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Dominant on Paris Clay, Nadal Seeks Another French Kiss

By Lew Ford  () 

Could this be the year the lights finally go down on Rafael Nadal’s French Open dominance?

Paris is called the City of Light and Nadal has ruled the red clay of Roland Garros like no other player in the history of tennis. Nadal, who has won the French Open 11 times in the past 14 years, is the 110 favorite at some offshore books and even money at the Westgate SuperBook.

It’s tough to bet against Rafa, but injuries and age might finally be catching up to the 17-time major champion. It has been a struggle so far in 2019, with some minor injuries and surprising losses. But Nadal, who turns 33 on June 3, was up to his old tricks last week while cruising to the title in Rome and beating Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic on the way. Since 2004, men’s tennis has been dominated by the Big Four of Roger Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray. Only four other players have won a major title during that stretch.

The ATP tour is definitely top heavy with veterans as seven of the top 11 ranked players are 31 or older. Djokovic won the Australian Open, Nadal is favored at the French and Federer will be favored at Wimbledon, but someone in this younger generation of players will have a chance to break through this season. The big question over the next two weeks is can one of the young players or savvy veterans beat the greatest clay court player of all time and end the dominance of Nadal? Here’s a look at the field (odds from the SuperBook):

TOP PICKS

Dominic Thiem (11/2)

The 25-year-old Austrian could emerge to win his first major. Of the young contenders, he displays the mental toughness and calm demeanor needed to win. Thiem has beaten each of the Big Four the last time he played them, including Nadal and Federer in 2019.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (16/1)

Experience is his biggest weakness, but the 20-yearold looks ready for the big stage. He has the allaround game and athleticism to win on clay. He beat Nadal on clay in Madrid and has the most wins and titles this season. His odds are as high as 20/1.

CONTENDERS

Roger Federer (20/1)

The greatest player of all time is probably getting his longest odds ever for a major. Clay is not his favorite surface and he has only one French Open title (2009). Federer looks healthy and motivated to make one more big push in Paris. Age, injury and Nadal will be his biggest obstacles

Alexander Zverev (25/1)

Zverev is a threat to win any event on any surface, but the fifth-ranked player in the world has not won in 2019. He has all the physical tools to win a major, but he needs to prove he has the mental toughness.

LONG SHOTS

Fabio Fognini (40/1)

The Italian loves the clay and looks undervalued at this price. He recorded a win over Nadal on the way to his biggest career title at the ATP 1000 Master event on clay in Monte Carlo.

Stan Wawrinka (40/1)

The only player to win multiple majors (three) in the Big Four era, Wawrinka was in the mix as the best player in the world from 2014 to 2016. Injuries have derailed him the past few years, but he won this event in 2014 and should be ready to compete for another title. His odds can be found as high as 65/1.

WOMEN’S FORECAST

The women’s half of the draw should be wide open and a lot of fun to watch. It looks like the talented generation of players 22 years and younger are ready to step up and shine under the lights of Paris. Simona Halep is the defending champion and 4/1 betting favorite. Winning the French Open was a career-defining moment for Halep, who has not won in 2019. She will have to deal with all of the distractions that go with being the defending champ, but clay is her best surface and she has confidence from winning last year.

World No. 1 Naomi Osaka (10/1) won her second consecutive major at age 21 to start the year in Australia. She has struggled with the attention of being No. 1, though, changing coaches and battling inconsistency while yet to prove she can win on clay. This year on the WTA there have been only three players (Kiki Bertens, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova) to win multiple tournaments. Most of the other events produced first-time winners and many of them were under age 22. The biggest win was Bianca Andreescu (18) at Indian Wells, but she has not played since pulling out with an injury in Miami.

TOP PICKS

Kiki Bertens (8/1)

Bertens always has been a solid player, but in the past year and a half she has taken the next step to become one of the top players on tour. The veteran has won five tournaments since the start of 2018, including a win in Madrid and a finals spot in Rome the past two weeks. Clay is her best surface and she looks ready to win a major.

Petra Kvitova (12/1)

Kvitova has been the most consistent player on tour this season with two wins and four finals. The left-hander with a big serve is a very tough matchup and has had a great clay court season so far with a win in Stuttgart. Clay is not her best surface, but her power game and experience should make her a tough out.

CONTENDERS

Karolina Pliskova (14/1)

Coming into Paris off a huge win last week in Rome gives her two wins and tons of momentum. She is still looking for that elusive first major and you wouldn’t think her power game would be suited to clay, but Roland Garros can produce  surprising results and, when the dust settles, Pliskova could be holding the trophy.

Ashleigh Barty (20/1)

Barty won in Miami and has been in the quarters or better in almost every event she has played this season. The Australian has taken the tour by storm in 2019 after a slow start to her career. She is probably the most athletic player on the WTA circuit and should be dangerous on the red clay.

LONG SHOTS

Marketa Vondrousova (40/1)

This has been a breakout year for the 19-year-old as she has been to two finals, on both hard court and clay. She has the talent and all-around game to win, but just needs to put it together mentally to get that first win. She has two wins over Halep in 2019, including last week on the red clay in Rome.

Dayana Yastremska (80/1)

The athletic 18-year-old looks primed to make a deep run in a major. She has a power game and aggressive style, but needs be more consistent and mentally tougher in the big moments to compete in Paris.

AMERICANS

American men and women who could do some damage: Amanda Anisimova, Sofia Kenin, Danielle Collins, Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka and Frances Tiafoe.

Follow @sweetlew23 on Twitter for daily best bets on the French Open.

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