Scratching the Surface of French Open Tennis Betting

With four French Open singles titles apiece, it should come as little surprise that Rafael Nadal and Justin Henin are respective men's and women's championship tennis betting favorites to win the second Major event of the year, at Roland Garros, outside Paris, May 24-June 6.

The French Open is the only Major conducted on clay, a painfully slow surface that minimizes the effectiveness of big servers and enhances players with excellent stamina who hit precise ground strokes…like Nadal and Henin.

Nadal, who captured four consecutive French Open Men's Singles Championships from 2005-08, opened as a 4/9 choice to regain the title he lost to arch-rival Roger Federer last year. Nadal, who has been plagued by knee problems, seems in excellent form, having won his first 10 clay court matches of the season, justification, perhaps, for his odds-on status.

As usual, Federer will be Nadal's main competition. A second choice at odds of 5/2, Federer won the first Major of the year, the Australian Open in January, but has gone just 3-3 since then. The winner of a record 16 Majors, Federer has been remarkably consistent, having reached the semi-finals or better in 23 consecutive Grand Slam events, including 18 of the last 19 finals.

Novak Djokovic, the world's No. 2 ranked male behind Federer but ahead of Nadal, is listed at odds of 8/1 in French Open betting futures. The Serb has one Grand Slam title to his credit, a victory in the 2008 Australian Open, and has reached the semi-finals at the French Open in both 2007 and 2008, although clay is not his best surface.

Juan Martin Del Potro is ranked fourth in the world and quoted at odds as high as 12/1 but the Argentine's status remains unclear following wrist surgery, May 5. A US Open winner last year and a semi-finalist in the French Open as well, Del Potro would have a chance at an upset, were he healthy. As it is, he seems a risky bet.

You can get at least 20/1 on anyone else on the men's side, including 2010 Barcelona Open winner Fernando Verdasco, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Murray and Robin Soderling.

Henin, the 3/2 favorite on the women's side, finished runner-up in the 2010 Australian Open, just her second tournament after a two-year "retirement." A victory in the recent Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart and her success on clay has made her the one to beat.

Serena Williams and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters, the latter also recently returned from time off from the game, should be the main threats to Henin. Williams is the 6/1 second choice in most books, having won her 12th Grand Slam singles title in January, the Australian Open. Of the dozen titles, only one has come at Roland Garros, where she prevailed in 2002. Clearly, as the world's top ranked woman, she merits respect.

Clijsters, a 7/1 third choice in most French Open tennis betting future books, made a dramatic return to win the US Open last year. But she's played sparingly on clay in the last three years and is nursing a knee injury.

Reigning and defending French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova is quoted at odds of 8/1. Bothered by an ailing shoulder recently, Kuznetsova has struggled during most of the year and, although dangerous, does not appear to be in top form.

Victoria Azarenka, Jelana Jankovic, Samantha Sosur, Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva and Venus Williams are a half-dozen more at odds ranging from 12/1 to 20/1 with upset on their minds. Azarenka backers hope to make as much noise at the windows as the Belarussian does on the court where she has been criticized for her loud grunts. Jankovic was a finalist at both the 2007 and 2008 French Opens while Sosur was a semi-finalist at last year's French Open and appears ready for a breakthrough.

Ranked No. 3 in the world, Safina has reached the finals at the French Open the last two years but still is looking for her first career Grand Slam victory. Dementieva has been to at least the semi-finals in all four Major events but has not secured a Major victory yet. With seven Grand Slam victories, including five at Wimbledon, Venus Williams is the most decorated of this group. Despite all her success, however, Williams has never won a French Open, only once reaching the finals, back in 2002.

With a heavy but far from unbeatable favorite on the men's side and a more competitive contest for the women, French Open tennis betting should appeal to a wide range of players this year.