French Open – Sunday 27th May until Sunday 10th June 2012

The general consensus among the tennis fraternity is that the 2012 Men’s Singles at Roland Garros will be nothing more than a Spanish procession. Top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal is gunning for his SEVENTH title in Paris over the next fortnight, a feat never before achieved. The very fact that Nadal turns just 26 years of age during the first week of the tournament makes his quest for yet another championship all the more remarkable, especially when you consider if conditioning allows, he may just be able to take his tally of Paris titles into double figures.

So is Rafa really the proverbial sure thing? I’d be inclined to think he probably is. In the space of 24 hours between the draw being released and now as I write this, Nadal’s price has shortened quite markedly and I can only think this is off the back of what looks on first glance to be a very favourable draw. Already certain to avoid number two seed Novak Djokovic until the final, Nadal has also avoided the likes of Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, and Juan Martin Del Potro until the semi finals at the very earliest. Fourth seed and Great Britain’s only hope Andy Murray finds himself in the bottom half of the draw (along with Nadal) and I think it’d take a monumental effort from the Scot to replicate his last four appearance from twelve months ago. Evidently struggling with a troublesome back at present, clay really isn’t the surface to be strutting your stuff with any niggling injuries. Aside from the injury, Murray hasn’t demonstrated the kind of form I’d like to see as we approach a major tournament. A timid defeat to Richard Gasquet ten days ago in Rome was fairly surprising in the sense that Murray had won the pair’s previous three meetings. Murray also comes into the tournament having been defeated in an exhibition match in Paris to Latvian Ernests Gulbis, who himself is certainly no world-beater on the red stuff. Admittedly Murray did attempt to dispel any fitness fears by suggesting he feels better now than he did a couple of weeks back. I just feel that if he finds himself in a couple of four or five set matches lasting well over three hours early in the tournament, he could struggle on the notoriously gruelling surface.

Scanning the draw for probable opponents for Murray, the likes of Spaniard David Ferrer, the aforementioned Gasquet, and Rafael Nadal himself show what a tough ask this could be for Murray and I’d be more than comfortable putting my neck on the line and saying he won’t be removing the Grand Slam monkey from his back just yet. There may also be a little mileage in laying Murray at likely short prices in his matches from say round 2 onwards, especially as the likes of Bernard Tomic, Richard Gasquet, Alexandr Dolgopolov, John Isner, and David Ferrer are more than capable of taking sets off Murray, if not beating him.

Looking up at the top of the draw, it is fair to say this is certainly the more difficult of the two halves. The top two seeded players in this section Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will almost certainly not enjoy a stroll into the last four at Roland Garros. Obvious threats such as Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin Del Potro are lurking, not to mention plucky Frenchman Gilles Simon, tempestuous Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, and the talented Swiss number two Stanislas Wawrinka. Breaking down the top half further still, Federer’s quarter looks extraordinarily difficult. To even make the last four where Djokovic will more than likely await, the Swiss maestro would need to probably defeat either Berdych or Del Potro in the last eight which is no mean feat. I see no reason why he wouldn’t make the quarter finals but beyond that, I’m not so sure. Djokovic on the other hand would probably have to beat a Frenchman in either Simon or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to make the last four and is something I fully expect him to do.

Unsurprisingly therefore, I expect both Nadal and Djokovic to take their places in the last four. Who will join them though? Well I’m comfortable enough ruling Murray out. I just don’t feel his game (or form) is where it needs to be to reach the latter stages this fortnight. It must be said though that Murray’s recent Grand Slam form is exemplary, reaching the semi final stage or better at six of the last seven ‘Slams’ so he knows how to perform on the biggest of stages. As outlined above however, the draw hasn’t been the kindest to him and I’m happy to side with David Ferrer at 52 in the outright market to emerge as a semi final opponent for Nadal. I was a little shocked to see that Ferrer had never made it past the quarter final at Roland Garros and for a man with his talent on the clay, I’d have expected a couple of semi final appearances. Nevertheless, I expect him to put that right this year and will put Ferrer up as very much a ‘Back to Lay’ proposition.

Tomas Berdych is the man I expect to line up against Novak Djokovic in this year’s other semi final. Berdych has put together some excellent form on the clay this year, resulting in more than respectable wins against the likes of Tipsarevic in Davis Cup, Murray in Monte Carlo, both Verdasco and Del Potro in Madrid, as well as Nicolas Almagro in Rome. The Czech also had chances in the Monte Carlo semi finals against Djokovic, in addition to chances against Federer in Madrid and I think his game is in a far better place than someone like Andy Murray for example. The 58 available on BETDAQ in the outright market is more than generous and similar to Ferrer, he is a definite ‘Back to Lay’ suggestion.

Finally, if there are any traders reading the column, I think the majority of the following matches could be fairly lengthy affairs and should see some fluctuating prices and potentially some solid trading opportunities:

• Nicolas Mahut vs Andy Roddick
• Michael Llodra vs Guillermo Garcia-Lopez
• Tommy Haas vs Filippo Volandri
• Alejandro Falla vs Santiago Giraldo
• Igor Andreev vs Jarkko Nieminen
• Jeremy Chardy vs Yen-Hsun Lu
• Juan Ignacio Chela vs Marcos Baghdatis
• Lukas Rosol vs Carlos Berlocq
• Florian Mayer vs Daniel Gimeno-Traver

I’ll also be reviewing EVERY match from the quarter-final stages onwards with recommended bets on as well as regular recommended match bets throughout the tournament from Day 1 on my personal twitter account @cdquinn86 so don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled!

Selection # 1 – Back to Lay David Ferrer @ 52
Selection # 2 – Back to Lay Tomas Berdych @ 58

Follow Chris on Twitter @cdquinn86

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