French Open Picks: Day 1 (Includes Championship Futures)
by Ricky Dimon - 5/25/2013
The tennis season’s second Grand Slam gets underway on Sunday at Roland Garros. Ricky Dimon begins his daily previews with a look at opportunistic match-betting opportunities and his overall picks for the tournament. Doc’s Sports will release betting picks four or five days a week during the tournament.
All odds provided by Bovada Sportsbook
BLAZ KAVCIC (-165) VS. JAMES DUCKWORTH (+125)
This is a rematch of an epic Australian Open encounter from earlier this year, won by Kavcic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(3), 10-8 after four hours and 52 minutes of tennis in sweltering heat. Kavcic celebrated by getting taken immediately to the hospital, presumably for fluid replacement. The Slovenian has not done much since then, but he at least maintained a ranking that earned him direct entry into the French Open main draw. He has advanced at least one round in each of his six clay-court tournaments this spring (counting qualifiers and Challenger level events), including in Casablanca — where he extended world No. 11 Stanislas Wawrinka to three sets.
At No. 185 in the world, Duckworth had to qualify earlier in the week. He dropped only one set in three matches (to No. 19 seed Diego Sebastian Schwartzman). The 21-year-old Aussie won a Futures title and a Challenger title on clay earlier this spring, but he is big hitter who would rather play on a faster surface to keep points short. Kavcic, meanwhile, is a baseline grinder who will be content to stay out there all day long (as he showed in Australia). Although it was a thriller, Duckworth’s loss at home on a hard court to Kavcic does not bode well for his Paris chances.
JAN HAJEK (-180) VS. DENIS KUDLA (+140)
Kudla has a new lease on life after surviving one of his qualifying matches 15-13 in the third set against Peter Polansky. The 20-year-old American won a Challenger title on clay last month, and he registers one spot off his career-high ranking at No. 117 in the world.
Hajek has no business getting direct entry into main draws of Grand Slams, but he continues to do so by maintaining a ranking just barely inside the Top 100 (currently No. 95) thanks to racking up points in Challengers. At 29 years old, Hajek has only 30 career ATP-level match wins in his entire career. The veteran Czech has not won a main-draw match at a major since the 2010 Australian Open.
DANIEL MUNOZ-DE LA NAVA (-150) VS. SOMDEV DEVVARMAN (+115)
Both of these guys came through qualifying to earn their spots in the first round. Munoz-De La Nava lost his first set of the week then won six in a row for his three victories, including one over 14th-seeded Illya Marchenko. Devvarman got through two relatively competitive matches before hammering No. 8 seed Wayne Odesnik 6-3, 6-4.
Shoulder surgery sidelined Devvarman for almost the entirety of 2012, which is the only reason why he had to qualify. India’s best singles player had been as high as No. 62 in the world in 2011. He has 49 career ATP-level match wins compared to Munoz-De La Nava’s six. The 31-year-old Spaniard, whose career-high ranking is No. 123, is 0-2 lifetime in the main draw of Grand Slams. Clay will give Munoz-De La Nava a chance, but it likely won’t be enough.
VENUS WILLIAMS (-165) VS. URSZULA RADWANSKA (+125)
Unlike her sister, Venus is a shadow of her former self. Still, she registers at a decent ranking of No. 30 in the world, and she has won four of her six clay-court matches this spring. Venus reached the final last month in Charleston before getting blown out by Serena. While clay is Venus’ worst surface, she is a former French Open finalist, she reached the fourth round as recently as 2010, and she has not lost in the first round since 2001.
Similarly, Urszula is the weaker of two sisters (Agnieszka is the No. 4 player in the world). Urszula should be competitive on Sunday simply because she gets to play Venus on clay, but the underdog is no master on the slow stuff herself. She is 2-3 on clay this season and 1-4 lifetime at Roland Garros.
There are only two realistic options here: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. They landed on the same side of the draw, so the winner of their potential semifinal showdown will almost certainly take home the title two days later. While their head-to-head matchup would be close to even money, Djokovic has a much better chance of being upset prior to the semis. The top-ranked Serb has never won the French Open, and he needed two five-setters before reaching last year’s final. Nadal is a seven-time champion of this event, and he boasts a 52-1 lifetime record.
Pick: RAFAEL NADAL (-140)
Whereas the men’s side is a two-horse race, three women — Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka — are in the realistic mix. Sharapova’s worst surface is clay, but she captured her first French Open title last season with a big assist from not having to go through Serena. Both Sharapova and Azarenka have already been forced to go through Serena this spring. And to say both failed would be an understatement. Sharapova went down 6-1, 6-4 in the Madrid final, and Azarenka got clobbered 6-1, 6-3 in last week’s Rome title match.
Pick: SERENA WILLIAMS (-110)
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