The tennis tour moves swiftly on from Dusseldorf and Nice to a rather bigger stage this week, as the second grand slam of the year begins on Sunday in Paris. The 2013 French Open kicks off with 16 men’s first round matches on Sunday, with the major draws for those with tickets being Roger Federer and David Ferrer, who both open with matches that they are expected to win pretty comfortably.
There’s a real old grind fest set for the Suzanne Lenglen Court where Gilles Simon takes on Lleyton Hewitt. This could be a lengthy encounter featuring plenty of long rallies between these two counter-punchers. The overs is worthy of interest in that one.
Milos Raonic, who has just dispensed with Galo Blanco as his coach and been working with Brad Gilbert and Ivan Ljubicic, takes on Belgian firebrand Xavier Malisse, while two out-of-form in Andreas Seppi and Leonardo Mayer will attempt to fall over the line somehow. Another that has all the hallmarks of a real battle takes place on Court 3, where Marcel Granollers and Feli Lopez will slug it out over what looks likely to be four or five sets.
Sam Querrey is much too short at 1.22 against anyone here, where he has an awful record, but I think I’ll plump for Steve Darcis today at odds-against when he takes on Michael Llodra at around 4pm UK time on Sunday.
Llodra’s awful record of nine first-round losses in Paris – including three in his last four trips here – makes him a shaky favourite against most. But the diminutive Belgian has beaten Llodra here before and now that he’s started to get some wins under his belt again he looks the more likely winner to me.
Darcis has had off-court problems to deal with, but he appears a bit more focused on tennis right now and the results have started to come. He’ll be hoping for a repeat of 2011, when he reached the last 32 as a qualifier, beating Llodra in four sets along the way.
The Frenchman is probably favourite for this on the back of a run to the Bordeaux Challenger final last time out, but his poor record here, combined with the return to form of Darcis, has me favouring the Belgian today.
Best bet: Back Darcis to beat Llodra at 2.16