The King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, announced Thursday that he will miss this year’s French Open, which starts May 28. Rafa holds a 112-3 record and 14 titles at Roland Garros, the most by any male or female player at any single major in tennis history. Nadal hasn’t played since the Australian Open in January because of a hip injury and he said that he expects 2024 to be his final season. This will mark Rafa’s first absence from Roland Garros in 18 years.
With this news, the odds to win the French Open have shifted.
Current men's odds to win the French Open
Carlos Alcaraz +125
Novak Djokovic +185
Holger Rune +700
Stefanos Tsitsipas +900
Jannik Sinner +1400
Since 2005, only four men have won a title at Roland Garros: Nadal (14), Djokovic (2), Stan Wawrinka (1) and Roger Federer (1). Only Djokovic and Wawrinka have an opportunity to keep the trend alive.
Looking at the men's draw is more important than ever with Nadal out. However, if you are looking to grab a futures wager early, here are two players to consider pre-draw who are not Alcaraz or Djokovic.
Holger Rune +700
The 20-year old could win the Italian Open with Casper Ruud as his next opponent Saturday in the semifinal after defeating Djokovic in three sets. Since winning ATP Masters 1000 Paris in early November by defeating Djokovic in the final, he’s reached the final at ATP Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo and won ATP 250 Munich last month. Rune’s style of play is starting to look more like Djokovic's: great returns, strong from the baseline, power forehand and killer drop shots. He has the speed to hit every shot and the stamina to play a baseline game, while having force in both his forehand and backhand. If Rune is granted the good fortune of a friendly draw, I’d be looking to him to not only win his quarter but also make the final.
Casper Ruud +1800
The Norwegian could be peaking at the right time ahead of Roland Garros. Ruud didn’t have a proper offseason and didn't take a break in order to recharge. Instead, he played some exhibition matches and then jumped straight into tournaments. At one point, he admitted that he simply fatigued and his 2023 record of 11-9 reflects that. Known to be a clay-court specialist, he is currently 6-3 on clay this year with Round of 16 exits both in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona and an opening-round loss at Madrid. However, Ruud is having a great Italian Open, which includes a strong straight-set victory over fellow clay-court specialist Francisco Cerúndolo. Regardless of whether Ruud wins or loses to Rune in the Italian Open semifinal, it gives Ruud a solid starting point to peak in the French Open.
Ruud has a solid game. He’s not only strong from the baseline but has made improvements with his backhand, while also showing the ability to make adjustments mid-match. Ruud has patience and reached the French Open final last year, losing to Nadal. Having that experience under his belt is huge, and Ruud can certainly look to capitalize on that.
It’s a good idea to wait for the draw before placing a futures wager on which man will win the next title at Roland Garros. However, these are the best pre-draw options to consider outside of Alcaraz and Djokovic.