Novak Djokovic is on the march to a career Grand Slam but will have to be wary

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic will be looking to go one step further than he has in the past and lift the French Open title for the first time.

Seeded number one and going into the tournament on the back of five tournament wins in 2015 he is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

The World number one has looked imperious this year, winning the first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, as well as two clay court titles on the way to the red blaze of Roland Garros.

ATP French Open Outright Betting Odds:

Novak Djokovic 4/5

Rafael Nadal 3/1

Andy Murray 8/1

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Everyone will obviously have one eye on the ‘King of Clay’, Rafael Nadal as he enters the fold to try and capture an unprecedented 10th title at his home from home. Form would tell you that he won’t be there come the final few days after some tough matches, including a straight sets defeat to Britain’s Andy Murray. You would be foolish to rule him out though and the occasion may spur him on to dizzy heights even if he is not at his brilliant best.

Talking of Andy Murray, many might think that the Dunblane man could be the one to watch. He’s on a fantastic run since wedding Kim Sears but others will put it down to his link-up with Jonas Bjorkman. He’s won two clay court titles in the lead up and although he pulled out of Rome Masters through fatigue, some will see this is sensible as he lines up for the gruelling competition that he has a record of only two semi-final performances. Wins over Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Nadal will up his confidence and he is out to win.

You simply cannot dismiss the world number two and the winner of the most male Grand Slams in the Open Era. Roger Federer hasn’t won one of the big four titles since Wimbledon in 2012 and the 33-year-old still looks as sharp as ever but despite three tournament wins this year, it’ll be hard for him to win his second title in Paris, the first coming in 2009 but again, you’d have to be a fool to rule him out of the running. If it was a horse race, you’d have him at each-way.

Looking at the rankings, there are a lot of names you can’t rule out but it is very difficult to pinpoint someone who will be able to go all the way.

Kei Nishikori has been a big revelation on the tour over the past couple of years but it will be tough going for the Japanese World Number five.

Former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych may fancy a decent run after moving up to World number four but having Rafa Nadal seeded below his clay court pedigree will hamper those who have been performing well in 2015 so far, he could hurt them as early as the last 16.

The women’s draw is open to an extent but, for me, there are two players who will be fighting it out. Serena Williams continues to roll back the years but clay has never been her best surface. The American World number one has won just two titles here but the last one came just two years ago.

Maria Sharapova picked up the title last year with a straight sets win over Simona Halep and will be hoping that her ranking of two for the tournament will help her rack up her third French Open in four years.

Halep is one to watch. The Romanian is ranked third in the World and at 23, she should be coming to the peak of her powers. Winning Indian Wells will give her a boost going into this but her clay court form leaves a little to be desired.

Others to watch include the Spaniard Carle Suaraz Navarro, Eugenie Bouchard and 17th seed Sara Errani who has reached the final on one occasion.

It looks like it should be a final between the top two seeds but women’s tennis is never that simple.

Betting Instinct tip Maria Sharapova to retain her title is 4/1 with Intertops.eu

Paul F avatar PAUL FISHER is a sports journalist primarily working with the CelticLIVE App. He has covered sports for a number  of years and is particularly interested in bowls. Follow him on Twitter.

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French Open – key talking points

A fifth straight title for Rafael Nadal seems inevitable

A fifth straight title for Rafael Nadal seems inevitable

With the French Open well underway, the draws for the men’s and women’s singles tournaments couldn’t be more different.

On the women’s side the top two seeds – Serena Williams and Li Na – have both fallen to unexpected defeats in the first week. However in the men’s draw the all-conquering Rafa Nadal has been joined in the third round by last year’s losing finalist David Ferrer, as well as the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Murray. Of the top eight seeds, only Stanislas Wawrinka has been eliminated.

With that in mind, a few big questions remain about the second grand slam of 2014.

 

Is Nadal Unstoppable

While the other three grand slams have been shared between the world’s elite, few have an answer for Nadal on clay.

The 27-year-old has won at Roland Garros in eight of the last nine years and is pushing for a fifth consecutive title this time around. Robin Söderling is the only man to beat him at the French Open ever, which is quite a feat.

Neither Robby Ginepri nor Dominic Thiem ever looked like ending the Spaniard’s remarkable run, and it looks unlikely that third-round opponent Leonardo Mayer will do so either. On current form the Argentine will by lucky to take a set.

 

Can Ana Ivanovic cap her return to form?

Serbian star Ivanovic is one of only three former champions left in the women’s draw, and a strong showing in Paris could cap a stunning turnaround.

A rising star of the game when she won at Roland Garros in 2008, Ivanovic endured a tough and trophy-less year in 2013. However with the top three all out, she is returning to form at the right time.

Victory this week would send out a huge statement, and with wins in Auckland and Monterrey to add to an impressive quarter-final showing in the Australian Open, anything is possible

 

Will any French players impress?

While a home victory seems unlikely, there are a number of French talents looking to make a splash in Paris this fortnight.

In the women’s draw, the only French seed, Alizé Cornet, was knocked out in the second round. However 21-year-old Kristina Mladenovic is still standing and carrying the hopes of a nation along with Pauline Parmentier.

On the men’s side, home hopes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Gaël Monfils and Richard Gasquet have all made it into the third round. However all face challenging opponents, not least Simon who goes up against number eight seed Milos Raonic.

Could one of the four upset the odds and make a run to the quarter-finals? With the backing of the home crowd, who knows.

Betting Instinct tip – Monfils and Gasquet to both win their matches on Saturday is 3.94 with GR88.com 

 

GR88.com is offering new players a 100% welcome bonus up to £100, to mark the start of a huge sporting summer. Next up after the French Open is the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and with it a chance to win $1,000,000 in GR88’s prediction challenge.

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

 

A tournament of shocks, but Nadal should beat Wawrinka in Australian Open final

Stan Wawrinka has improved on last year's US Open semi-final run, but this game could be one too many

Stan Wawrinka has improved on last year’s US Open semi-final run, but this game could be one too many

Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’m not disappointed that my predictions for this tournament fell apart at various points over the past two weeks, but I’m going to balance out my failings by deflecting the spotlight. The following “experts” also got it wrong with the Djokovic/Williams championship pairing: Pam Shriver, Cliff Drysdale, Bruce McAvaney and Pat Cash.

So if you want to compare me to Pat Cash, who won at Wimbledon and reached the Australian Open final twice, go for your life. I’m not complaining.

 

Australian Open Men’s Final Betting Odds

Rafael Nadal to win – 1.17

Stanislas Wawrinka to win – 5.00

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

We’re left with Stanislas “Stan” Wawrinka and Rafael “Nads” Nadal (Not sure anyone calls him this – ed.).  These are the two that came through the fire and brimstone of the first week at Melbourne Park, and have each managed wins over big seeds in their previous two matches. Of course, Stan won’t have enough for Nadal, because nobody ever does.

“But he beat Djokovic!” you cry, and even if you don’t, let’s pretend you do for the purpose of the point I’m about to make. Stan has never beaten Rafael Nadal. In his previous 12 matches with the Spaniard, Stan hasn’t even taken a set. They’ve played out six tiebreaks on hard courts, and Stan has never edged one.

 

This is the flipside of underdog finals: we love Stan, and hope the best for Stan, and so we like to think that Stan can do it, but reality gets in the way. Historically, the last game of the Australian Open isn’t the stage for an upset. Since the tournament moved from Kooyong to Melbourne Park in 1988, on only four occasions has the higher-seeded player in the final lost. Unless The Blister (which I feel is now wide and deep enough to refer to with capital letters) on his left hand decides to swallow his racquet, and with it the rest of the universe, Nadal shouldn’t have too many problems.

Calling specifics is a dangerous game in that I try my best not to look foolish, but I am somewhat obligated to actually suggest my tips as someone who, in some circles, has been compared to Pat Cash. I’d expect Stan to pick up a hard-fought set in the biggest match of his career to date, but Nadal should finish it in four. Temperatures bizarrely halved overnight at the end of the first week of play, so heat is no longer a factor, though Stan hasn’t had it easy. His last two wins have been gruelling – and occasionally spectacular – but it’s hard to see how he’ll be able to hold that level against the world number one who, like Wawrinka himself, is playing very close to his best.

 

Despite a certain inevitability about this match – Nadal loses and I’m made to look foolish – it should be entertaining. Looking for tennis? Look no further: they’ll be hitting balls really fast over a net, and that’s usually enough.

Betting Instinct Tip – Nadal to win in four sets is 3.25 with GR88.com

 

Max avatarMAX GRIEVE (maxjgri) is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though has given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is ashamed for doing so.