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All too predictable in Paris?

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 21-05-2016


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Andy Murray heads to Roland Garros with his greatest chance of a French Open title, with Sky Bet making him shorter odds than nine-time champion Rafael Nadal. 

The Scot is undoubtedly in the best clay-court form of his life, arriving on the back of his Rome Masters triumph, with his price shortened from 5/1 to 7/2 after a favourable draw.

By favourable I mean he has avoided Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic and been placed in the same half as defending champion Stan Wawrinka instead.

However, it could well be interpreted that the draw has actually been kinder to Wawrinka, who has won his last three meetings with Murray, plus both on clay without dropping a set.

That compares to a 3-15 record against Nadal, including a recent 6-1 6-4 defeat in Monte Carlo, although Wawrinka's form hardly suggests we should be talking about potential semi-final matches, with just three wins on the European clay-court swing before opting to play this week's Geneva Open to get some wins under his belt.

Djokovic remains the odds-on favourite at 5/6 but questions over his immortality were raised with a straight-sets loss to Murray last weekend, a first on the surface.

He is also carrying the stress and strain of attempting to complete the career Grand Slam along with expectations of becoming the first player since Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) to win all four majors in a single season.

For me, the Serb is too short given the pressure, especially when you consider he is the same price to win the 2017 Australian Open, an event he has won in five of the last six editions.

To suggest he is more than five times more likely to win the event than Nadal is a tough one for most to get their heads around, but the head-to-head story is a compelling one.

The Serb has won their last seven meetings without dropping a single set, including what was seemingly a guard-changing victory at Roland Garros last year, before going down to an inspired Wawrinka in the final.

The pair met for the first time professionally on the same stage a decade ago when an implosive Djokovic retired after losing the first two sets. Nothing seems further from reality as we head into this year's event.

While I embrace the world number one as a worthy favourite, his price means that betting interest is non-existent. Nadal, while tempting at 5/1, is finding the Djokovic mission an impossible one.

Murray has shortened following his recent success so the only bet with him involved is a final forecast for Djokovic to beat him in the final at 5/2 with Sky Bet.

If you're of the mind of paying more attention to the weaknesses in the draw than the strengths, Wawrinka's section is the obvious one to pick on.

Milos Raonic is the second seed in that section and has had a fine campaign, reaching three Masters quarter-finals and one final, while also enjoying a semi-final run at the Australian Open, recording a first victory over Wawrinka in the process.

However, add to that a glance at his list of tournament wins, and the story of a consistent flat-track bully who fails to trouble top-tier opponents becomes clear, with eight titles at 500 or 250 level.

10th seed Marin Cilic is the other runner but has claimed a solitary title on clay ahead of his Geneva final showdown with Wawrinka. In other words the quarter represents each-way selections only worthy of semi-final cash outs.

My two strong tips have both had their each-way offerings dashed by the draw.

Kei Nishikori (20/1) has been the most predictable player of the clay swing, reaching the final in Barcelona and then the semis in Madrid and Rome before enduring hard-fought defeats to Nadal and Djokovic respectively.

Dominic Thiem (40/1), who has two titles from the South American swing, is the other outsider capable of putting a good run together.

He has been drawn to face Nadal in the fourth round, with their 2016 head-to-head record split at 1-1, as the 22-year-old triumphed in Argentina before succumbing to a straight-sets loss in Monte Carlo.

With those two picks warranting little other than small each-way interest, I'm left predicting the predictable in an era where opposing the reliable elite rarely reaps rewards, returning to Djokovic to beat Murray in the final at 5/2 with Sky Bet.

Things are rarely such in the women's game and it's incredibly tough to construct such an argument for anything other than Serena Williams (5/2) to win at the same price, giving us an 11/1 double.

The three-time champion has been handed what would be a tough draw for most, with Victoria Azarenka potentially awaiting in the quarters and then her Australian Open conqueror Angelique Kerber in the semis.

However, having recently triumphed in Rome after a significant break, there seems little to suggest she's unable to produce her unplayable best in pursuit of a record-equaling 22nd Grand Slam.

Simona Halep is the 5/1 second favourite with Garbine Muguruza (9/1) considered the other main threat from the other half the draw, as second seed Agnieszka Radwanska is all but dismissed at 33/1.

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