Finding Value in the French Open
Playing solid favorites in the earlier rounds of major tennis tournaments such as the French Open, isn't a lot of fun. After all, -500 doesn't pay much. But here are some players that will offer nicer prices along the way. They're longshots to win it all, but good in early rounds.
KEI NISHIKORI is a legitimate semifinals candidate. He readily admits that clay is not his best surface, but he's lost only to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (twice) on the dirt this spring. No. 6 in the world, he's 28-9 with a singles title this season. Reaching the finals would be a major breakthrough for him.
NICK KYRGIOS should just shut up and play tennis. He's already caused a stir in Paris by berating a respected umpire on the court. But on paper, he looks good. The 21-year-old Aussie is 19-6 this year with a singles title. His only losses on clay this spring have been to Nishikori and Nadal. Though he struggled in the first round, he improved in the next match.
DOMINIC THIEM carries a gaudy 36-10 record and three singles titles, so this No. 15 ranked Austrian is on the verge of breaking into big time. He had a win over Roger Federer in Rome before losing to Nishikori in the quarterfinals.
TIMEA BACSINSZKY has worked her way to No. 9, and she won her first-round match at Roland Garros in straight sets. On the hard surface in Miami, she notably defeated Agnieszka Radwanska and Simona Halep back-to-back to reach the semifinals. On clay, she's lost to Halep and Garbine Muguruza.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA has won her first two matches in the French, and has a world 10th ranking. She lost to Serena Williams in the Rome quarters, retiring in the second set. But she beat Serena on the hard surface in Miami on the way to the finals, where she lost to Victoria Azarenka. At age 30, Kuznetsova actually seems to be improving.
SLOANE STEPHENS is our obligatory American hopeful. She made a splash three years ago when she reached the semifinals of the Australian Open. But she's done little since. It had been nearly a year since she won a match at a major until Monday's straight-set, first-round victory. Maybe it's a new start.
The Best of the Decent
Of the players above, Thiem may offer the best value in any singles match. Nishikori has a chance of scoring an upset in late rounds. I don't trust Kyrgios unless the price is too tempting to resist. Kuznetsova may be a fanciful lure at the right price on the women's side, but the others don't have much appeal.
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