The final of the 2015 French Open Ladies Singles is set for Saturday featuring Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova.
Both players conspired to foil my wagers in the semi finals when Safarova failed to convert the one point she needed on serve for the under games against Ana Ivanovic, while Williams’ illness saw her take a set too long against Timea Bacsinszky.
They start at around 14:00 UK time on Saturday and the circumstances make this rather a difficult one to predict – as if it wasn’t tough enough already.
Serena Williams vs Lucie Safarova
Two factors make this ninth main level meeting between Safarova and Williams a little bit of guesswork and they are the health and fitness of the American and the nerves of the Czech.
If Williams turns up on court in a similar or worse state to the one we saw her in on Thursday it would more or less need a fairly substantial choke from Safarova for her not to win her maiden slam title.
Williams has been to see the tournament doctor and despite her minimal comments after the Bacsinszky match it’s difficult to see her not being in reasonable condition to land a 20th major title come Saturday afternoon after a day off.
From the outside looking in it really depends upon your viewpoint as to how unwell Williams is and the view that the layers have taken is to make the world number one the biggest price she’s been since 2007 to beat Safarova.
The last time the pair clashed in the non-tour level Hopman Cup, which ended in a final set tie break win for Williams in January on hard courts she was a 1.3 shot, but on tour her latest price against the Czech was 1.167 at the China Open last autumn.
Saturday’s price of 1.30 has only been bettered in her career series against Safarova by the 1.40 that Williams was in Miami way back in 2007 and generally she’s been between 1.10 and 1.22 to beat Safarova.
So there’s a ‘sickness factor’ inbuilt in these prices and assuming you’re of the opinion that Williams is fit and well it’s probably one worth taking.
The weather may be a factor too if Williams hasn’t fully recovered, but it’s set to be much cooler on Saturday than it was on Thursday and Friday and that should help her.
The second factor is the likely emotional state of Safarova if she came to serving for the title and we saw it once more against Ivanovic that there is almost certainly going to be a choke.
Ivanovic let her off the hook a little bit in that match, but Williams won’t and will nerves allow Safarova to produce the kind of tennis she’s been displaying that has got her this far?
In major finals since betting price records became available in 2007 Williams has only lost once as a heavy favourite and that was against Sam Stosur in the 2011 US Open title match.
So, she’s 8-1 between 1.1 and 1.45 in major finals, while Safarova as an underdog of price 3.50 or bigger has lost her last 12 and overall she is 8-38 and 3-13 on clay at that price range.
That said, the Czech has covered the +4.5 game handicap against the American in their last three meetings in all competitions and that’s a 1.76 shot on Saturday.
Williams has dropped a set in four of her six matches in Paris this fortnight and Safarova to win one here is a 1.84 chance, while over 21.5 total games looks decent at 1.88.
French Open Ladies Singles finals of late have been quick affairs, with 12 of the last 13 being settled in straight sets – the exception being last year’s win for Maria Sharapova over Simona Halep.
The last big underdog to win was Fran Schiavone back in 2010 when she beat Stosur after the Aussie had beaten Williams, Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic en route to the final, only to lose as a 1.25 shot.
If you fancy another underdog win here the 2-0 at 6.50 could be the one, with Williams never having lost in three sets in a final – all four of her final defeats have been in straight sets and not really close ones.
Another decent option to my mind is the over 0.5 tie breaks, with three of the last five finals featuring a breaker and Safarova has played five already this fortnight.
Safarova and Williams also played two breakers in that Hopman Cup clash, but that was on hard, and the over 12.5 games in set one is a 5.30 chance.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the health of Williams I’m not of a mind to risk a short price here, with the 2-0 Safarova and over 0.5 tie breaks the most tempting options, and preference is for the latter.
Back over 0.5 tie breaks at 3.40