French Open Women's Singles Pre-Draw Preview: Muguruza and Ostapenko two to swerve

American Tennis Player Serena Williams
Time will tell if attending the Royal Wedding is ideal French Open preparation for Serena Williams...
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With 15 players priced at 50/1 or below, the women's French Open should be a very competitive event. Our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, returns with an early look at the betting ahead of Thursday's draw.

"It is impossible to give a prediction on the level of Victoria Azarenka (who was never particularly adept on clay prior to her absence from the tour) or Serena Williams. I suspect attending the Royal Wedding last Saturday, as opposed to competing in Rome, may not be ideal preparation for the younger Williams sister."

Best of three set format yields more surprise winners

As with the top men's players, the main contenders in the women's event have done their competitive preparation for the event, with the vast majority of the players at the forefront of the betting having a rest week prior to starting at Roland Garros on Sunday.

While this comparison between the men's and women's event is the same, what isn't quite the same is the dominance of the elite players in the women's game. The best of three set format will yield more surprise results than best of five sets in the men's event, which enables the better players to come through more often, and this is reflected in the variety of players who have won the event.

In the last decade, only Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, who split four titles between 2012 and 2015, have been able to win the event more than once, and in total, 13 different players have reached the final in this time period. With this in mind, there certainly looks like being more scope to picking a long-shot winner in the outright market, compared to the men's event.

Medium-paced conditions likely at Roland Garros

As I mentioned in the men's preview, court conditions are likely to be medium-paced for clay, with service points won percentages and aces per game percentages virtually identical to the WTA clay mean figures over the last three years, so I don't anticipate either big-servers or return-orientated players thriving more than the other in these conditions.

Uneasy favourite Halep leading the outright market

Simona Halep is the current market favourite, at [7.0], leading the way from Elina Svitolina, at [8.6], and these two players are the only ones in single-digit pricing, with Maria Sharapova, Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza, Serena Williams, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova all priced between [10.0] and [20.0].

Kvitova, Halep, Svitolina and Bertens with data ahead of the rest

In advance of this preview, I assessed around 50 contenders, and looked at their data from both 2018 in isolation, and across the last 18 months (last clay season and this), and this data was very revealing. Looking specifically at players who could boast combined service/return points won percentages in excess of 105% for both this year and in the last 18 months, enabled me to draw up a shortlist of main contenders.

These filtered players were Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Kiki Bertens - three players at the forefront of the market, and the market gamble in Bertens, who has been very impressive again on clay this season.

Mertens and Giorgi long-shots who have had good clay season

Other players who have had a good clay season (greater than 105%) this year also included Elise Mertens, Karolina Pliskova and Camila Giorgi, and with both Mertens [48.0] and Giorgi [300.0] further down the list of contenders, there could be some decent outsider value, assuming they receive a kind draw on Thursday. Some other lower-profile players who may provide some value, but are a little further down on my data, include Irina Begu, Anastasija Sevastova, Anett Kontaveit, Marketa Vondrousova and Petra Martic.

Ostapenko and Muguruza out of touch this year on clay

Conversely, some players who are nearer the top of the market include defending champion Jelena Ostapenko and Garbine Muguruza, whose clay data is unimpressive this season, while it is impossible to give a prediction on the level of Victoria Azarenka (who was never particularly adept on clay prior to her absence from the tour) or Serena Williams. I suspect attending the Royal Wedding last Saturday, as opposed to competing in Rome, may not be ideal preparation for the younger Williams sister.

I'll be back on Friday to go through the draw and to finalise my outright recommendations, and daily previews for both the men's and women's event will commence on Sunday.

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Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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