Friday, May 21, 2010

Best Bets for the French Open—Who Do You Think Will Win?

Make Your Picks on Tennis Channel’s Racket Bracket...

As I do, you probably debate, disagree and even make "gentlemen’s bets" with friends about who will win The French Open. You can do that on a grander scale by competing with not just your friends, but with thousands of tennis fans who choose their picks — first-round, and every round thereafter, through to finals and the champion — on Racket Bracket: 

In fact, the Tennis Channel (TC) racket bracket email arrived in my email inbox just as I began to write this article! How’s that for serendipity?

I have participated in Racket Bracket for several years. Now, I am always up for tennis competition, even if it is virtual. As an incentive, TC usually offers some sort of prize. For this year’s French Open it’s a 5-day trip to Paris for the 2011 French Open, including airfare, hotel, two tickets to the first two days of the tournament, and a Longines watch. Not bad, huh?

The draws were revealed on Friday morning, May 21, which gives you only a few days to meet the entry deadline of 5 a.m. Monday, which is the first day of main draw competition. But, the contest has its own peculiar set of challenges. With so many players in the first round matches, including the 32 seeded players, filling out these entries can be time consuming, especially if you are serious about picking the right winner. But it gets easier as you move from one round to the next, since just half of the players in the previous round are left. But your entry can also difficult to fill out or to submit, which is the challenge with Racket Bracket. Here’s where you can find the men’s and women’s seeds and who they play in their first round matches:

On the face of it, it seems straightforward. You can enter the general pool or create a private pool, or both. I was able to register in advance since the site was open for business at 11 a.m. Friday. And, while the entry deadline isn’t until 5 a.m. Monday, you may be too busy on the weekend to bother with it. So, because it’s so time consuming--it took me more than an hour for the Australian Open-- there isn’t that much time to meet the deadline. Rather than make your picks by sections of the draw, as they are typically displayed on most tennis website, racket bracket displays all the matches by round on one page.
Does the first round even matter? It’s clogged mostly with no-name qualifiers that few people have ever heard of, except, of course, their families, coaches, tournament officials, other tennis professionals and pundits, or possibly fans who have lost their minds and actually researched their records and rankings. On the other hand, on the Tennis Channel site all players are listed, but qualifiers are not easy to find. That’s because all players are categorized alphabetically by last name, which requires that you methodically go through every letter to find any player. So, while you agonize over whether Roger Federer (last year's champion )or Rafael Nadal, or Serena Williams or Justine Henin will win the whole shebang, it’s the people you never heard of that are the toughest to pick.

But don’t be fooled. You can’t count out qualifiers. And you can count on some of the to produce some upsets, which happens often. So don’t give qualifiers short shrift. It’s a crap shoot, for sure, when you don’t know who they are, their backgrounds or their records by the time they have won their way into the opening rounds of the main draw. So I advise that you just guess. (By the way, it’s hard to research qualifiers who have won the French Open in the past. Perhaps there aren’t any in the Open Era.).

My advice is to look at the first round like it’s a multiple choice test. Make a pick, because that way it isn’t a certain wrong answer. Maybe you like the player’s name, or country, or position in the bracket. You may actually guess right some of the time. In Racket Bracket, however, you HAVE to choose, or else you can’t move on to the next round to select a pick. That would leave a match with only one player! Besides, the site won’t let you submit your entry unless it is completely filled out.

Believe me when I say that you absolutely cannot submit your entry unless every choice is filled in. This happened to me several times until I finally figured out that there were blanks in my entry. If the site will not let you submit your entry, you have to make a correction, and it’s likely there was an omission. Then, as I did, you have to review each round of the entire draw to find it, a painstaking and annoying effort that must be done if you want to play. On the other hand, one of the nicer features of Racket Bracket is that every few days you receive an email with your standings. You can also check the site at any time to see where you stand compared to other participating fans. And that’s the point of the contest.

You score one point for each correct pick. When you go back to your entry to see which picks were correct and which were not, the site will display your correct picks in green, and wrong picks in red. I give myself a pat on the back when I have picked well enough to have made it into the top 10% of the general pool.

These are the scoring details:

  • First Round correct picks receive 1 point(s)
  • Second Round correct picks receive 2 point(s)
  • Third Round correct picks receive 3 point(s)
  • Fourth Round correct picks receive 5 point(s) 
  • Quarterfinals correct picks receive 10 point(s)
  • Semifinals correct picks receive 20 point(s)
  • Finals correct picks receive 30 point(s)

Remember. You have until 5 a.m. on Monday to make your picks on Tennis Channel’s Racket Bracket.

When you get to the final choices — who will be in the final? — then, of course, you have the option to pick the champion. My picks? Nadal for the men. And for the women? I have no idea. But I don’t think it will be Justine Henin. She just hasn’t been playing well enough. Murray.

Even if you think you can’t do well because you don’t follow pro tennis, make your picks. You should do it. It’s fun. Here it is again.:

And here's the French Open website:

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