French Open Men's Outright Tips: Nadal still the man to beat but outsiders may reward

The French Open draw takes place tonight and our tennis columnist Dan Weston will be looking for a handful of promising outsiders from the Roland Garros betting when players receive their seedings...

King of Clay still the tournament favourite

In what is certainly a hectic tennis calendar, the French Open begins in a few days time, and it's probably fair to suggest that no men's French Open preview can begin without discussion of Rafa Nadal. The King of Clay is 12-0 in Roland Garros finals and there can be little debate that he's the best clay-courter of all time.

However, it will be interesting to see whether the King's crown is starting to slip. Defeat against Diego Schwartzman in the Rome quarter-finals last week was unexpected, even considering a lack of competitive court time for Nadal in the last six months, and this has pushed his price out a little on the Exchange.

At the start of the Rome Masters, Nadal was trading around the 1.93 mark on the Exchange, and at the time of writing, has drifted to 2.10. I wouldn't say he's friendless in the market, but there's certainly not an abundance of support for the world number two.

My view at the moment is that the Rome defeat to Schwartzman should probably be viewed as an isolated loss as opposed to particularly heralding the downfall of Nadal. He certainly has enough credit in the bank to be a justified tournament favourite here, and given the seedings, will be likely to be able to ease himself into the tournament being a sub-1.10 heavy favourite in the first few rounds.



Djokovic and Thiem priced the right way around in the market

Likewise, Djokovic, who won in Rome last week, looks justified second favourite. The top three in the outright market - the only players currently trading below 60.00 on the Exchange - are in order of 18-month combined service/return points won percentages on clay, so it's difficult to particularly dispute their status.

A lot will depend on which half of the draw Thiem is placed in. The US Open winner is reported as having a little achilles issue and will be likely to have to get past both Nadal and Djokovic to win the title, unless one of them becomes the victim of a huge upset en route to the semi-finals. Whoever out of Nadal and Djokovic get Thiem in their half will have a tougher route to the final.

Ruud among those with chances if he avoids the big names

Given that there is such a polarised outright market, with three players priced between 2.00 and 6.00 and everyone else priced in excess of 60.00, with many players in triple-digit pricing, it would seem logical to look at quarter winners - particularly focusing on the quarter which doesn't involve the three aforementioned leaders in the market.

Of course, we won't know this until tonight's draw, but we can discuss a few players that I'm keen to keep an eye on.

Casper Ruud is priced at 180.00 currently, and the Norwegian clay-courter has plenty of current ability (104.1% combined service/return points won on clay) and a ton of future upside. I just hope he doesn't overplay in Hamburg this week after reaching the Rome semi-final last week.

Andrey Rublev is another player involved in Hamburg this week, with a quarter-final this afternoon against Roberto Bautista-Agut. The 22-year-old Russian also has strong clay service/return points won but his hold/break numbers aren't as relatively strong, due to break point underperformance. If he mean reverts upwards - as he should - then he will be a real threat in the draw. Potentially under-rated at 160.00.

Berrettini and Krajinovic also capable of progress

World number eight, Matteo Berrettini, also looks undervalued at 390.00. He lost a final set tiebreak in the Rome quarter-final last week to Ruud, and was knocked out at the US Open in round four by Rublev. He has good underlying clay data and could well be a nice price to win a non-Djokovic or Nadal quarter.

I'm also interested in seeing how the in-form Filip Krajinovic is priced when he joins the outright market on the Exchange. He competed well against Djokovic in Rome last week and could be a really nice price to reach the latter stages.

Hopefully this gives some nice insight into my thought process in advance of tonight's draw, and I'll be returning over the weekend to discuss the draw in detail and firm up any outright selections.

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