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French Open: Youthful could-be contenders

Ahead of the clay-court action at Roland Garros, Cloudbet looks at what we can conclude from the limited data available in advance of the final Grand Slam of 2020 - and casts an eye on some youthful could-be contenders.

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Following the resumption of the tennis tour, there have been a number of high profile events crammed in to just a few weeks, but unfortunately for those who are looking to ascertain current surface levels for each player, there isn’t much to go on in terms of sample size for many players.

For men’s players on the main ATP Tour, there have been just a handful of clay events so far this year - last week’s tournament in Rome, the current event ongoing in Hamburg, and Kitzbuhel, which is an event offering a rather different dynamic to the French Open given that it is played at altitude.

And while Rafa - the King of Roland Garros - Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem perhaps predictably make up the Cloudbet top-three pre-tournament favourites, the clay-court performances of the year so far have put the focus on a number of youthful could-be contenders.

On the WTA Tour, there have been a few more, with several clay tournaments taking place in Palermo and Prague before the tour switched its focus to hard courts in the run-up to the US Open.

The question is, what can we learn from these limited clay warm-up events so far?

The Men

In the men’s tournaments, clay ability and youth has come to the fore so far. From a youth perspective, the 21-year-old Serb, Miomir Kecmanovic, lifted his first ATP Tour trophy in Kitzbuhel, which came as a bit of a surprise given his unspectacular clay record in advance of this year - he’d never even made a clay final at Challenger level previously.

He was joined in the last four by Yannick Hanfmann, Marc-Andrea Huesler and Laslo Djere. The first two of these three tend to ply their trade on the Challenger Tour, but the common denominator with all three is that they are clay court specialists.

The theme of clay court specialists continued in Rome, with Diego Schwartzman making the final and Casper Ruud making the semi-finals - his first Masters 1000 level semi-final. Both Ruud and Denis Shapovalov (both 21), who also made the semi-finals, continued the theme of youth as well. We also speculated about this in advance of the US Open, and it would appear that young players are benefiting more than veterans around the pause on tour earlier this year.

Cloudbet's outright winner odds - Men's Singles*

*Cloudbet odds subject to change. Click on the above image to be taken to the live site page.

The Women

In the early clay events on the WTA Tour, there was a similar theme in terms of genuine clay courters doing well. Fiona Ferro and Simona Halep (currently the Cloudbet favourite) won the two opening events in Palermo and Prague, respectively, and both would consider clay their best surface.

All of the semi-finalists in those two tournaments, with the possible exception of Kristyna Pliskova in Prague, have fairly strong long-term clay data (at the very least) and the big-serving Pliskova probably benefited from the quicker conditions in the Czech Republic that week.

Subsequently, this theme continued in the post-US Open clay events. Patricia Maria Tig - one of the main clay court specialists on tour - and Halep again, have won in Istanbul and Rome, respectively, while again, the four semi-finalists in each tournament have relatively strong clay data in in the longer-term, or are clay specialists.

Cloudbet's outright winner odds - Women's Singles*

*Cloudbet odds subject to change. Click on the above image to be taken to the live site page.

These trends are interesting to consider in advance of Roland Garros - focusing on young players, or those who are either extremely competent on clay or, indeed, clay-court specialists, could well yield some dividends in Paris, both from an outright market and individual match perspective.

Player's to watch

In theory, this should be of interest to those bettors who might be looking at players such as Casper Ruud (80.8) and Cristian Garin (69.5) in the men’s tournament - essentially young, clay-court specialists.

In the women's tournament, players of a fairly similar dynamic include Elena Rybakina (24.0), Jill Teichmann (102), Marketa Vondrousova (24.3) and Iga Swiatek (29.8) - (all odds correct at the time of writing; please see site for latest).

It wouldn’t be a surprise to us at all if a few of these players at least had a strong showing across the last Grand Slam of the year over the next few weeks.

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