Yesterday, I looked at the favorites for the 2017 French Open on the men’s side. Today the ladies are in the spotlight.
With Serena Williams, arguably the greatest women’s player of all time, taking time away from the sport to have her first child, the draw is as wide open as ever. Case in point: Maria Sharapova is the co-favorite, and she’s only recently returned from a 15-month suspension.
Will anyone rise up and replace Serena as the WTA’s dominant force? Probably not. But someone has to win the French Open. Here’s a rundown of the favorites and their betting value.
Maria Sharapova: 11/2
She’s been tagged as the co-favorite on the women’s side, and why not? Serena isn’t competing, leaving a massive power vacuum at the top. Sharapova will ultimately need to be granted a wild card in order to compete, but her chances of getting one are good. The 30-year-old has played solid tennis since returning from suspension, making it all the way to the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, and then beating no. 17-seeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (4-6, 6-4, 6-0) in Madrid before falling to vocal critic Eugenie Bouchard in the second round (5-7, 6-2, 4-6).
Sharapova has nothing to lose. She’s missed over a year of play and no one expects her to return in mid-season form; getting back into game shape doesn’t happen overnight. That means the pressure is off the five-time grand slam champ. She’s as good a bet as any to win her third French Open.
Simona Halep: 11/2
While she’s still on the hunt for her first grand slam, Halep is very good on clay and represents the best of what’s left in today’s women’s game … when she’s on her game. Yet, the Romanian struggles mightily with consistency. Her best grand slam finish was at the 2014 French Open, where she fell to Sharapova in the final.
She finished 2015 ranked no. 2 in the world, but has fallen since, sitting just no. 8 right now. Her last WTA title came in July 2016 in Montreal. She lost in the first round of this year’s Aussie Open, and there’s not much reason to back her as the co-favorite.
Garbine Muguruza: 87/13
Like compatriot Rafael Nadal, the young Spaniard knows her way around a clay court. Proof: Muguruza is the defending French Open champ. But while she beat Serena Williams in straight sets last year to win the title, she hasn’t won a tournament since.
So, she’s doing what most struggling tennis players do, working on her game. At times this year, she’s looked good, reaching the semis in Brisbane and quarters at the Aussie Open and Indian Wells. But she’s failed to make ground at tournaments on clay, where she should be at her best.
The French Open could go one of two ways for Muguruza: either defending her title will give her that extra spark needed, or we’ll see more of what she’s given us this season. Realistically, she doesn’t have a better chance to win than a lot of the ladies beneath her in the odds. You can find better value elsewhere.
Angelique Kerber: 9/1
It hasn’t been a great 2017 for Kerber. After finishing 2016 as the world number one, the 29-year-old has struggled with her form, and her play has been inconsistent. Clay is not her strong suit either: Kerber lost in the round of 16 at the Stuttgart Open earlier this year, and has never made it past the second round of the French Open. She’s much better suited to the hard surface, as she won both the Aussie and U.S. Open in 2016. Again, her 9/1 odds — which carry a 10-percent implied probability of winning — overestimate her actual chances.
Karolina Pliskova: 15/1
Pliskova started 2017 with a win in Brisbane, and followed it up by reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. That helped move her up to number three in the world. She went on to win the Qatar Ladies Open.
She’s never made it past the second round of the French Open, but she’s following a solid 2016 with another great season. I like riding the hot hand, and Pliskova could be the best value on the board.
Photo credit: the_vhale [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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