The French Open is one of the highlights of the tennis calendar. It makes up one of the four Grand Slams, the tennis majors, alongside the Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon. It’s a tournament that if won, can immortalise a player as one of the true greats of the game, such is its stature.
The tournament has been held at numerous venues in the early years, but since 1928 it has 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.
French Open Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Updated tips will be added shortly before the start date.
The crowning of the US Open champion usually means we are moving towards the end of the tennis season with the WTA and ATP Finals the last remaining major event on the calendar. Not in 2020 however. This strangest of years for sport sees the French Open follow hot on the heels of the US Open, with the world’s best players heading to Roland Garros in September for the first time in the tournament’s history.
It’s not just the date that is different for the 2020 French Open. A maximum of 5,000 fans, split around three different courts, will be allowed into the ground throughout the tournament then there’s the weather which is forecasted to be wetter than usual. Thankfully, the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier is now operational to help ensure the tournament finishes on time but who are the players to watch out for in the men’s draw?
Rafael Nadal - 10/11
When analysing the players in with a chance of winning the French Open you simply must start with Rafael Nadal. The number 13 may be unlucky for some but that is unlikely to prove to be the case for Nadal who won his 12th French Open title last year and is the odds-on favourite to add to that tally over the coming fortnight.
At the age of 34 Nadal and his legion of fans are starting to contemplate life without the Spaniard tearing around the clay courts. He has no plans for retirement just yet but is at the stage of his career where he has to carefully manage his workload so lockdown may just have come at the right time for him. A rare chance to take some time away from the tennis court should freshen Nadal up. By the same token, he doesn’t arrive in Paris completely cold as he played at the Rome Masters event last week.
The standard of competition that Nadal will have to face is as good as ever even if some big names are missing from the draw. That means he’ll be kept on his toes and cannot afford any sense of complacency but that has never been an issue for a player who maintains such high standards. As strange as things have been in the world of sport, expect a warm sense of normality at the end of the French Open and for Rafael Nadal to be celebrating on Court Philippe-Chatrier once again.
Dominic Thiem - 10/3
Dominic Thiem is joint second favourite for the French Open with Novak Djokovic. Of the two it is Thiem who has played the better tennis on the Roland Garros courts in the last couple of years. Indeed it was Thiem who won their epic semi final meeting last year courtesy of some world class clay court tennis.
That semi final triumph meant Thiem went into his final against Nadal full of confidence but with heavy legs. After putting up resistance early on and levelling the final at one set all, Nadal went on a rampage winning the next two sets for the loss of just two games.
Thiem’s two final losses to Nadal hurt but they gave him invaluable experience which he was able to draw on when coming back from two sets down to beat Alexander Zverev in the final of the US Open a couple of weeks ago. Winning that maiden Grand Slam title means that the Austrian can puff his chest out a little prouder. Could the extra confidence and one more year’s improvement see him finally get the better of Nadal at Roland Garros? Time will tell but Thiem is certainly the man most likely to stop the Spaniard.
Matteo Berrettini - 66/1
There are number of players capable of pulling off a surprise and making it further through the French Open than their odds suggest. Some will support Alexander Zverev (20/1) as he seeks an immediate bounce back from his US Open heartbreak and some will side with Stan Wawrinka (33/1), but a better option for a longshot from our point of view could be Matteo Berrettini at very nice odds of 66/1.
The Italian possesses one of the biggest forehands, if not the biggest, in tennis and has a very big serve too so has had some success on grass and other fast courts. The 24 year old has also played a huge amount of clay court tennis though and has a great knack of being able to utilise his power even with the slower pace of place on European red clay. After playing some quality tennis in Rome, Berrettini has what it takes to improve upon his best ever finish at Roland Garros (he reached the round of 32 in 2018) and could just take some big scalps.
The 2020 US Open was a strange experience for all involved with the lack of fans inside the bio-secure setting of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre. The early stages of the women’s singles felt strange for tennis fans as well due to the absence of so many of the top players due to health and safety concerns. Despite an unusual look to the top of the draw, all but two of the 32 seeds made it through their first round match. Normality was soon restored in this most open of sporting divisions though with a number of the higher ranked players falling in rounds two and three. That’s a pattern we expect to see again in the 2020 French Open.
Seeing the best players in the world competing on the red clay courts of Roland Garros in September in front of just 5,000 fans will give this French Open a strange feel all of its own. Once the balls start flying and the big names start tumbling all the outside noise will quickly be silenced though and tennis fans can start concentrating on enjoying the action in front of them. Once again some of the game’s top stars will be absent but thankfully this Slam has been far less affected than the US. But just which of the brilliant players are most likely to go all the way in Paris?
Simona Halep - 7/2
Simona Halep took the decision not to travel to America for the US Open. Happily, she returned to action when the WTA Tour headed back to Europe with last week’s event in Rome. As with all of the big name players competing in the Italian capital, Halep wanted to be tested so that she could get an idea of where her game is at. She got just such a test in her first match against Jasmine Paolini, who made the 2018 French Open champion work much harder than the odds for the match suggested she would.
As frustrated as Halep looked at times in Rome, she will arrive in Paris in much better shape for being pushed than if she had an easy run. A bit of a struggle is also good for her mentality. Halep has a very different on court demeanour than earlier in her career. Thanks to some good work with her coach, Darren Cahill, Halep no longer suffers from the destructive outbursts that used to hold her back but equally she has lost none of her competitive spirit. Combine that will to win with her technical brilliance and it is no surprise that Halep has made it right to the top of the sport.
Roland Garros holds a special place in Halep’s heart as it was the site of her first Grand Slam success. Her record in the tournament is a big reason why the Romanian is the bookies’ favourite over the next fortnight. You’d have to say that's a position Halep deserves as she bids for a second title and fourth final in this event.
Kiki Bertens - 10/1
Kiki Bertens hasn’t quite hit the same heights as Halep in her career so far. The 28-year-old has made it as high as fourth in the world rankings but she has long been one of the best proponents of clay court tennis in the world. Could this be the year that she makes her major breakthrough?
Bertens’ best performance in any Grand Slam came in 2016 when she reached the semi finals of the French Open. It has been more of a struggle since as she has failed to make it past the third round but she arguably arrives in Paris better equipped to make a run right through the draw than at any point in her career. Circumstances have helped with some big names such as defending champion, Ashleigh Barty, not able to travel to Europe to compete and Bertens is ready to take advantage.
The best price available about Bertens’ chances is 10/1. That looks more than fair about a woman who moves incredibly well on clay, has an excellent ability to get out of trouble with some brilliant defensive tennis and changes things up very well to keep her opponents guessing. Keep your eye on Bertens at Roland Garros.
Petra Kvitova - 20/1
Petra Kvitova is best known to British sport fans for her two wins at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014. The big hitting, 6ft Czech star has an excellent game for the fast surfaces at the All England Club but is much more than just a grass court specialist. She has indeed won on this surface a number of times during her career and might just be able to land the biggest clay title of them all this week against a slightly diminished field.
Kvitova is ranked as one of the best clay court players in women’s tennis which makes her very well priced for French Open glory at huge odds of 20/1. That could certainly be worth a small play given she is a double Grand Slam winner and has a previous best of a semi in this
Kvitova heads to Paris on the back of a decent performance in the US Open. She came through the first three rounds without losing as much as a set, before losing in a tiebreak in the third set of her round of 16 match against Shelby Rogers
There are some areas of improvement from her showing in New York, most notably on her serve, but she has decided to take some time to work on them rather than competing in Rome. If that recent training on clay works, Kvitova will have every chance of coming through an open looking draw to perhaps go all the way.
French Open Recent Winners
|Year||Men's Winner||Men's Runner-Up||Women's Winner||Women's Runner-Up|
|2020||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||Iga Swiatek||Sofia Kenin|
|2019||Rafael Nadal||Dominic Thiem||Ashleigh Barty||Marketa Vondrousova|
|2018||Rafael Nadal||Dominic Thiem||Simona Halep||Sloane Stephens|
|2017||Rafael Nadal||Stan Wawrinka||Jelena Ostapenko||Simona Halep|
|2016||Novak Djokovic||Andy Murray||Garbine Muguruza||Serena Williams|
|2015||Stan Wawrinka||Novak Djokovic||Serena Williams||Lucie Safarova|
|2014||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||Maria Sharapova||Simona Halep|
|2013||Rafael Nadal||David Ferrer||Serena Williams||Maria Sharapova|
|2012||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||Maria Sharapova||Sara Errani|
|2011||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||Li Na||Francesca Schiavone|
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 €38 million kitty to be paid out overall, with the record set in 2019 where the prize fund topped €42 million.
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 2020 French Open was €38 million a reduction of around €4 million from 2019 which was over €42 million. It’s worth noting that in just five years from the 2015 tournament this has increased markedly 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. The change from 2019 is shown in brackets, with the early rounds showing an increase in prize money, with the latter rounds reduced. This was to aid the players most affected by the 2020 sporting closedown.
French Open Prize Money in 2020 (Change from 2019)
|Stage Eliminated||Singles||Doubles||Mixed Doubles|
|Qualifying Round 1||€10,000 (+€3,000)||–||–|
|Qualifying Round 2||€16,000 (+€3,750)||–||–|
|Qualifying Round 3||€25,600 (+€1,600)||–||–|
|Round 1||€60,000 (+€14,000)||€14,950 (+€3,450)||TBC|
|Round 2||€84,000 (-€3,000)||€23,920 (+€920)||TBC|
|Round 3||€126,000 (-€17,000)||€38,272 (-€4,228)||–|
|Round 4||€189,000 (-€54,000)||–||–|
|Quarter-final||€283,500 (-€131,500)||€65,062 (-€14,438)||TBC|
|Semi-final||€425,250 (-€164,750)||€110,606 (-€35,394)||TBC|
|Runner-up||€800,000 (-€380,000)||€188,030 (-€101,970)||TBC|
|Winner||€1,600,000 (-€700,000)||€319,652 (-€260,348)||TBC|
Men’s Singles Statistics
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.
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 13 occasions from 2005 through his latest, 2020.
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 19 wins, mainly down to Rafael Nadal’s 12 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 ATP Clay Titles: 2011 – 2020
|Italian Open||2020||Novak Djokovic||Diego Schwartzman||2-0|
|2019||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||2-1|
|2018||Rafael Nadal||Alexander Zverev||2-1|
|2017||Alexander Zverev||Novak Djokovic||2-0|
|2016||Andy Murray||Novak Djokovic||2-0|
|2015||Novak Djokovic||Roger Federer||2-0|
|2014||Novak Djokovic||Rafael Nadal||2-1|
|2013||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||2-0|
|2012||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||2-0|
|2011||Novak Djokovic||Rafael Nadal||2-0|
|2019||Novak Djokovic||Stefanos Tsitsipas||2-0|
|2018||Alexander Zverev||Dominic Thiem||2-0|
|2017||Rafael Nadal||Dominic Thiem||2-0|
|2016||Novak Djokovic||Andy Murray||2-0|
|2015||Andy Murray||Rafael Nadal||2-0|
|2014||Rafael Nadal||Kei Nishikori||2-1|
|2013||Rafael Nadal||Stan Wawrinka||2-0|
|2012||Roger Federer||Tomas Berdych||2-1|
|2011||Novak Djokovic||Rafael Nadal||2-0|
|2019||Fabio Fognini||Dusan Lajovic||2-0|
|2018||Rafael Nadal||Kei Nishikori||2-0|
|2017||Rafael Nadal||Albert Ramos Vinolas||2-0|
|2016||Rafael Nadal||Gael Monfils||2-0|
|2015||Novak Djokovic||Tomas Berdych||2-0|
|2014||Stan Wawarinka||Roger Federer||2-1|
|2013||Novak Djokovic||Rafael Nadal||2-0|
|2012||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||2-0|
|2011||Rafael Nadal||David Ferrer||2-0|
Women’s Singles Statistics
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 in the open era, with 15 titles. 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 catalysts 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 WTA Clay Titles: 2011 – 2020
|Italian Open||2020||Simona Halep||Karolina Pliskova||2-0|
|2019||Karolina Pliskova||Johanna Konta||2-0|
|2018||Elina Svitolina||Simona Halep||2-0|
|2017||Elina Svitolina||Simona Halep||2-1|
|2016||Serena Williams||Madison Keys||2-0|
|2015||Maria Sharapova||Carla Suarez Navarro||2-1|
|2014||Serena Williams||Sara Errani||2-0|
|2013||Serena Williams||Victoria Azarenka||2-0|
|2012||Maria Sharapova||Li Na||2-1|
|2011||Maria Sharapova||Samantha Stosur||2-0|
|2019||Kiki Bertens||Simona Halep||2-0|
|2018||Petra Kvitova||Kiki Bertens||2-1|
|2017||Simona Halep||Kristina Mladenovic||2-1|
|2016||Simona Halep||Dominika Cibulkova||2-0|
|2015||Petra Kvitova||Svetlana Kuznetsova||2-0|
|2014||Maria Sharapova||Simona Halep||2-1|
|2013||Serena Williams||Maria Sharapova||2-0|
|2012||Serena Williams||Victoria Azarenka||2-0|
|2011||Petra Kvitova||Victoria Azarenka||2-0|
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 18 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, winning a total of 13 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 in each of the next three seasons winning his 13th French Open title in 2020, without dropping a single set in the process.