- Rafael Nadal remains the leading favorite to win his fourth-straight French Open, and (lucky?) 13th overall
- Only Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem are in serious contention for the crown, per the oddsmakers
- Bet against him at your peril, but we’ll lay out the reasons Nadal won’t win this year
Four months later than scheduled, and in completely different circumstances, the 2020 French Open finally begins on Sunday.
But one thing hasn’t changed: Rafael Nadal remains the favorite to win on the red clay courts at Roland Garros.
Still, there are some significant factors in this most unusual 2020 edition that work against the 12-time champion.
French Open Men’s Singles Odds
|||Rafael Nadal (ESP)||+110|
|||Novak Djokovic (SRB)||+188|
|||Dominic Thiem (AUT)||+375|
|||Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)||+4000|
|||Daniil Medvedev (RUS)||+4000|
|||Alexander Zverev (GER)||+6000|
|||Diego Schwartzman (ARG)||+7500|
|||Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)||+7500|
|||Denis Shapovalov (CAN)||+8000|
|||Marin Cilic (CRO)||+10000|
|||David Goffin (BEL)||+10000|
|||Andrey Rublev (RUS)||+10000|
|||Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)||+14000|
|||Borna Coric (CRO)||+14000|
|||Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)||+15000|
|||Gaël Monfils (FRA)||+15000|
|||Casper Ruud (NOR)||+15000|
|||Karen Khachanov (RUS)||+20000|
|||Matteo Berrettini (ITA)||+20000|
|||Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)||+30000|
|||Fabio Fognini (ITA)||+30000|
Odds from Sept. 24 at DraftKings
New Official French Open Ball is … Dead
Since 2011, the French Open had used a Babolat tennis ball as its official ball. And it was one that suited Nadal very well.
It was faster, harder and – when you put as much spin on the ball as Nadal does – bounced up higher off the court.
— Wilson Tennis (@WilsonTennis) November 12, 2019
The new official ball sponsor is Wilson. And the ball is significantly different.
It’s a deader ball. It doesn’t bounce as high. And with the weather a lot cooler than it would be in early June, that’s going to be a big adjustment for everyone – especially Nadal – who prefers … the opposite of all those things.
Cooler October Conditions a Game-Changer
On Monday and Tuesday this week during qualifying, it was sunny with the temperature in the mid- to high-20s Celsius (high 70s/low 80s Fahrenheit). The courts were dry. The new balls were flying, sort of.
By Thursday, reality set in. And it’s the reality that will stay with the tournament through most of the fortnight.
What that will mean, practically, for Nadal is that with the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier he may well see action “indoors”. Again, completely different conditions than he’s used to in Paris.
What else? With his loss in Rome, this will be the first time Nadal has come into his favorite Grand Slam this underdone.
Rafael Nadal out in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.
In the 12 years that Rafael Nadal has won the French Open, he has never failed to win a clay-court title before arriving in Paris. pic.twitter.com/VAF0OwT4MG
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 19, 2020
Thiem Ends Up in Nadal’s Half of the Draw
What does it all mean? In theory, it means that at 34, Nadal is as vulnerable this year as he has ever been in a French Open for which he has come in healthy.
And the wild card – No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem – fell into his half of the draw, not in Djokovic’s.
Nadal’s potential quarterfinal opponent could be US Open finalist Alexander Zverev.
Thiem has reached the last two French Open finals. Both times, he has lost to Nadal and won just one set in both finals combined.
But these are different times. And Thiem comes in as a Grand Slam champion for the first time after winning the US Open just a few weeks ago.
Non-Rafa French Open Singles Champions in the Nadal Era
Potential Early-Round Upsets and Old Favorites
As the draw was revealed Thursday, the biggest shame was that 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka drew sentimental favorite Andy Murray in the first round.
There are a few players in the draw you figure Murray and his metal hip have little chance against.
Wawrinka, even if he doesn’t seem to be fully in form, would be one of them.
Thiem was no luckier. He will play former Grand Slam champion Marin Cilic in his opening match.
Cilic has made the quarterfinals in Paris two of the last three years. And unlike Thiem, who hasn’t played since lifting the US Open trophy, the Croat got some match play on clay in Rome.
Cilic is in with a shot because the best time to catch a contender is early before he gets his bearings.
The rest of the seeded players look in good shape to get through the first round, although picking rising young Italian Jannik Sinner over No. 11 seed David Goffin might be worth a look.
Best Bet: Pick Thiem (+375) to go all the way – assuming he gets through the first round
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