Yes, it's the second major tennis event of the year starting on Sunday but as I now say before every Grand Slam, it doesn't really mean anything to me. I traditionally do very poorly in the slams because I've always placed too much emphasis on them and thus, expected to gain far too much from them. This has lead me to attack them like a 'bull in a china shop', as I desperately try to take advantage of all the top quality matches that are on at once. Always, this has resulted in disaster. But this year I have a new attitude because I realise that there's no reason for me to treat the majors any differently to a standard week. Still, it's always an exciting tournament and with ITV surprisingly covering the event this year, it is likely to draw even more interest from people who wouldn't normally bet on tennis and that means more people who don't really know what they are doing - so certainly more opportunities to find value.
I think it's almost a foregone conclusion as to who will win both the men and women's event. We all know it'll be one of the big 4 of the ATP circuit and to be honest, if the winner is anyone other than Nadal or Djokovic, I will parade the streets buck naked but for a Chelsea top with 'John Terry is my Hero' on the back. I'm hardly sticking my neck out but I am going for Novak. Partly because it's the only slam he hasn't won, so he'll be going all out for this one in particular. But also because I watched the Rome final against Rafa and still cannot work out how he managed not to win. He dominated for the vast majority of the match but made schoolboy errors on key points, which cost him. It was an off day but he looked to have Nadal in his pocket almost at will and I'm pretty positive that he won't mess up a third time. I say 'third' because Rafa also beat him in the Monte Carlo final but I am disregarding that match as it was the same week that Novak's grandfather died and he was quite clearly distraught with grief and didn't appear up for it at all. My only worry is that he may still be mentally affected.
I don't think there is anyone in Nadal or Djokovic's quarter who could knock them out (Verdasco, Almagro and Tsonga over 3 sets, perhaps, but over 5 sets, I just don't see it) but Federer could face Berdych or Del Potro in the quarters and the Czech in particular is capable of troubling the Swiss. He would also have to beat Djokovic in the semi and then Nadal or Murray in the final - a highly unlikely string of events. Of course, he's already proven he can beat Djokovic at Roland Garros, as he knocked him out last year. But 2 weeks ago in Rome, Novak destroyed Roger in straight sets and I think we'd see a repeat performance.
Is Andy Murray REALLY at 50 to win? With Federer at 13 and Djokovic
at 3's, it does seem rather a large gap when clearly, there is not such a
large gap in talent. That said, he has a few potential banana-skins in his quarter of the draw and it wouldn't surprise me if he lost to Gasquet, Dolgopolov, Tomic, Ferrer or Isner! Him on a bad day and any of them on a good day and it's bye-bye miserable Scot! Ferrer aside, Murray's superior fitness normally tells over 5 sets against those players though.
In 2011, the women's final was wide open. I wrote on the blog that Kvitova, Zvonareva or Azarenka would be my picks, though acknowledged that any number of women also stood a chance. Not so in 2012. Quite simply, if Serena Williams plays anywhere near the level she's been playing recently, both in Charleston and in Rome, then she will be the French Open champion. She has gone up to a higher plain in recent months and it's a level that no one currently playing the game can reach. Henin or Clijsters at their best, yes, but neither is around now. Last year, Serena was just returning from the illness that threatened to end her life, so was never going to be ready for a run at a slam.
Li, Stosur, Azarenka, Kvitova and Sharapova all have a chance but only if Serena has an off day. Williams is on course to meet Sharapova in the quarters and either Li or Kvitova in the semis, so she hasn't got it easy by any stretch - a very tough bottom half of the draw. No one outside of the aforementioned (all of whom are playing reasonably well right now) will get a sniff, in my opinion. The top half of the draw is much weaker and Azarenka should meet Stosur in one quarter final. The other quarter of the top half is wide open, with Radwanska, Ivanovic, Venus Williams, Bartoli and Kerber all in with a shout of making the semis (I'm ruling out Goerges, Kuznetsova, Jankovic, Lisicki, Zvonareva and Wozniacki, as all of them are out of form, though as with Li last year, one of them might up her game enough to make the semi final).
Radwanska is a self-confessed hater of clay and her level has dropped slightly since the red-dirt season began. She's also in the Brussels final today, so it's asking a lot to go 3 straight weeks undefeated. Bartoli will fight till the cows come home especially in front of her home fans but she simply is not a good enough mover on this surface - lose some weight, you daft lass!! Venus is doing OK right now but her best days are long gone. Ivanovic is probably playing as well as she has done since she won Roland Garros a few years ago but she's not quite there yet - maybe in a year she'll have continued her upward progression enough to be a contender. If her serve is firing though, she could easily go right through to the semis. But I'd pick Kerber out of that lot and at 34.0, she's a decent dark horse for a trade, if you can get enough matched. She's improved more than any player over the past year and I can hardly believe I'm saying it but she has a real chance of making the French Open final!
I've gone for a Novak/Serena double, as single odds are of no great
value. And I've already put a cheeky few quid on Kerber and a rank outsider - Sorana Cirstea at 700. The young Romanian made her big entrance onto the scene when she reached the quarter finals in 2009. After a great season, she has since dropped outside the top 100 but this year, she's back in the top 50, which is undoubtedly where she belongs with her talent. More than capable of beating many of the top players on her day, she could be the one who knocks out a big gun and that price won't take long to fall and enable me to green up. Unfortunately, she'll have to do that in her very first match cos she's drawn Li Na in round 1 - just my luck! Ah well, might have a fiver on Mona Barthel, just for fun! Can't wait to see how she fares. Also look out for France's Caroline Garcia, the young girl who was a set and 4-1 up against Maria Sharapova last year, almost beat Jankovic this year and is a massive talent that no one will want to draw.
OFF-COURT BEAUTY World number 83, Alize Cornet of France: