Djokovic Now Slight Favorite Over Nadal

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is now nearly equal favorites with Rafael Nadal at the French Open. Photo by Jason Heidrich/Icon Sportswire

  • Third round action at Roland Garros begins on Friday, October 2
  • Prices to win the French Open have fluctuated significantly during the past week
  • Who provides the best betting value on the clay courts in Paris?

Few upsets have taken place thus far in men’s action at the French Open. Despite only one of the top seven seeds bowing out, from a betting standpoint the draw is anything but stable.

French Open odds have shifted fairly significantly from a week ago. Does that tell us something about how well individuals are playing or is it an overreaction?

Let’s look at the revised odds and consider where we find the best betting value at this stage.

2020 French Open Odds

Player Odds
Novak Djokovic +150
Rafael Nadal +160
Dominic Thiem +425
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman +3300
Stefanos Tsitsipas +3300
Stanislas Wawrinka +3300
Andrey Rublev +5000
Alexander Zverev +5000
Roberto Bautista-Agut +8000
Jannik Sinner +8000
Pablo Carreno Busta +13000
Matteo Berrettini +15000
Grigor Dimitrov +15000
Cristian Garin +15000
Casper Rudd +15000

Odds taken October 1st from DraftKings

Normally played in May and June, the French Open was pushed to the fall because of COVID-19. Being played on the heels of the United States Open, some players opted out of one tournament or the other, and the number of warm-up events on clay was fewer than normal.

Favorites: Novak Djokovic & Rafael Nadal

Though not unprecedented, and only by a very slim margin, it is strange to see anyone as the favorite over Rafael Nadal on clay. Novak Djokovic is favored over Nadal at DraftKings, but their average odds are nearly dead-even with Djokovic at +144 and Nadal at +145.

Both are all-time greats, with Djokovic having won 17 grand slam titles, and Nadal 19. That said, Nadal’s 12 titles at Roland Garros are the most for any player at a single major. He has won each of the last three years. Djokovic has one victory in Paris.

Nadal is 6-1 against Djokovic at the French Open and 2-0 in Finals. All-time on clay Nadal sports a 17-7 mark against his rival. So why is Djokovic gaining steam among bettors?

Djokovic has been impressive in his first two matches. He beat Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the opening round, and followed it up with an easy victory over Ričardas Berankis, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Nadal has not exactly faltered. His first round win came over Egor Gerasimov, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. He made quick work of American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round, 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.

Perhaps a piece of the odds shift has to do with one of the top seeds losing. Daniil Medvedev, seeded fourth, dropped his first round match. Medvedev was on Djokovic’s half of the draw.

Ninth seed Denis Sharpovalov, on Djokovic’s side, was knocked out in the second round too. Eighth-seeded Gael Monfils, in Nadal’s half, lost in his first match.


Top Contender: Dominic Thiem

In reality, the best reason to bet on Djokovic is the presence of Dominic Thiem in Nadal’s half of the draw. The winner of the US Open, Thiem is clearly the third-best player, and you could argue he is improving while Nadal and Djokovic are on the backside of their prime.

Thiem might not be Roger Federer, but there was a time the best bet in many majors was the player among the trio of all-time greats that had the clear path to the Final, while the other two potentially had to face each other in the semifinals.

Following his first major title, Thiem has beaten two higher-profile players thus far in Paris than Nadal and Djokovic. In the first round Thiem got by Marin Čilić 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. He beat American Jack Sock in the second round, 6-1, 6-3, 7-6.

Thiem lost to Nadal in the French Open Final in each of the last two years. He reached the semis in 2016 and 2017.

Longshots: Stefanos Tsitsipas & Andrey Rublev

Beating any of the top three seeds is going to be difficult. Beating all three is almost unimaginable. Opportunity is present in the quarter of the draw that Medvedev faltered in. If you win that quarter you hope someone else clips Djokovic, but in a worst-case scenario you have to beat two of the top three, not the full trio.

Stefanos Tsitsipas had to rally from two sets down to get by Jaume Munar in the first round. He beat Pablo Cuevas in straight sets in his second match. At the age of 21 last year, Tsitsipas reached the fourth round in Paris. At the US Open he dropped a third set match to Borna Coric despite having six match points, and a break edge in the final set.

Andrey Rublev also came from two sets behind beating Sam Querrey in his opening match. He took out Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in four sets on Thursday. Rublev has twice reached the quarterfinals at the US Open including last month. Though his French Open resume is light, his best overall results have taken place on clay.

2020 UEFA Champions League Odds Tracker

The Bet: Rafael Nadal

Betting on favorites is not all that exhilarating, but what have the top two players done in order to have such a drastic flip in the odds? There is no question Nadal faces a real test from Thiem if they meet in the semis. That said, Nadal is 8-4 against Thiem on clay, and nobody should need a reminder of how Rafa plays at Roland Garros.

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Dave F.

NFL NBA Golf Sports Writer