Tennis best bets for the French Open - Friday, June 9th
The French Open is the second major of the tennis season, and it's the only one that is played on clay. This year's tournament feels a bit different without 14-time champion Rafael Nadal, but the action has been tremendous from both the men and the women. There's nothing quite like clay-court tennis, and we'll be here with daily best bets the rest of the way. That includes a pick for the massive Roland Garros matchup between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz. With that said, keep reading for our pick for this semi-final showdown.
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Novak Djokovic vs. Carlos Alcaraz (Scheduled: 9:00 a.m. ET)
This is one of the most highly anticipated matches in the history of tennis, as these are the two best players in the world and we haven’t seen them play in a year. Alcaraz won when these two clashed in Madrid in 2022, as the Spaniard prevailed with a 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5) victory. But that match doesn’t tell us as much as it should. Djokovic wasn't in form heading into that matchup, and the 2022 version of Alcaraz was nowhere near as good as the 2023 version. With that in mind, recent form and surface fit are the most important factors heading into this year’s showdown. And both of those things significantly favor the 20-year-old.
Nobody on the planet has played better tennis than Alcaraz in 2023, as he enters this match with a 35-4 record on the season. Alcaraz has also won four titles already this season, with all of them being relevant to clay. Three of those events were legitimate clay-court events, with one of them being the Masters 1000 tournament in Madrid. Alcaraz also happened to win a Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells, which is a hard-court tournament that plays a lot like clay. Meanwhile, Djokovic won the Australian Open earlier in the year, giving him 22 Grand Slam titles for his career. But Djokovic hasn’t had much success on clay this year, and he even lost in the quarterfinals in Rome. That’s a tournament he normally plays very well at.
With Alcaraz having had more clay-court success than Djokovic coming into this match, it’s hard not to like the 20-year-old. And this specific clay should favor the Spaniard even more. The show courts at Roland Garros have been playing extremely slow throughout this tournament, which means balls are bouncing high and slowing down. That means it takes a lot of power to hit shots by your opponent. Alcaraz arguably has more power than anybody on tour, so he should be able to pound the ball consistently here. But Djokovic is getting older and has issues with his elbow. So, it takes a lot for him to hit hard as often as he wants. And even when he does, Alcaraz is going to track down a lot of his shots. He’s the fastest player in the world and it’s nearly impossible to get balls by him.
The only thing that can really prevent Alcaraz from winning this match easily is nerves. While Alcaraz won the 2022 US Open, he didn’t go through any members of the Big Three there. So, seeing a legend like Djokovic on the other side of the net could rattle him a little. On top of that, we know Djokovic is going to raise his game here, as that’s what champions do in big matches. But on clay, I don’t see Djokovic coming up with the goods often enough to keep this match tight. It’d be one thing if the Serbian’s serve was in a great place right now, but he has been letting opponents get deep into his service games. That won’t fly against the best returner in the sport.
Even if Alcaraz wins this match, it doesn’t exactly put a stamp on this head-to-head rivalry. This is just a much better stylistic fit for the youngster, but Djokovic will be the favorite to win Wimbledon. So, don’t feel like backing Alcaraz here is some type of statement on the current state of men’s tennis. You’re simply backing the best clay-court player in the world against a guy who probably plays his worst tennis on this surface. And you’re doing it with a relatively small game spread.
Bet: Alcaraz -3.5 Games (-120)