French Open Women's Betting: Back Halep to tame the Pliskova serve on clay

The semi finals of the women’s singles at the 2017 French Open are set for Thursday in Paris, with our 40-1 pre-tournament outright pick in action.

Timea Bacsinszky takes on Jelena Ostapenko for a spot in the final and for us to collect on the each-way part of that wager, while tournament favourite Simona Halep faces Karolina Pliskova.

It’s been a very decent tournament for our bets up to now, with a 19-point profit heading into day 12, after we landed a 3.70 winner on Wednesday when Andy Murray defeated Kei Nishikori 3-1 and to ensure no losses on the women’s outrights we can side with Ostapenko on Thursday.

Jelena Ostapenko vs Timea Bacsinszky

One of these two will be having a happy birthday, with both sharing June 8 as their special day, and hopefully it will be Bacsinszky that’s celebrating the most at close of play on Thursday.

History is on our side at least, with the most recent French Open women’s singles finalist that was unseeded being Mima Jaušovec back in 1983 when only the top-16 were seeded.

Ostapenko is looking to break that trend and she has the power to do it in what is a match-up of aggression versus guile.

The 20-year-old (on Thursday) Latvian faced a limited (at this level) pusher in Caroline Wozniacki in the quarters and had to come back from losing the opening set before finding her range and easing past the Dane for the loss of only four more games.

When she’s on her game Ostapenko can mix it with the best and she’s taken a set in each of her three meetings versus top-10 opposition in 2017, so she oughtn’t be too worried about facing Bacsinszky.

The occasion might get to her though in a maiden Grand Slam semi, while Timea has been here before – in 2015 when she lost in three sets to Serena Williams and perhaps that big match experience will see her through.

And the service hold/break stats over the last 12 months on clay at main level favour Bacsinszky, with the Swiss holding an excellent total now of 125.3 (72.8% holds/52.5% breaks).

That’s a fair way ahead of Ostapenko’s 111.5 total (65.2% holds/46.3% breaks) but with the match to some extent on the racquet of the aggressive Latvian I think we have to at least cover our initial outlay on the women’s outrights while we have the chance.

Bacsinszky wins this match and we’re collecting 20 points on the outright (at least) so five points on Ostapenko here at 2.30 looks the sensible call for those on that outright wager.

Simona Halep vs Karolina Pliskova

Halep drifted right out to 50-1 for the tournament when she was a set and 5-1 down to Elina Svitolina, who looked all over the winner of that quarter final, but couldn’t get over the line.

The Romanian ended up nicking the second set on a dead net cord and that did for the Ukrainian, who mentally checked out while Halep found her best level and cruised through the decider.

Svitolina was playing delightful tennis for almost the first two sets, but credit Halep for making it tough for Svitolina to get over the line and just hanging in when she was being outplayed.

Now Halep faces another player with plenty of power off the ground in Pliskova, who has the best service hold percentage of any woman left in the tournament (76.5%), but the Czech’s return game is the weakest by far of any of the four semi finalists.

Breaking serve at just 31.6% she’s almost 25% weaker in that facet of the game than Halep, so Pliskova will need to serve superbly to have a good chance on Thursday.

Halep has had the better of their career series up until now, with a 4-1 lead, and all of those five matches were played on hard courts, where you’d expect Pliskova to be at her most effective.

Pliskova has only managed to hold serve in those five matches against Halep 61.4% of the time – around 15% down on her average – and on clay where the Czech has her weaknesses exposed more often she’s 3-8 versus top-20 ranked opponents.

I expect Halep to come through this one after that amazing comeback against Svitolina, but she’s hardly one to trust at the business end of major tournaments, so the bet I like here is not Halep at a skinny-looking 1.27.

The 2.10 about over 6.5 breaks of serve looks good to me, with Halep breaking serve 55% of the time on clay in the last 12 months.

In the five clashes between Halep and Pliskova on hard courts there have been at least seven breaks of serve three times (another one was six and the other five), so on clay with more breaks likely this looks the value wager.

Best Bet
5 points win Ostapenko to beat Bacsinszky at 2.30 (only if backed Bacsinszky outright at 41.0 pre-tournament)
2 points win over 6.5 breaks of serve in Halep/Pliskova at 2.10