Betting 360 Ep 083: French Open preview with Dan Weston

Back on the podcast this week is Dan Weston for a betting preview of the 2015 French Open. Dan is the founder of Tennis Ratings, a UK-based website with a stack of good information for tennis fans and especially those trading in-play. He is also an expert contributor to the Pinnacle Sports website.

Punting Insights:

  • How to get a decent edge when betting the French Open
  • Why Djokovic shouldn’t be such a hot favourite (while Nadal should be more fancied)
  • Why Dan is very happy to oppose players such as Federer, Cilic and Raonic
  • The best value bets in the Women’s tournament
  • An early look at this year’s Wimbledon tournament

The popularity of multi’s has exploded in recent years and the bookies are focusing a lot of their advertising on pushing punters towards this bet type. A key reason for that is the bookies advantage is so strong on multi’s and to explain why we have maths whiz and former actuary Nick Aubrey on the podcast this week.

Today’s Guest: Dan Weston

David Duffield: Good to speak to you again Dan and I want to talk about the French Open obviously and I know you are doing some work with Pinnacle so we have got a bit of background there, but we will start with the men’s side of things and Nadal’s always the focus there, but Djokovic is the in-form player, how do you see it?

Dan Weston: It’s a tough one really because this is definitely one of the most interesting French Opens potentially in a decade. Obviously you have got the historical record of Nadal and the form of Djokovic and in some people’s perceptions a lack of form of Nadal, and it’s kind of … well for me it’s more balanced but a lot of people are making Djokovic a very heavy favourite at the moment, so there’s definitely an interesting dynamic that’s very different to previous years.

David Duffield: And so with Djokovic what is he, somewhere around $1.60 at the moment, how do you see his form? Because obviously he has plenty of wins already this year, and then again relative to that price would you want to be on him or opposing him?

Dan Weston: Can’t take Djokovic at that price. Basically before Rome he was $1.9 and obviously he’s moved in 30 ticks since Rome. He just seems too short for me, everyone’s obviously reacting to his form which is relatively logical in a lot of ways, but I am someone who doesn’t react a lot on form and the short term effects of it, and I’d rather look at something over a longer period like 6 months or 12 months, because players do have variance, players do lose key points, and players go through peaks and troughs, and it’s not an absolute measure for sure form. And obviously Djokovic is a major major major player, but I have it a lot more even than these two. Maybe you could give Djokovic a slight edge on form, but definitely not like a $1.60 price, no way.

David Duffield: So just tell us about Nadal this year, because a few people are quick to write him off, but you say that maybe that’s a little bit hasty?

Dan Weston: Yes I think that’s the nature of social media is that people do have a very short-term’ist view and are quick to write players off, and conversely boost them up if they are in form as well, and that’s something that I try to avoid like I just said. Nadal he has lost matches that he should have won, there is absolutely no doubt about that, and I can highlight four of them immediately for you. So you have got two defeats against Fognini one in the semi-finals of Rio and one in Barcelona.

The first one against Fognini in Rio he had the same amount of break points as Fognini and lost which is obviously fairly negative variance but that’s nothing compared to the one in Barcelona where he actually had 14 break points to Fognini’s 8 and still lost in straight sets! Which just never happens, it just doesn’t happen. Against Raonic in the March Masters events, he was trading at $1.01 and if I recall correctly he was only broken once by Raonic which is something that I want to get onto later when we discuss the Canadian. Again he was a very very negative variance defeat for Nadal, and then we have got the one by Verdasco as well last month, and again he had more break points than Verdasco and lost the match.

And these things just don’t happen on a regular basis for the same player, and actually Nadal this season he has created more break point opportunities than last year but he is not taking the key points, he is not winning the key points, and again that was illustrated against Wawrinka last week, where he was 6-2 up in the tie breaker in the first set and lost 9-7, and he lost the break lead twice in the first set as well. So Nadal is not playing the key points well, but over five sets he is going to be a fitter player than most, and I do think he needs to be respected at a pretty much even level to Djokovic really.

David Duffield: So Djokovic around $1.60, Nadal $4.80, you are saying they should be a lot closer together?

Dan Weston: Yes very much so yes. And that’s even without discussing the venue record of Nadal as well. This guy is borderline unbeatable at Roland-Garros. He’s lost one match in his career against Robin Soderling and he is 66 wins out of 67 matches, that’s just unparalleled in any tennis tournament of all time.

David Duffield: Okay so you are making a good case for Nadal there to be a lot closer in the market. You’ve called it the Elite 3 and there is a lesser known player amongst what you’d call the Elite 3, do you want to tell us about Nishikori?

Dan Weston: Yes sure. I mean looking at the whole break stats for clay in the last 18 months, there’s a kind of a three player tier at the top. So overall adding them together, before the Rome tournament my stats was 124.5% combined for Nadal, 122.8% for Djokovic and then Nishikori had 120% exactly, and that’s quite a bit more than the bracket below them for Murray and Federer, and Nishikori is just a great player and people are really starting to realize this now, and he has got a great record also when he is an underdog, so he is not overall against the top elite players either.

So he has actually broken 36% on clay in the last 18 months and held almost 84%. Those are elite level stats and he has to be respected in the draw and one thing’s for sure Djokovic or Federer or Murray who are going to probably be the top three seeds, they are not going to want to have him in the their part of the draw, there is absolutely no doubt about that.

David Duffield: So speaking of Andy Murray, where does he sit amongst those three that we have already talked about?

Dan Weston: Well he is third favourite. Over the last 18 months on clay I have him in fifth place on his stats, so $9 looks a tad short, and again probably, like Djokovic a bit of an overreaction on his form. His clay results this year are unparalleled and he doesn’t usually thrive on clay so that was a surprise to me. He has taken a Masters event which is very very unlikely probably prior to the season starting, but he’s only held 80.7% on clay in the last 18 months, broken 34%, so you can see he is about 5% below even Nishikori who is actually available at a slightly bigger price. So I couldn’t have Murray at the moment and obviously from the UK as well we have probably got quite a bit of patriotic money going on him too. So I’d take Nishikori over Murray prior to the draw for sure.

David Duffield: And what about Roger Federer?

Dan Weston: I can’t have him in five set events. For me against the top players he is going to struggle fitness-wise. So even against the likes of Nishikori who has got a really great record in long matches, I think he would struggle in the fourth and fifth set. As Federer has kind of matured shall we say, his stats have gone more towards a serve-orientated style, so he is holding around 89% on clay in the last 18 months, breaking 25% which is the biggest difference apart from Raonic in the top ten between the hold and break percentages, so this indicates someone who is very serve orientated.

These players also can thrive less in grand slams because they are reliant on winning key points, tie breaks, one break sets et cetera, and by definition obviously as well they are going to be playing longer matches because they are going to be longer matches because they are going to be winning sets 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 type sets, playing more games in a set than someone who is winning by double break for example, and fatigue will creep in quicker, and obviously he’s the oldest player out of the top players as well, so these aren’t beneficial to him at all. And that’s without even discussing the fact that clay is probably not his best surface. Well there is no probably about it, it’s not his best surface.

David Duffield: Would it also surprise you if Ferrer won?

Dan Weston: Ferrer? Good outsider, and I am interested to see his draw for sure. If he can have a half decent draw I think that he has definitely got some potential. I’d be interested to see if he could maybe nick a spot in Federer’s quarter or even Murray’s that would be a good draw for him, and I think he is definitely capable of beating either of those, especially in a long match, because obviously we know Ferrer – his fitness is one of his major assets. He has a slight issue I would say against the real elite players, so he won’t be wanting to play against Nadal or Djokovic, he has got an awful record against those sort of type players.

David Duffield: And you briefly touched on Milos Raonic before, how do you assess his chances?

Dan Weston: I can’t have him. Again, he breaks less than 20% on clay in the last 18 months, and those stats are just not going to get the job done in Grand Slams which is why I have got reservations long-term about Kyrgios in Grand Slams as well, because you just don’t see players who break less than 20% of the time win Slams, even Andy Roddick – I think he won one Slam and he was just over 20%. These players just don’t do it in Grand Slams when it’s best of five sets. Raonic, also he has a really woeful stat when he breaks less than 6% of the time against top ten players in the last couple of years, and he just won’t win enough tie breaks to get the results against top players. I can see him maybe getting to the quarter finals, he can work a routine against poor players, but against someone good he is going to fall short I think.

David Duffield: That’s not good to hear about Kyrgios, there is plenty of hype for him Down Under.

Dan Weston: I am sure! [laughs]

David Duffield: No it’s all right, I like your honesty. What about Thomas Berdych is he one of the lesser ranked players in the top ten that might be a chance?

Dan Weston: He is in reasonable form. He’s got a better break percentage than the likes of Federer and Raonic. Again a bit like Ferrer I have reservations against decent players for Berdych, he has a poor head to head record against most of them, and like Ferrer he is going to be looking to get to the quarter finals and then hope that it opens up for him really. Against a top player in the quarter finals or semi-finals I can’t see him making a major impact, but he should be a staple around the second week of Grand Slams and if the door opens up for him why not? He will get to the semi finals at least but he’d need to try and swerve the likes of Nadal, Djokovic, probably even Federer because I don’t think that match up wise it’s that good for Berdych against Federer.

David Duffield: Is there any other player outside of the top ten that you’d want to mention as one that you want to keep your eye on?

Dan Weston: Well when I’m looking at longshots, I am going to be looking at players who have got a good record on the surface as in their hold percentage and break percentage, and also their record against top players and as a heavy underdog. I think if we can find players with both of those assets then that’s something that we are going to be looking at from an outright perspective. So three players that I highlighted for Pinnacle was Bautista-Agut, Fognini and Kyrgios, because all of those three players have got hold/break percentages over 100% and in Kyrgios and Bautista’s case, quite a bit over. Kyrgios is about 105% and Bautista’s getting along on towards 110%, so they’re statistically as good probably as some of the lower players in the top ten, the likes of Wawrinka, Cilic, etc.

Not far off those sort of levels, and they have got an excellent record of underdogs against top ten players as well, so they are the ones that I think could cause a shock. Fognini his hold percentage and break percentage are not as good as Bautista-Agut or Kyrgios but this is a guy who can play against top players and beat them. We have seen he beat Nadal twice this year. He beat Murray last year as well, so he doesn’t have any fear against the top players at all, and I think that those are the players who I’d look at to cause a shock as opposed to the likes of Wawrinka and Cilic who I just can’t have at all.

Cilic in particular just hasn’t looked fit since his injury, and Wawrinka he has obviously got the personal problems that have been well documented on social media, but his stats aren’t great and he is just too inconsistent for me, and the odds for Wawrinka are at currently which I think make him about sixth favorite, I just can’t have him either. So I would be looking at that trio of Bautista-Agut, Fognini and Kyrgios as a long shot. The likes of Dimitrov and Gasquet, they have got half decent stats on the surface but they just don’t have a good record against top players and that makes it difficult for me to want to back them against a top ten player really. You’d want to see their draw before you really commit to someone like that.

David Duffield: So we will switch to the women’s then. Serena Williams is around about $3.70 at the moment, at that price would you want to be backing her or laying her?

Dan Weston: I would take Williams at that price over Halep and Sharapova who are both going to be a slightly bigger price, but Williams is still the most dominant player on tour. There is absolutely no doubt about that. She is both 4.4% over Halep on combined hold and break play stats, and about 9% on Sharapova and for me it’s more than justified her price and I thought maybe she might be $3 or shorter maybe even, so for me Williams is still the clear favourite.

David Duffield: And you mentioned Simona Halep there, so she is second favourite at around $5.30 with Sharapova, so based on … I know you don’t like to read too much into it … but based on that head-to-head record it has you fairly wary for Halep’s chances?

Dan Weston: Well head to head record I can clarify that a little bit more… I don’t read a lot into the 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, but when it starts to become a lot more dominant and it’s more recent then I do a problem with it, and that’s a big problem that I have with Halep. Since she’s 1-10 combined against Williams and Sharapova, and that is a big problem for me. A really really big problem, because you can’t have any faith in her against those opponents when they routinely beat her, so the only way I can really see Halep winning it is if she … the draw could up open for her, if those players got eliminated by somebody else.

I’d probably take her more over Sharapova than I would Williams, because Sharapova’s matches against Halep have been close and she has lost a lot of key points, Halep, to lose those matches, whereas apart from the match in the tour finals last year I haven’t really been impressed with her against Williams. So if Halep ended up playing Sharapova as opposed to Williams, maybe in a final, I would give her more chance than against Williams.

David Duffield: Okay what about Petkovic and Wozniacki?

Dan Weston: I have got reservations against top players, again, Wozniacki I never really rated that highly on clay but she has really broken through this year, so I don’t know whether she is making adjustments to her game or whether she’s just benefited from positive variance I don’t know, but stats-wise both of them are quite a bit off the top three and Petkovic in particular, well she got injured on Monday anyway, so for me that’s a big question mark over her. I don’t know if many of your listeners know, she was 5-0 down in the first set against Putintseva which is some insult to start with, because I don’t rate Putintseva at all! But Petkovic would be a big worry with injury. Wozniacki, those top players and the fact that she has not had a great career on clay, no she would be quite a bit back for me.

David Duffield: Is there an outsider with a chance that you’d like to keep an eye on?

Dan Weston: Yes definitely. There is a few outside the top ten I like. I like Azarenka, she is not really an outsider but from a ranking perspective she is. Her stats are decent on clay and probably against Williams she probably boasts a better record against Williams than anybody. It’s not a great record by any stretch of the imagination but no one really has a great record against Williams. Out of the other players, Muguruza I think she has a lot of upside. She is very solid on serve and has decent stats overall and obviously she is quite young so she is going to have potential to improve.

Apart from that it is going to be a tough one. Maybe you’d look at a couple of the big servers like Keys and Pliskova to try and produce something from a big price, but I think overall they’d fall short if they were to get to say a semi final. So I know that the women’s tournament has got a history of more upsets and shock finalists than others, but it’s tough to see something like that happen unless the draw really opens up. Maybe another strong server like Safarova but she has not been in great form recently. I would be looking at someone like that as opposed to someone like Errani who is going to have a weak serve and a strong return who has got to the final before but doesn’t seem to be quite at that level that she was a couple of years ago.

David Duffield: We will leave it there for now for the French Open. I just have one other question though because we may not speak to you before Wimbledon, is there a standout right now either men’s or women’s that you would be keen to … maybe not back yourself but if the guys are having a bet already this far out on Wimbledon, are there a couple of players that stand out?

Dan Weston: It’s a tough one really because Wimbledon obviously no one’s played any matches on grass this year so it’s hard to gauge that from a warm-up match’s perspective. I think that it is probably Djokovic’s weakest surface and therefore if he is under that $1.8/$1.9 price he could probably be taken on. Murray probably will fancy his chances more against Djokovic on grass than any other surface, so I’d be keen to see his price. Federer, again grass is his best price but like I said earlier I have reservations in five sets.

Maybe someone like Berdych could cause an impact, and also if there is going to be one surface Kyrgios will threaten on I think that grass will probably be it, as opposed to something like a hard court surface, but I think that he is going to fall short. But yes maybe he will get to the quarter finals or even the semi finals as a long shot. And the women’s side of things, this is the tournament I’d be really keen to see a big server push through, so someone like Madison Keys, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see her get to the latter stages, so I would be interested to see what sort of price she opens at, because she has been in decent form and her serve is really really improving and she is going to be tough to break on grass and I think if I recall correctly she won an event last year on grass, so she would be someone that I would look at from an outsider perspective on grass definitely.

David Duffield: Sounds good. Well we will leave it there for now, we will make sure we link out to your site as well because although we can’t do a lot in-play there is plenty of information on your site. I really appreciate your time, thanks for coming on the show.

Dan Weston: Cheers Dave, appreciate that, take care.

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