The ATP final at the Australian Open on Sunday sees two legends of the game, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, clash to take the title. Our tennis columnist Dan Weston expects a long, close match...
"An analysis of the Grand Slam head to head matches away from clay also yielded some interesting information. The two players have played six best of five set matches on hard court or grass, and four have gone the distance, with one match being decided in four sets, and just one in straight sets."
Legends compete for the title in Melbourne
A tournament which has defied logic and reasoning finally ends on Sunday and the final - which few would have predicted pre-tournament, but most neutrals were hoping for before the semi-finals - is between two all-time greats of Tennis, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
Both players have had extremely arduous semi-finals at Melbourne Park, requiring five sets, with Federer disposing of Stan Wawrinka on Thursday, and Nadal requiring almost five hours to oust the Bulgarian, Grigor Dimitrov, today, in a match where Dimitrov never led but showed admirable durability to take Nadal as close as he did.
On a side note, it will be interesting to see how Dimitrov deals with failing to beat the Spaniard in the best shot at a Grand Slam final in his career, and as I mentioned in the preview of the semi-final, I do expect mean reversion to occur on break points (both on serve and return) for him in the future. I certainly would be extremely surprised if he threatened the top five in the world rankings at the end of the year.
Nadal market favourite for the title
With the final still around 36 hours away, it will be very interesting to see how the market develops pre-match, with there being plenty of speculation about several factors for this particular match-up. At the time of writing it is Nadal who enjoys favourite status on the Exchange, at a current 1.845/6, with Federer the slight underdog at 2.166/5.
The first factor worth discussing is the extra rest day that Federer had, following his semi-final on Thursday, as well as his semi-final being a little shorter than Nadal's. There can be little doubt that the Swiss legend would have been delighted at the lengthy nature of Nadal's victory against Dimitrov, with most players aware of the implications of accumulated fatigue throughout Grand Slam events.
With the extra day's rest firmly in Federer's favour - although it is worth noting that Nadal should be able to deal with a longer match better, given the perception that he is the fitter player, and also is five years younger - the other match-up issue worth considering is the dominant head to head record in Nadal's favour.
Nadal with the edge in recent head to head matches
Not including exhibition matches, Nadal leads the head to head series 23-11, and recent matches show even more dominance for the Spaniard, with him claiming 10 of the last 13 head to head wins in main draw matches. However, it is also worth pointing out that Nadal is 13-2 on clay, and therefore only leads 10-9 in non-clay matches.
There is also a feeling that persists that Federer is a little vulnerable against left-handers. Blind-backing Federer in all career matches against left-handers would have yielded a negative return on investment, and he has suffered embarrassing defeats when a very heavy favourite against left-handers Albert Ramos and Federico Delbonis in recent years.
Historical trends favour a long match
An analysis of the Grand Slam head to head matches away from clay also yielded some interesting information. The two players have played six best of five set matches on hard court or grass, and four have gone the distance, with one match being decided in four sets, and just one in straight sets.
Five of those six head to head matches went over the current 41.5 game handicap line with the Sportsbook, and with my model prices about each player showing no edge backing either player to win, backing a long, close match, for a small stake can be considered at a current even money price with the Sportsbook.
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
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