Nadal at French Open Has Been Easy Money for Bettors—Until This Year

For the first time in two decades, it’s probably not a good idea to bet on Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.

Nadal has competed in 18 French Opens during his career and hoisted the trophy 14 times. Amazingly, despite a strike rate of 78%, only once did Nadal’s odds to win accurately reflect his level of dominance: in 2009, when he was a -400 favorite heading into the tournament and actually lost to Robin Soderling in the fourth round.

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Nadal most recently won the French Open in 2022 when he was a +400 underdog to win it all despite having claimed the Australian Open just a few months prior. A bet on Nadal that year alone would have been sufficient to recover losses from a failed bet on him the four times he came up short in Paris.

All in all, placing $100 on Nadal to win the French Open every year between 2005 and 2022 would have netted a bettor a total gain of $1,134. That’s a pretty good return.

This year, however, the odds have shifted. In what may be the last French Open of his career, the 37-year-old qualified for the tournament via a protected ranking as a player returning from injury. For his first-round matchup, Nadal drew No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev, who is fresh off an Italian Open championship on May 19. The last time the two played was in the French Open semifinal two years ago, when Zverev had to retire with an ankle injury after a grueling two sets that lasted three hours.

Nadal has been plagued by health issues since the 2022 season, playing just 15 matches in the past 18 months. He’s participated in three clay tournaments this year and failed to reach the quarterfinals in any of them. And yet, FanDuel gives Nadal 23-to-1 odds to win the French Open—the seventh best of any man—while DraftKings lists him at a similar 28-to-1.

You can’t count out Nadal at the French Open. The Spaniard is 112-3 at Roland Garros in his career; he didn’t drop a set in 87 of those wins, and he was pushed to five sets only thrice. Against all opponents not named Novak Djokovic, he is 102-1 and has been nearly as likely to win a set 6-0 (22 times) than he’s been to lose it (23 times).

Rafa at the French Open has been the surest bet in sports over the past two decades, but this weekend might be the end of that era.

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