Shane Lambert looks at the Women's Franch Open and he likes the look of Irina-Camelia Begu at 200/1 while Madison Keys is playing well enough to warrant support at 40/1.
With the recent developments on the WTA Tour, offering a guess for the winner of the 2016 women's French Open might seem a little foolhardy. There has been all kinds of parity in the women's game of late, with lesser-known players taking down some high-ranked ones. Serena Williams remains the World No. 1 but, at time of writing, she does not have a title since Cincinnati. With Rome still to be completed perhaps that's about to change. But regardless the 2016 French Open feels as though it could be wide open this year even with Williams the current favourite.
The American certainly isn't a crushing favourite as she is priced at 5/2 with Paddy Power, a price that shortened from 3/1 a couple days ago. I'm fairly dismissive of odds that short to win majors, except for in the cases of dominant champions at their best events (i.e. Djokovic at the Aussie or Nadal at the French).
Looking at others besides Williams, based on Victoria Azarenka's start to the season I've often felt that she was undervalued in the French Open market. However, the last two weeks have not been good ones for the two-time Australian Open champion.
Last week, in Madrid, she pulled out of the draw mid-tournament frustrated with a minor injury. She played this week in Rome, but she's already done for as Irina-Camelia Begu took her out in straight sets in the second round. Begu is a player that Azarenka has otherwise not been troubled with over the courses of their careers so the Belarusian’s match loss is one that should be noted. In my view, there's something not right about her game right now and perhaps that is related to the Madrid injury.
I do still think Azarenka could be a major force at Roland Garros, but if you saw the Begu match then, as an Azarenka backer, you saw something that scared you. Even if she is fine by the start of Roland Garros then she won't have much clay-court match play in for preparations and no matches against the best players on the relevant surface.
Right now I'm thinking that Vika's odds are set to drift. 5/1 was the best price I could find (Totesport) immediately after her Rome loss and now I'm seeing 6/1 with Sportingbet. But right now, 8/1 is the point where I would feel as though I was getting some solid value. In truth, I'm even a little concerned over her missing some time in the near future and that has had me reaching for the panic button on her (i.e. the cash-out option).
With Azarenka now a question mark, it becomes Simona Halep whose odds might shorten. She won Madrid last week, but the tournament was noted for the major stars not generally performing their bests. I felt she might be too tired to win Rome this week and, true to form, she went out early. That exit suggests that her odds of 7/1 with Stan James won't be shortening any time soon. In truth, even with Vika's struggles of late I'd still rather have Halep out at 15/1 due to the fact that she has yet to win a major and has only been to one final (2014 French Open). I have a feeling that the Romanian might be priced at 7/1 as late as the fourth round of the French, meaning there's no need to take her now.
Angelique Kerber looked good at 20s after Stuttgart and she's still right there with Coral. But she was among the high-seeded casualties in Madrid and she went out fast in Rome too, losing to Eugenie Bouchard in three sets on Tuesday. The Canadian Bouchard is out at 66s with Paddy Power, not a bad price for someone with her talent who just beat the World No. 2. However, Bouchard followed that up with a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Barbora Strycova on Thursday who then lost to Begu. Any much more of this and 5/2 on Serena might actually start looking good, especially following her thrashing of Kuznetsova and hard-fought win over Begu.
Yet with the American aging, with Maria Sharapova having her problems, with Caroline Wozniacki seemingly apathetic (she's ranked 31st), and with Azarenka looking injured maybe the conditions are right for a young star to emerge on tour at the French. Belinda Bencic (66/1 888Sport) is the name that I would normally mention as the most likely candidate among the teens, but she's injured too (lower back). Madison Keys isn't a teen any longer but she's still up-and-coming. More importantly she is into the Rome draw after beating Strycova in the quarters and Garbine Muguruza in the semi-finals.
My feeling with Serena is that 5/2 just isn't clear value. I'm not saying that it might not be there entirely, but I like margins when it comes to value. Strycova can be tough as nails and she's 250/1 with Paddy Power. Begu has been playing above her ranking of late yet she's still way out at 250s with Bwin.
But mainly Keys at 50s with Betway, Paddy Power, or Coral appears to be a very large price and one that promises to shorten regardless of how her final in Rome goes (as long as she doesn't get injured). Among all the fluff and over-rated favourites, I think Keys is the value pick right now with anything longer than 33s good to go in my view.
0.5 points win bet on Irina-Camelia Begu at 200/1 with Paddy Power
1 point each way Madison Keys at 40/1 with Paddy Power and BetVictor