French Open Fantasy Tennis Picks – September 28th

Now on its third day, the French Open is now hitting full steam, and Draftkings is offering a real headliner of a tennis GPP with a $100k prize pool. The past couple slates have been a regular minefield, with tons of sizable underdogs pulling upsets and plenty of crazy fantasy performances in the 80-90 range that were essential for a top finish. While I definitely will not promise that your studs will not get upset or that your core plays will break the 80 mark, I can at least share some of my favorite plays to help navigate through the assured craziness of tomorrow’s huge contest. 

Be sure to leave a comment or tweet @GiantOctopus4 if you have any questions. If you really want to dig deep into the upcoming French Open contests, contact @DFSDatalytics or shoot us an email for a free trial to access our premium chat with plenty of useful info and spreadsheets. 

Format: (Draftkings Salary, American Betting Odds as of publication)

Note: I will not be covering Fanduel tomorrow due to the lack of large contests for tomorrow’s slate. Most players on Draftkings should be playable on Fanduel, but I recommend generally straying from players that cost much more than a $20 salary.

Novak Djokovic ($11,400, -10000)

For the second day in a row, a player out of the notorious big three is headlining the slate. While Nadal put up a surprising pedestrian 76.25 fantasy points yesterday, playing elite favorites is a winning proposition in general due to their incredible floor, median, and ceiling outcomes. If you can roster the right underdogs to make the salary work, they are borderline core plays.

Granted, Djokovic is slightly less exciting than Nadal on clay. While still a better server than Nadal, Djokovic’s break point game is not on the same level as Nadal’s, limiting his ceiling outcomes a bit. This is reflected in the games total for this match on betting markets, which checks in at 28. This is still the most impressive total on the slate by a wide margin, but is more suggestive of a very good spot than a smash spot.

Still, I recommend having a fair amount of exposure to Joker, especially if you are mass entering. His opponent, Mikael Ymer, is a fine up and comer. However, Ymer will be totally out of his league against Djokovic, who boasts an out-of-this-world 33-1 record and 1.51 dominance ratio on the year against rank 10-100 opponents. I expect Djokovic to dominate and to have the best shot at the top score of the slate.

Fiona Ferro ($10,000, -560)

With the Joker not being quite a lock as an elite play, it makes sense to have some other expensive plays on the board. Most of the plays in this tier are not too bad (maybe consider fading Gauff), but Ferro stood out to me as one of the better plays in this tier.

Betting markets priced this match with Ferro as a solid -560 favorite and with a game total of only around 19 games. If that price is to be believed, Ferro should on average win 6-4 6-3 and also win most of the time, which is not too shabby for a mere median outcome. However, I think there is reason to believe Ferro can easily surpass that outcome. Despite coming off from nearly two month’s rest of tennis, Ferro is playing the best tennis of her career. She went a ridiculous 15-0 during exhibition season, then easily won Palermo by winning 6 matches in a row while only dropping a single set. Clay has also been her best surface throughout her career, and she should be well positioned for another high level performance even despite her break from match play. 

This is in stark contrast to her competitor Heather Watson. She has been uninspiring though not quite dreadful in WTA’s return to play in August. However, Watson carries a few other disadvantages that further tip the scales towards Ferro. First, Watson does not profile well as a clay courter. While her overall win percentage on the surface is even with her hard court win percentage, she has fared markedly worse against top 100 competitors on the surface, where her 35% win rate and .92 DR are a noticeable step back from her 44% and .97 figures on hard. Secondly, while Watson has participated in match play more recently than Ferro, her withdrawal September 8th puts her form and preparedness for the clay into question. 

Overall, Ferro comes in at an attractive price point and has a potentially very exploitable matchup. Due to the always high range of outcomes in the WTA and other viable options like Martic at a similar price point, she is far from a lock. Still, Ferro deserves consideration for anyone any GPP lineup builds.

Thiago Monteiro ($8,700, -235), Pablo Cuevas ($8,600, -230), Andrej Martin ($8,200, -190)

Although I am risking oversimplifying these matchups, all three of these fellas are dirt rats, as Nick Kyrgios would say “affectionately”. Rolland Garos has played notoriously slow this year, due to a combination of the clay, low temperatures, wet weather, and surprisingly slow balls. These conditions effectively dialed the already slow clay conditions up to an 11, so it makes extra sense to lean on players that profile as clay courters. 

It also helps quite a bit that these three are priced to move for fantasy. As decent favorites that barely cost any extra salary, they profile well for cash lineups and as core plays. Just be wary of Cuevas’s opponent, Laaksonen, who is coming off hot via qualifiers and could potentially overperform despite Cuevas being a higher level player overall.

Punts

Normally I prefer picking some underdogs rather than going straight to the punt tier, but none of the players in this category stand out to me as especially inspiring plays. (That being said, anything can happen on a given day and I would be wary of fading all of these players completely.) I will not give a full match breakdown for him, but if you really need a “normal” underdog, Steve Johnson ($6,500, +135) could be poised to overperform. Baena is normally a fine clay courter, which makes it painful to go against him, but he is only 1-4 on clay vs. top 100 opponents on the year and is coming off a mid-match retirement just a couple weeks ago against Moutet. Steve Johnson himself is pedestrian, but he is definitely worth a look here.

Ludmilla Samsonova ($5,000, +280)

It pains me to fade Kenin here, but she has been much better on hard courts than on clay in the past, and her 0-6 0-6 loss against Azarenka September 17th did not inspire any confidence. Samsonova herself is coming off a sad 6-3 6-1 loss to Rus, but she looked solid enough during her clay match play back in September and profiles as about neutral on the surface. She’s an okay up-and-comer in her own right even if she’s not close to Kenin’s level overall, but the conditions here could very well tilt the match in the underdog’s favor.

Harmony Tan ($4,500, +445)

This is a true dart throw play and I do not suggest playing tons of Tan. However, Kasatkina had to take a medical retirement just 10 days ago due to a badly twisted ankle. She had a great run at Rome before that injury occurred, but her level overall the past year has been uninspiring and the fitness concerns from the recent injury are very real. I hate to say it, but this is a potential letdown spot for Kasatkina, and Harmony could capitalize.

Vitalia Diatchenko ($4,200, +480)

It’s tough to believe poor Sloane is being priced as a heavy dog against anyone nowadays. She has been awful this year, going 1-5 with a .85 DR against rank 10-100 opponents, which is far below what you would expect from a player the caliber of Sloane. Vitalia isn’t that stellar, either, and does not have any match play on clay in quite a while, but those are risks I will happily take at this low of a price against an unreliable Sloane Stephens.

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