Last Updated: 2019-05-19
It’s almost French Open time. The last things to accomplish before Roland Garros are two 250 events in Geneva, Switzerland and Lyon, France. Two smaller tournaments where attendance of top tier players is varied and history at the venues is sparse (Lyon two years, Geneva four). So, there are lots of angles to try and dig into; let’s get started.
The draw is super top heavy — there are two ‘name’ brands here this week. Alex Zverev is #5 in the world and Stan Wawrinka is a former top 5 player with a few Grand Slam titles to his name. Let’s start there, as no other player ranked inside the top 35 is here. Why is Zverev here? It’s the week before a Grand Slam, something he should be desperate to win and this will somehow be Zverev’s SEVENTH straight week playing tennis. That is unheard of for a 70th ranked player, let alone the 5th ranked player. Is he motivated to win this week or just motivated to get one or two matches under his belt and then pull out and head to Paris? His form is terrible, having suffered defeats in every clay tournament he has entered in the last six weeks, all in relatively questionable ways — Berrettini, Garin, Jarry, Munar, Fognini and Tsitsipas. All of those, with the exception of Tsitsipas, should be wins and the Tsitsipas loss was a final set collapse similar to the Chung loss at the ’18 Aussie Open. At +137 to win the tournament, it is really hard to recommend Zverev.
Wawrinka; The Stanimal; Stan the Man. He has played this tournament all four years it has been back at the ATP level. He has two titles. And he can’t be accused of looking ahead — in 2015 he made the quarters here, was upset by Delbonis but then went on to win the French Open; in 2016 he won here and made the semis at the French; in 2017 he won here and again made the finals at the French. Last year he was still recovering from his injury and was upset by Fuscovics in the quarters. This three week period, from now till the end of the French, is Stan’s time. There is every chance that he wins this week, with a relatively soft draw and a possibly unmotivated opposing #1 seed. But, at only 3/1 it is, again, hard to recommend him. Since returning from serious injury in early 2018 Stan has yet to really show his old form. He has made one final, earlier this year in Rotterdam, and he is only 5–6 on clay in the last two years, the most gruelling of the surfaces for his knees. Instead, of the two big guys let’s look at some other options.
Geneva is played at 1,200 feet of elevation. Wawrinka’s success here, along with other former semi-finalists like Joao Sousa, Thomasz Bellucci, Marin Cilic, David Ferrer, Kei Nishikori, and Steve Johnson, shows that you need a good serve that will play well in altitude. Who holds serve more than 80% of the time on clay? The best option in the draw besides Stan is Cristian Garin. Garin holds serve 80% of the time, has elite combined hold/break numbers (80+30=110), has made three finals in 2019, won two titles in 2019 and plays well at elevation. His first final appearance this year was in Sao Paolo, one of the highest elevations on tour. Then he won in Munich a few weeks ago, also at a decent elevation. He doesn’t have the easiest of draws, considering he may have to face Jarry, Wawrinka and Zverev in his path. But, he does get an opening round bye and he gets to ease into the tournament with a second-round match against Taro Daniel.
A second, longer shot, is a potential qualifier. Being able to bet on qualifiers as a title possibility is not a common thing. But, every once in a while a guy has to go through qualifies that usually wouldn’t have to and if they survive they could be a good option. There are two such players in qualies this week. And they come with a caveat. They have to land in a specific qualifier spot — the one in the second quarter that would get Fucsovics as their seeded player. This is a winnable quarter for anyone and if Grigor Dimitrov or Lorenzo Sonego make it through qualies AND land in this specific spot, an outright would be in play. They should both open in the 20/1 range and both could very easily win their quarter with Delbonis as their first round, Fucsovics as their second round and one of Leo Mayer or ARV as their third round. The possibility of Zverev looms in the semi-final but, as mentioned above his form is shaky so an upset is not out of the question and his motivation could simply be to win a match or two and head to Roland Garros, meaning he never makes the semis. The second quarter is the place to attack, especially if Dimitrov lands there.
Oh boy, what a messy draw we have here. One top 20 player, only three top 30 players and a total of three players who have even won anything other than a 250 event (RBA has a 500, Tsonga has a 500 and two 1000’s and Basil has a 500). Not a lot of star power but, certainly an interesting field. Everyone that could be considered a threat is pretty spread out and that provides plenty of options.
The first quarter contains both Tsonga and Basilashvili. Tsonga is the more elite player and a former champion in the short history of this event but he has been largely unhealthy in the last two years and playing new dad. His one burst of form resulted in a title earlier this year in Montpellier (which this space called!) but, other than that, results have been pretty bad. It is hard to trust that he’ll show up here and make it through five full matches. At only 7/1 the risk is too great. Basil doesn’t have great hold/break numbers but, routinely outperforms them, as he did in Hamburg last year. Like Tsonga, the bursts of form are few and far between — Basil has made multiple quarter-finals in 2019 but, hasn’t been to a semi-final yet and he has four first-round exits. Pass.
The second quarter holds this weeks best option. Many players this week may suffer from delusions of making a deep run next week at Roland Garros. Or they may just not be talented enough to win a title at a 250, full stop. But, who is someone who is both talented enough to win at this level and knows they have 15 French Opens in their future, so hopefully will be concentrating solely on the week in front of them? Felix Auger-Aliassime is that man. 18 years old and already super proficient on clay. He has made a final in 2019 on the surface, in Rio, and he is quickly proving he can beat most of the non-top ten players on tour. He has 11 losses in 2019 and the last five have all been to top 15 players and two of the others were to Laslo Djere (one being in the Rio final). His draw won’t be easy at all but there is a solid chance he will be favored in every match before the final. At 8/1 FAA is a solid option.
The bottom half of the draw is replete with options, from RBA, to Benoit Paire, to Pablo Cuevas, Richard Gasquet, Hubie Hurkacz, and Reilly Opelka. All have titles this year (Hurkacz at the Challenger level) except Gasquet, who is just back from injury. That is a minefield to try and navigate. Hurkacz and Cuevas play each other in the first round so that crosses them off. Paire is a constant headcase and trying to predict when he’ll show up is an exercise in futility. Opelka’s title came on indoor hards and dominating clay is something he still has to work at. That leaves RBA and Gasquet. Here’s the weird thing about RBA- he has nine titles on tour and six of his last seven, dating back to 2016, have come in the first two months of the year. This guy is a beast in January and February but, then seemingly runs out of gas. So, what about Gasquet? This is only his third tournament of the year and he didn’t stay long in Madrid or Rome. However, unlike RBA, Gasquet is the master of the 250 event. He has 15 career titles, all 250’s. He wins them on all surfaces and his clay stats, when he is healthy, are elite. At 14/1 this seems like the guy to take a flyer on in a week where you should only be betting half stakes.
Garin 6/1, x0.5
Dimitrov, x0.5, if he lands in second quarter qualifier spot and is 15/1 or better
Sonego, x0.5, if he lands in second quarter qualifier spot and is 15/1 or better
FAA 8/1, x0.5
Gasquet 14/1, x0.5
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