Monte Carlo Masters Day Eight: Nadal a heavy favourite to claim 11th title

Spanish Tennis Player Rafa Nadal
Rafa Nadal's is demonstrating a stratospheric level on clay...
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Sunday's tennis action focuses on the final at the Monte Carlo Masters this afternoon, with Rafa Nadal and Kei Nishikori fighting for the title, and £819,000 winners cheque. Having recommended Nishikori yesterday to win his semi-final, our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, previews the match...

"In all my years of analysing tennis data, I'm struggling to recollect a time where Nadal's level on his favourite surface was this strong."

Nishikori nets us an underdog winner on Saturday

Kei Nishikori provided us with a winner as he triumphed in a tight match, which required a deciding set, against Alexander Zverev, and after several results which were tough to take this week, it was great to start the weekend on a pleasant note.

Nadal accurately priced as a heavy favourite

Yesterday, I discussed how Rafa Nadal's outright market price implied that he'd be [1.11] to win the final, but given that Nishikori - the underdog in his semi-final - is his eventual opponent, the Spaniard is a little shorter to beat the talented Japanese player, at a current [1.07] on the Exchange.

My model priced this similarly, at [1.08], with Nadal extremely dominant from a projected hold percentage perspective. As with Grigor Dimitrov yesterday, his opponent's projected hold percentage is again below 50%, in what are very slow conditions here at the Monte Carlo Country Club.

Incredible return numbers rubber-stamp Nadal success

This year at the venue, just 72.9% of service games have been held - as usual for this event, well below the ATP clay mean - while in Nadal's second home, in his quest for an 11th title, he's held serve 93.9% and broken opponents an incredible 54.8%.

In fact, in the last 12 months on clay, Nadal hasn't been far off replicating these stratospheric return numbers, breaking all opponents 47.4% on the surface, and this naturally goes a long way to illustrating his dominance on the dirt, even over very strong opponents on the surface as well.

Nishikori clay data strong, but similar to other top players

Nishikori, as mentioned yesterday, looks to be getting back to his best statistically - a combined hold/break percentage of 119.3% this week aptly demonstrates this - but this is similar to the likes of Dominic Thiem's 12 month numbers, and the Austrian was swatted aside by Nadal with ruthless ease, in the quarter-final.

Keeping it close would represent a good performance from Nishikori

All the data points towards a facile victory for Nadal, but this is obviously priced in by the markets. There really is no value here, unless somehow Nishikori gets in front and trades significantly shorter than SP. However, it may even need to go as far as getting to a situation where he's serving for the match to trade odds-on against such a strong player on return.

Such a situation is very unlikely - realistically, Nishikori keeping matters respectable, or even nicking a set, would represent a good afternoon's work for him. In all my years of analysing tennis data, I'm struggling to recollect a time where Nadal's level on his favourite surface was this strong.


Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings

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