20 matches on fragmented day one
Evans to get Brits off to strong start
Improving O'Connell to see off Daniel
Tsitipas and Rublev headline day one
As usual, there's a fragmented start to proceedings at the French Open which is the only Slam not to split the draw into every other day from the start. I'm sure there's some logic somewhere with regards to the Sunday start, but it beats me.
Big names in action include Stefanos Tsitsipas, who faces Jiri Vesely, plus Andrey Rublev who meets the clay-courter from Serbia, Laslo Djere. Otherwise, today's matches are largely quite lower-profile, or feature players who are on the wane, such as John Isner and David Goffin.
Isner faces the young Portuguese clay-courter, Nuno Borges, having not played for the best part of two months and has lost his last five since reaching the Dallas final early in February. An Isner win would be fascinating given that it goes some way to set up a potential third-round clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas, which would be serve dominated, and therefore high variance for the Greek man.
Kokkinakis with mediocre track record on clay
Moving on, there's an interesting clash between Dan Evans and Thanasi Kokkinakis on the opening day. The Brit, Evans, isn't necessarily the most natural on clay but impressed in Barcelona with three underdog victories to reach the semi-final, and also reached the semi-final in Marrakech in April as well.
Evans is a marginal favourite at 1.8910/11 to get past the Australian wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis, who is still ranked outside the top 100 and so needed that wild card to gain access to the main draw. Kokkinakis hasn't impressed on clay this year, only beating weak opposition, and Evans' clay data is far superior over the last year or so, particularly so on return where he's won 6% more return points than the Australian.
Kokkinakis has seen his career disrupted by injury but has only won five main tour matches in his entire career on clay, with woeful return data being the root cause, so for me, it's Evans who represents the better option at market prices.
O'Connell should have too much for Daniel
Finally, I've been relatively impressed by Chris O'Connell on clay this year, having picked up a few decent wins as underdog including one at around 6.05/1 against Alexander Zverev in Munich. O'Connell wasn't far off beating Grigor Dimitrov in Geneva last week in the quarter-finals, and faces Taro Daniel in round one.
O'Connell starts as the 1.625/8 favourite for this, which I'm a little surprised about. Daniel has lost three of his last four, and also lost to Daniel Rincon, who is ranked even below most Challenger players, in Madrid qualifiers. Not only this, but O'Connell has far better numbers on serve over the last couple of years on clay, with pretty similar data on return. I think the Australian should be a little shorter-priced here as favourite.