The build up to this year’s clay Grand Slam has seen more than its fair share of on-and-off-court dramas. The most talked about being; Kyrgios’ Rome default and prompt French Open withdrawal, Katie Boulter’s prize money, everything ‘G.E.M.S. Life’, and Roger Federer actually turning up. Maybe this is why Benoit Paire is just concentrating on playing tennis, and very good tennis at that – far too crowded a stage to find that spotlight right now.
We’re going to forget all the noise for a minute and dive into the draws.
Firstly, perennial strong favourite and 11-time champion, Rafael Nadal has been blessed. Qualifiers in rounds 1 and 2 followed by a likely, not too scary, encounter with Goffin in round 3 is frankly dreamy. Basilashvilli, if his full-throttle mode doesn’t misfire, presents some danger in that section but then again, their 5 sets played on clay read 6-0 6-1 6-0 6-1 6-0…
Non-Nadal chances admittedly feel nothing superior to a punt, but we think Dominic Thiem should progress through his quarter for a likely semi-final showdown versus Novak Djokovic – in this scenario it feels harder to pick a winner than the odds suggest. Anyone who watched Dom’s win over Rafa in Barcelona, another long-term Nadal stronghold, will agree that level could be a winning one if it’s down to these two come final Sunday.
Worth also highlighting are some who’ve made great strides over the last 12 months – particularly in regard to clay court tennis. The likes of Tsitsipas, Berrettini, Garin, Jarry and Auger-Aliassime have all posted impressive recent results. Tsitsipas is clearly the most accomplished and consistent, reflected in his current no.6 ranking, but we’re watching out for a run or three to come from this bunch.
Whilst it’s hard to imagine more than 3 or 4 players having a genuine shot at the men’s championships, there’s a hoard in the women’s draw with realistic chances. Us Brits even have a hope in the form of previous-clay-no-chancer, Jo Konta. Impressive runs to the final in Rabat and Rome suggest this is the year JoKo breaks her RG duck. It’s also nice to see Serena Williams and Azarenka back in the mix – don’t rule either out. However, Pliskova working out how to move on the dirt, Bertens’ relentless improvement, and Halep now over her Slam hoodoo represent the main contenders.
With such an open field it’s no surprise that you don’t have to look far for some big early clashes. 2017 champion Ostapenko, albeit way off that kind of form, meets previously mentioned Azarenka in the 1st round with world no.1 megastar Naomi Osaka likely awaiting the victor. Venus Williams vs Svitolina is an even massive-er round 1 match-up and fresh (or not so) from winning the WTA Strasbourg title, Yastremska faces the experienced and silky-on-her-day Carla Suarez Navarro. We’d also like to extend a little ‘hard luck’ message to Ajla Tomljanovic who the RG draw has not been kind to – round 1 opponents from the last 3 years being Bertens, Svitolina and now tournament favourite Halep. Them’s the breaks.
Of course, pre-match and in-play odds will be available across a wide range of markets on JAbet.com throughout the tournament.