MX23RW : Thursday, August 16 23:12:43

Can Simona Halep, Rafael Nadal be stopped at French Open?

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are clear favourites to win the French Open this week, but both Sloane Stephens and Dominic Thiem have genuine hope of causing a surprise.

When the French Open comes around each year, it is regarded as a foregone conclusion - rightly or wrongly - that Rafael Nadal will win the men's crown at a canter and for the most part, the 10-time champion has suggested that will be the case in 2018. However, while many are expecting Nadal to overcome Dominic Thiem, you can make a case for the women's final between Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens being one of the most 50-50 finals for some time. Some bookmakers will have you believe differently with Halep odds-on but given the story of her career and the upward curve of Stephens's, many anticipate a classic showdown.

Many French Open betting odds will show Halep as a 1/2 shot at best - with Stephens at least 2/1 - but it will take a brave punter to bet heavily on Halep who has already lost three Grand Slam finals. Many of the great players have overcome adversity to finally get their name up in lights but it is a different situation with Halep who his carrying the weight of expectation of a nation and of someone who has held the honour of being world number one for 32 weeks. Not many players who have been regarded as the best in their profession have failed to achieve their ultimate goal and the longer that Halep takes to win that elusive Major, the pressure will build.

Romania's Simona Halep in action during her French Open semi-final match against Spain's Garbine Muguruza on June 7, 2018© Reuters

The 26-year-old's previous two outings in the final at Roland Garros have ended in three-set defeats and last year's disappointment against the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko had the potential to derail Halep's career. To her credit, the Romanian has battled back and her mental strength is up their with the best in the game but is she able to see out a Grand Slam final with a straight-sets win? It's unlikely but a three-set triumph at odds of 3/1 should appeal. Stephens has always been highly-regarded but the American had advanced past the last 16 of a Grand Slam on just two occasions before winning at Flushing Meadows in September. The 25-year-old has always been solid on the clay in Paris but it may take a career-best performance to see Halep denied on the biggest stage yet again.

As far as the men's final on Sunday is concerned, Nadal is justifiably a clear favourite with the left-hander in the region of 1/5 to end Thiem's challenge but that is not to say that there is real value in the 7/2 on offer for the Austrian. The 24-year-old is making his first appearance in a Grand Slam final and has used up more energy than his legendary opponent but coming through tests against Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev will have only filled Thiem with confidence. The head-to-head record between the two also makes for interesting reading with Thiem one of the few players in history to hold three clay-court wins over Nadal.

Dominic Thiem in action at the French Open on June 5, 2018© Reuters

Those successes have come in Buenos Aries, Rome and Madrid - courts which possess variations to the clay used in Paris - but Thiem knows that he has the game to defeat Nadal and if he produces the best display of his career, the tennis world could be in for a surprise. That said, having a punt at the set betting appears to be the way to go this weekend. If you combine Halep winning in three and Nadal in four, you are going to get odds in the region of 13/1. It feels like a no brainer and although you are leaving yourself with little margin for error, it is one of the better bets on offer given the outright odds on the two favourites.

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Rafael Nadal in action during the first round of the US Open on August 29, 2017
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