French Open women's betting preview and tips: Side with Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens
Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens can prove her worth on the clay and win the women's French Open title - that's according to Scott Ferguson.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Sloane Stephens to win the title at 16/1

1pt Ashleigh Barty to win the first quarter at 6/1

0.5pt Anett Kontaveit to win the second quarter at 14/1

0.5pt Marketa Vondrousova to win the fourth quarter at 9/1

In stark contrast to the men's draw, the women's French Open is as open as I can ever remember. Ten different women have won this event in the past twelve years, with only Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova having their names engraved on the Suzanne Lenglen Cup twice in that period, and it should not be a surprise to anyone were that sequence extended. This one might just be the toughest of the lot to crack

World number one Naomi Osaka arrives in Paris looking for her third successive Grand Slam. A revelation on hardcourts, her game isn't as naturally suited to the dirt - although she wouldn't be the first champion to have taken her time to learn how to slide.

Osaka’s clay campaign has been interrupted with hand and abdominal injuries, meaning she has only really lost one match, to Bencic in Madrid. She has a 4-3 record here, and I would prefer to see a bit more of a clay formline before having the confidence to back her on this surface.

Defending champion Simona Halep tops the market but isn't a player you'd want playing for your last ten quid. She is yet to win a tournament this season, and has taken just one since her first Grand Slam title here 12 months ago.

However, the third seed has quite a cosy draw with few challengers of note in her half. Aryna Sabalenka, American teen prodigy Amanda Anisimova, Anett Kontaveit and Petra Kvitova are in the lower part of her section and should battle it out for the right to face Halep in the quarter-final.

Karolina Pliskova strode into the number two ranking with a win over Johanna Konta in the Rome final, following on from a final appearance in Miami, semi-final in Melbourne and a title in Brisbane. Hers is a solid 27-7 match record for 2019 and she's respected as an in-form contender.

With only one Grand Slam tournament final behind her, at 27, this is the year she really needs to make her mark on the tour. Pliskova has a miserable 2-7 record against Halep but would avoid her until the final. Kiki Bertens and Sloane Stephens - more on whom soon - look her main dangers in the bottom half and at around 14/1 for the title, she is worth considering.

Bertens is the big mover in the market over the past month, having risen to world number four after an 11-2 run on European clay, one which included a win in Madrid and semi-final appearances in Stuttgart and Rome. Scalps taken along the way campaign include major winners in Jelena Ostapenko, Angelique Kerber, Kvitova, Stephens and Halep.

A breakthrough at Grand Slam level would still come as a bit of a surprise, though - in 27 main draws at the majors, she has only reached the second week three times. Naturally, she will never have had a seeding like this before, but she will nonetheless need to overcome both Stephens and Pliskova to reach the final. While deserving of respect, all value has surely gone.

Last year's runner-up Stephens has a fine record here, reaching the second week five times from seven attempts, and looks the best bet.

She ranks second on clay performance stats, and the market under-rates her - possibly in denial over the fact that an American could perform to her best on the red dirt. While on the trickier side of the draw, needing to overcome Bertens and Pliskova, or perhaps Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova to reach the business end of the tournament, she is in the prime of her career and is the player I want to side with.

One more seasoned campaigner who has shown snippets of form this spring is Victoria Azarenka, arriving in Paris in her best shape for years. In Melbourne, she spoke of being in a dark place with her personal life. Hard work on and off the court since then has seen her reach her best ranking since March 2017, and while 44 is still a long way off her career best number one, a 10-5 record (with two retirements) since the start of April shows an upward trend.

With the right draw as an unseeded floater, she can cause a lot of problems for seeds in her path. The 2013 semi-finalist and dual Australian Open champion, who reached the quarter-finals in Stuttgart and Rome, could provide a shock.

Another with a chance at a bigger price is the aforementioned Vondrousova, the left-handed Czech teenager with an impressive 22-6 record this season. She has beaten Halep twice already which suggests anything is possible and 9/1 to reach the semi-finals is generous.

The most interesting quarter one looks to be the first section. Osaka, Ostapenko, Azarenka, Maria Sakkari, Caroline Garcia and Madison Keys have to battle it out to probably meet Serena Williams (photographed at Disneyland Paris in a wheelchair!) or Ashleigh Barty, who has fewer questions to answer and a much simpler path.

Halep should in theory be an absolute banker for the second quarter, but without going beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam since Paris last year, we have to speculate against her. Kontaveit at 12/1 is capable of going further than last year, when she bowed out in the fourth round, and rates a sporting bet.

The third quarter can be narrowed down to Stephens, Bencic or Bertens, but I'll save that support for the outright market. As for the final quarter, it lists Kerber as fifth seed but her fitness is a concern after a right ankle injury brought her down in Madrid.

Even if she has put that behind her, her record here isn't great for a former number one, with just two quarter-final appearances in 11 years. This opens the upper segment to Vondrousova, while lower down Petra Martic and Kristina Mladenovic should do battle in round two to face Pliskova.

Martic has sprung some surprises of late and is as high as 28/1 in places but Vondrousova appeals with the gentler path.

Posted at 0940 BST on 25/05/19.

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