her approach to the game and a destructive habit of blowing up on the court held her back from reaching the heights she was capable of.
Just as ironing out technical flaws in a backhand takes time, it took time for Halep to iron out the flaws with her mental approach but the hard work proved to be worth it when she claimed her maiden Grand Slam title at last year’s French Open.
Halep certainly had to dig deep into her new found mental strength in the final as she fought her way back from a set and a break down to get her hands on the Suzanne Lenglen trophy. Results since paint the picture of a player at the top of her game but who is competing in a time when the strength in depth of women’s tennis is arguably better than ever. Halep needs her very best tennis to win every single tournament in which she competes and she’s fallen just short of that in 2019, despite playing far from badly much of the time.
Romanian tennis fans were delighted with Halep’s run through to the final of the Madrid Open, even if she was unable to get the better of Kiki Bertens in the final. Halep herself admitted that Bertens simply played better tennis that day but her experience on the biggest stage should give Halep the edge should the two meet again at Roland Garros. Indeed, Halep’s confidence upon her return to Paris may give her the edge she needs to get over the line once again and justify her place at the head of the betting at fair looking odds of 9/2 with Coral.
Karolina Pliskova (14/1)
The Italian Open is one of the biggest build up tournaments ahead of the French Open and many of the leading contenders from Rome have gone on to win at Roland Garros. In the men’s singles, Rafael Nadal has a great chance of showing the value of Italian Open form and Karolina Pliskova is hoping to do likewise in the women’s singles.
Pliskova’s win in Rome came at the cost of Britain’s Johanna Konta. The Czech star landed her second WTA tournament win since succeeding in Brisbane ahead of the Australian Open where she made it to the semi final. The final four is the furthest she’s made it at Roland Garros but the strength of her game at the moment suggests that Pliskova could go even further this time around, very possibly all the way. The best price you can get on Karolina Pliskova winning the 2019 French Open is the 14/1 that bet365 are quoting which looks more than fair. Again, an each way punt (to make the final) is worth considering and pays out at half the odds.
Angelique Kerber (25/1)
Angelique Kerber could give Halep some great insight about how tough it is to turn some excellent results into dominance. Kerber was on top of the world in 2017 but things just fell apart for one reason or another the following year. Thankfully, the popular German sorted things out and her return to the top echelons of tennis was confirmed in 2018 with her win at Wimbledon. She is another who will look to add more majors to her locker but this is certainly the one she will find hardest.
Kerber now has a chance to complete the career Grand Slam this week. The French Open is the only of tennis’ four premier events which Kerber is yet to get her hands on. The quarter final is the furthest that she’s made it in Paris but there are reasons to believe that she could go all the way in the coming fortnight.
Illness and injury problems have affected her in recent months and she was forced to withdraw in Madrid with an ankle problem but by all accounts she is fully fit and could potentially be fresher than many of her leading contenders for the Roland Garros title. She has a highly experienced team on her side who will ensure her game is razor sharp. From there, it’s all down to Kerber utilising her experience to make a push for the title at 25/1 with Coral. Those are huge odds and are sure to tempt some into an each way bet.
About the French Open at Roland Garros
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.
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 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 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.
The prizemoney on offer at the 2019 French Open was over €42 million. It’s worth noting that in just four years from the 2015 tournament this has increased from €28 million. 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, doubles and mixed doubles prize money breakdown per round of the French Open, calculated in Euros. For doubles and mixed doubles events, the money is given to the pair of players and it can then be divided however they wish.
French Open Prize Money in 2019
|Stage Eliminated||Singles||Doubles||Mixed Doubles|
|Round of 16||€243,000||–||–|
As the French Open is played on clay courts, there will be players whose style of play suits the surface. Below we look at some of the records at the French Open as well as those who have won major clay titles in recent years.
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.
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.
Major Men’s Clay Titles – Last 5 Seasons
|French Open||2019||To be played 26th May – 9th June|
|2018||Rafael Nadal||Dominic Thiem||del Potro, Cecchinato|
|2017||Rafael Nadal||Stan Wawrinka||Thiem, Murray|
|2016||Novak Djokovic||Andy Murray||Thiem, Wawrinka|
|2015||Stan Wawrinka||Novak Djokovic||Tsonga, Murray|
|Italian Open||2019||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||Tsitsipas, Schwartzman|
|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|
|Madrid Open||2019||Novak Djokovic||Stefanos Tsitsipas||Theim, Nadal|
|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|
|Monte-Carlo Masters||2019||Fabio Fognini||Dusan Lajovic||Nadal, Medvedev|
|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|
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.
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.
Major Women’s Clay Titles – Last 5 Seasons
|French Open||2019||To be played 26th May to 9th June|
|2018||Simona Halep||Sloane Stephens||Muguruza, Keys|
|2017||Jelena Ostapenko||Simona Halep||Bacsinszky, Pliskova|
|2016||Garbine Muguruza||Serena Williams||Stosur, Bertens|
|2015||Serena Williams||Lucie Safarova||Bacsinszky, Ivanovic|
|Italian Open||2019||Karolina Pliskova||Johanna Konta||Sakkari, Bertens|
|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|
|Madrid Open||2019||Kiki Bertens||Simona Halep||Stephens, Bencic|
|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|
History of the French Open
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 17 French Open titles and is a huge reason as to why the pair will go down as two of the true all-time greats.
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 11 French Open titles, and as we write, there 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 4th round tie 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, winning 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 quarter-finals and then withdrew with an injury in the 3rd round 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. Nadal followed this the next season winning his 11th French Open title in 2018, dropping just one set in the process.