Simona Halep is the favourite to win the 2019 French Open title, the Romanian having ended her long wait to land a Grand Slam tournament at this event a year ago.
The French Open is traditionally one of the hardest sporting events of the year to call with different winners of the women’s competition in each of the past five years. Halep is the favourite regardless of this statistic, with nobody having been able to defend her crown at Roland Garros since Justine Henin, who won three in a row from 2005 to 2007.
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka both pulled out of the Rome Masters due to injury but at the time of writing, both players are expected to take their place in the Paris draw. Should they be fit enough to play, both women will be among the top names in the frame for the title, with Osaka having climbed to the top of the sport in spectacular fashion of late.
Williams, meanwhile, is a three-time French Open champion despite the fact the clay courts are not her preferred surface, although it remains to be seen if she will ever be able to recapture her very best form as she likely approaches the end of what has been a glorious career.
Potential winners will be studded all the way through the draw with 10 women offered as short as 20/1 in the betting odds, a spread that indicates just how hard this event is to call. Nevertheless, there should be plenty of value on offer in the prices, so let’s take a look.
Halep Looks Too Short to Back
There is no doubt winning here a year ago was a weight off the shoulders of Halep, who had become the number one player in the world rankings without being able to win a Grand Slam.
That statistic always seemed a strange one, but relief has clearly boosted her game and she has a good chance of a strong run at Roland Garros again this year. Since she has been in the final two years in a row, it is clear Halep is a genuine contender for the title once more in 2019.
But at just 4/1 (update: now 7/2) in the French Open betting odds according to the best bookmakers, Halep just seems too short to be able to back considering there have been so many question marks over her ability to deliver under pressure.
Although she recently got to the final of the Madrid Masters, traditionally a sign that a player is well worth keeping an eye on in Paris, an early exit in Rome last week indicated she could be vulnerable to a shock loss in the first few days of the competition.
“I have no expectations because it’s the first time when I have to defend a trophy at a Grand Slam,” said Halep, who claims not to be feeling any pressure. “Be relaxed, enjoy the tournament and try to win some matches. Nothing more!”
Bertens a Worthy Second Favourite to Halep
Having beaten Halep in the final in Madrid a couple of weeks ago, the price of 9/1 (update: now 15/2) that is available for the second favourite Kiki Bertens starts to look very tempting indeed.
Bertens followed up that title by getting through to the semi-finals in Rome, with the fourth seed likely to have a decent draw that should give her a fine chance of going deep into the event. Now ranked fourth in the world – higher than she has ever been in her career to date – the Dutch player will be under the spotlight when the world’s sports media descends on Paris.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about her triumph in Madrid was the quality of opponent she had to beat along the way. Before even coming up against Halep in the final, Bertens had to get the better of Sloane Stephens, Petra Kvitova and Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 Paris winner.
That experience should stand her in good stead should she reach the second week of the competition, when there would be no need for her to be fearful of facing other elite stars. However, Bertens has yet to even make it through to a Grand Slam final, so while she is one of the most in-form players in the draw, she has not always showed her best game at this level.
Three in a Row for Osaka?
The same certainly cannot be said of Osaka, the remarkable Japanese player who has won the last two women’s Grand Slam titles, though a hand injury makes her a doubt for Paris this year.
Osaka had to pull out of the Rome Masters having already gotten through to the quarter-finals and it is unclear whether she will shake off the problem in time to take her place at Roland Garros.
“I woke up this morning and couldn’t really move my thumb,” Osaka told reporters. “I tried to practice and grip my racket but I couldn’t, and I kept feeling this pain when I tried to move my hand in different directions.” If Osaka is able to operate at 100 per cent full fitness, then her odds of 15/1 (update: now 11/1) look very big indeed.
Rome Champion Available at 16/1
The winner of the Rome Masters, Karolina Pliskova, can be backed at 16/1 (update: now 11/1), which shows just how much strength in depth there is on the tour right now. Named the second seed for Roland Garros this year, the 27-year-old is looking to collect her first ever Grand Slam title.
A viral illness threatened to derail her season, but she showed in Rome she is firing again, although she refuses to set ambitious targets for her performance. “It’s important to survive somehow those maybe first two, three matches,” she said after her triumph in Rome, which came against British number one Johanna Konta. “Then I felt like every time I give myself this chance to go through the first week, through to the second week, I felt like I’m playing better.”
French Open Women’s Picks and Best Bets
A wide-open field provides plenty of options for tennis fans who want to have a bet on the French Open, with Halep discounted solely because there is a lot better value on offer elsewhere.
Osaka’s fitness issues mean she is a pre-tournament doubt, but should she recover from a hand problem in time for Roland Garros, a price of 15/1 for the Japanese looks to be far too big.
Last year’s finalist Sloane Stephens is another name in the frame and the powerful American is worth considering at around the 16/1 mark, the same price as Rome champion Pliskova.
Williams can never be ignored either, although it would be a big ask for her to triumph after what has been an inconsistent year so far. She is as big as 20/1 for the title with some betting sites.
For those seeking an each-way wager at smaller stakes, 50/1 on the in-form Johanna Konta has to be up there among the best value bets for this year’s French Open. Reaching the final in Rome recently showed her game can suit the clay nicely and she will be tough to take down in Paris.
Last but not least, Bertens at 9/1 is tempting considering she is in some of the best form of her life, the Madrid crown the biggest victory of her career to date. If she is ever going to win the first Grand Slam title of her career, now looks to be the ideal time for her to do so.