While Football continues to dominate Sundays for fantasy sports, a major part of tennis quietly begins early tomorrow morning: the opening round of the French Open! While fantasy tournaments will take a day or two to build up to full steam, Draftkings is still kicking off the week with a respectable $30K main GPP that demands attention. The 29 match slate might be a little overwhelming initially, so here are a few of my favorite plays to get your lineup building started.
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Format: (Draftkings Salary, American Betting Odds as of publication)
Simona Halep ($11,000, -2000)
With no Nadal or Joker on the horizon, this slate lacks a wildly overwhelming favorite on the men’s side to completely dominate in three straight sets. You might be tempted to play Zverev or Coric or to skip out on the elite plays altogether. Instead, I advise you to skip the temptation for a longshot best-of-5 blowout and settle for two blowout sets instead at the hands of Simona Halep.
Even the eyeball test points this match towards a blowout. Simona Halep is one of the best players in the world. Her 17-3 record and 1.17 dominance ratio against rank 10-100 opponents is among the best in the WTA, while Tormo has been average at best with a 7-9 record and .96 DR. Tormo is a fine tour-level clay courter, but Halep is arguably the best player in the world and projects to get to the next round with no trouble at all.
Better yet, this matchup lines up beautifully for fantasy. With an implied game total of 17 games on betting markets, a blowout is not only on the table, but is actually likely. A slight overperformance on break points is all it would take to move from a strong 6-2 6-3 victory to a dominating 6-0 6-2 route, making Halep an easy candidate to put up one of the best scores on the slate. Considering Halep is arguably the best returner in the WTA and Tormo is one of the weaker servers, breaks will not be in short supply. If you can make the salary work, jam the elite Simona Halep for the best short at a high score.
John Isner ($10,000, -400)
As a fantasy tennis writer, one of my duties is to tell you to play John Isner. Even on clay and even with Isner not playing his best tennis the past year, I still recommend jamming him in your lineups today. His service game is just that good in fantasy, and he needs to do little more than win to put up a great score, and win he should.
Coming off an excellent 2019 campaign, Isner has only been average this year in terms of match performance. He holds a 9-8 record and .98 record (vs. rank 10-100 opponents) and typically underperforms on clay, which would not be good enough against any decent opponent. Fortunately, Isner’s round 1 matchup is about as soft as it gets. The 21-year-old wildcard just does not seem to be ready for tour level competition quite yet, as evidenced by his modest career 6-15 record and .77 DR. While he has a handful of fine wins under his belt, I do not expect him to match up well against the big-serving John Isner, even if it’s been some time since Isner took the clay.
Isner’s highish price and uncertainty on the surface make Isner less of a lock candidate than usual, but his soft matchup and elite ace-to-double fault ratio give Isner one of the top median fantasy outcomes of the entire slate.
Eugenie Bouchard ($9,100, -250)
Ranked only 168 in the world, it would be easy to overlook Bouchard’s talent if you were not familiar with her history. A former world #5 and returning from an injury hiatus, Genie is back to playing some top quality tennis. She has been living on the clay courts since early August, and her efforts have already paid off with a finals run in Istanbul just a few weeks ago. As a result, Genie holds a strong 7-3 record and 1.11 DR against top 100 opponents for the year, echoing her peak form from years back.
Bouchard has been matched against Kalinskaya, a borderline tour level player that often juggles between qualifiers and early round exits. Her numbers for the year are uninspiring though not quite horrendous: a 5-6 record and .9 DR. However, Kalinskaya profiles a little more as a hard court player than a clay courter and also has a bit of a double fault tendency. Bouchard’s stadiness on clay and solid return game could seriously pressure Kalinskaya’s serve and result in a dominant performance if everything lines up. She may not have the elite median outcomes of Isner or Halep, but her affordable $9,100 salary keeps her easily in play for GPPs.
Federico Delbonis ($8,100, -145)
With most mid-range plays looking potentially competitive (Konta ($8,300) vs. Gauff) or are bleeding with uncertainty (Kwon ($7,800) vs. Paire), this salary tier has plenty of players worth taking a GPP flyer on but has few players resembling a core play. Delbonis, a slight favorite with multiple factors in his favor, might be the one you might lean on for more than a fair number of lineups.
On paper, the two players have performed quite comparably on the year. Delbonis sports a 7-10 record and .94 DR, while Londero has gone 4-12 with a .91 DR. Based on these numbers alone, Delbonis could be considered rightfully favored, but Delbonis has something that Londero does not: recent strong performances.
Aside from a surprisingly alright US Open performance, Londero has not been great since his August return. In particular, his 0-3 record on clay courts in winnable matchups stands out as particularly disappointing for a normally decent clay courter. Considering the very small sample size, I would not give too much worry for his recent performance except for one thing: Delbonis himself is coming off a very solid run in Austria. Between qualifying and main round play, he went 4-1, winning in straights in all of his matches except in his 3 set loss to the formidable Kecmanovic. His dominating 6-0 6-4 performance over Londero and clean victory over the high ranked Basilashvili reveal Delbonis to be in a much better groove than his opponent, Londero.
While I would not expect a 6-0 6-4 repeat of a couple weeks ago, Delbonis seems poised to win this one in 3-4 sets and put up a solid score at an affordable price. At $8,100, he is one of the cheapest favored players to boot.
Quick Dog Picks
Varvara Lepchenko ($6,700, +150), Martina Trevisan ($6,200, +170)
With matchplay on clay courts being at a premium in general, it never hurts to take a chance on a qualifier. Considering they need to win 3 matches in a row to qualify for the French Open, they can usually be counted on to be in decent form and to have a better feel for the courts than their opponents. I would not exactly say Lepchenko is a better player than Strycova or that Trevisan is a better player than Giorgi, but the favorites’ numbers on the year (4-8, .92 for Strycova and 5-11 .94 for Giorgi) are not stellar enough that Lepchenko and Trevisan would not have a shot if the qualifiers have a quick start.
Daniel Evans ($6,300, +170)
Evans has limited action on clay with meager results throughout his career (4-8 record with .98 DR), but Kei Nishikori has simply not been himself since his return. He is 1-3 on clay the past month and is coming off a 6-0 6-3 shellacking off the hands of Garin. If Kei continues to underperform, punting with Evans might not be a bad idea.
Jason Jung ($5,300, +280)
Federico Coria is a clay courter, but he is not that great of one. He only went 3-5 with a .94 DR on the surface during the past year. Jason Jung definitely is not any better, but considering he had to go through qualifying and is so cheap, he is definitely worth a dart throw against a potentially overpriced Coria.
Miomir Kecmanovic ($4,800, +370)
Don’t let Schwartzman’s surprise upset over Nadal distract you from the fact that Kecmanovic is a very formidable opponent and can win this match. The young Serbian won a title in Austria just a couple weeks ago and is possibly playing the best tennis he ever has on clay. Schwartzmann is the better player and is probably playable himself due to his great return game, but do not sleep completely on Kecmanovic.
Norbert Gombos ($4,600, +500)
This is a pure numbers play, as Norbert’s 6-5 record and 1.05 DR are surprisingly decent for the year, and Coric is known to be a bit streaky in spite of his high level of talent. (He is 7-11 this year with a .93 DR, though he has faced a bit of a higher level of competition in this rank 10-100 sample.) Gombos has not played a match on clay in a few years and honestly could get wrecked by Coric if he does not make the proper adjustments, but these odds are a downright bargain provided he can translate his solid hard court play onto the clay.