The ATP semi-final at the Australian Open on Friday sees Rafa Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov battle for the right to face Roger Federer in Sunday's final. Dan Weston makes an all-veteran final the value...
"Even when we look at the superb record of Dimitrov this season, it is eclipsed by Nadal. Assessing 2017 in isolation, Nadal has faced 0.26 break points per game on serve, to Dimitrov's 0.47, whilst Nadal has created 0.71 break point opportunities per return game, compared to Dimitrov's 0.62."
Federer into the final after epic Swiss battle
Thursday's ATP preview recorded another winner for us as the Roger Federer ousted Stan Wawrinka in five sets to reach the Australian final, although Federer made it as difficult for himself as possible, throwing away a two-set lead following Wawrinka's medical timeout on his knee.
Following this, Federer has shortened into 1.981/1 favourite in the Australian Open Mens Winner market, with the two remaining semi-finalists, Rafa Nadal 2.6413/8 and Grigor Dimitrov 8.27/1 still needing to win two matches to take the title.
Based on these odds, I would expect Nadal to be a slight favourite over Federer in the markets for the final, while if Dimitrov gets through, Federer would be a solid favourite to gain an 18th Grand Slam title. However, the nature of victory for either player would have some bearing on this, particularly given Federer will have an extra rest day to recover from his exertions against his countryman.
Nadal a value favourite to get past Dimitrov
Federer will know his opponent at around mid-day UK time on Friday, with the second semi-final between Nadal and Dimitrov scheduled for an 08:30 UK time start tomorrow, and Nadal, at the time of writing, is available as a 1.434/9 favourite, with Dimitrov the underdog at 3.259/4.
My model actually established that the Spaniard is value even at these relatively short prices, pricing Nadal at 1.351/3, and there were several elements which formed this model price.
The first area was pretty straightforward - Nadal is still the better hard court player, despite Dimitrov's 10-0 record this season.
On hard courts in the last 12 months, Nadal has held serve 83.5% of the time, a touch lower than Dimitrov's 84.0%, but on return, there is little comparison, with Nadal breaking opponents a world-class 31.9% of the time. Dimitrov's 24.4% is barely above the ATP mean.
Even when we look at the superb record of Dimitrov this season, it is eclipsed by Nadal. Assessing 2017 in isolation, Nadal has faced 0.26 break points per game on serve, to Dimitrov's 0.47, whilst Nadal has created 0.71 break point opportunities per return game, compared to Dimitrov's 0.62.
Key point mean-reversion likely for Dimitrov
The area where Dimitrov has thrived this year so far is on key points. He is currently 9.7% above expectation for saving break points on his serve (based on service points won expectation) and 3.4% above expectation for converting break points on return (based on return points won expectation). It is absolutely impossible to run at these rates in the long-term, and it is as good as certain that he will mean-revert in the not too distant future.
The second area which had an impact on model pricing was the dominant 7-1 head-to-head lead that Nadal enjoys over Dimitrov. While Dimitrov won the last outing, at Beijing in October, it is fair to say that the Spaniard wasn't in the best physical condition at the time, and this match-up is likely to be very different from that perspective.
Career trends favour a comfortable Nadal victory
Nadal, when priced from 1.3030/100 to 1.654/6 on hard court in Grand Slams, has won eight of 11 career matches, and all his wins have been by dominant margins, with every victory coming via a minimum of six games.
This gives us options on the game handicap, with Nadal -3.5 games being available at 1.684/6 on the Exchange. For those a little more ambitious, Nadal -5.5 games is available at 11/8 with the Sportsbook (Alternative Game Handicap 2) and this can also be considered.
Back Rafa Nadal -3.5 games to beat Grigor Dimitrov at 1.684/6
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
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