French Open Men's Final Tips: Djokovic can get this done quickly

Novak Djokovic at French Open
The market might be opposing Novak Djokovic, but the stats support him

With a new-found confidence in his statistics, Jack Houghton views Djokovic as the value, and thinks he can win quickly...

"Now we have reached the final - with a familiar billing of Rafa Nadal (5/71.7) versus Novak Djokovic (7/52.4) - all that analytical angst seems unwarranted..."

Despite all the unknowns, a familiar story emerges

Prior to this French Open I recommended holding fire on the betting, arguing that there were too many unquantifiable factors that might influence its result to be able to punt with any confidence.

Chief among my concerns was how to assess the likelihood of contenders playing to the form of their Elo ratings, given how sparse their tournament schedule had been this year.

I was questioning other things, too. Like, for example, how the new balls in use at Roland Garros and the recent addition of a retractable roof would influence Nadal's ability to dominate.

Now we have reached the final - with a familiar billing of Rafa Nadal (5/71.7) versus Novak Djokovic (7/52.4) - all that analytical angst seems unwarranted.

Djokovic the value in the outright market

With a newfound confidence in what my Elo ratings are telling me, then, it feels like time to re-enter the punting game.

If only they bore more resemblance to the Betfair markets. Because according to my ratings, Djokovic should be favourite at around 5/61.84, with Nadal around 6/52.20: a virtual reversal of the actual odds available.

The discrepancy is understandable. Nadal's record on clay is hard to dispute, and what's more, he's breezed through to the final, whereas Djokovic was questioned in his quarter-final against Pablo Carreno Busta, and thoroughly interrogated in his semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, prevailing largely because of his superior fitness.

Nonetheless, Djokovic is still the value.

Total Games

Odds of around 10/111.90 that the pair will play more than +41.0 games looks poor value. Using a percentage-of-available-games measure, Djokovic and Nadal use an average of around 55% of the games that they could. That suggests an over/under midpoint of +35.5 games. Whilst that figure rises slightly on clay - they play an average 57% of available games on the red stuff - it does not do so significantly.

The value, then, is to lay Over +41.0 games at 5/42.24. In the 24 matches they've played on clay, they've used proportionately fewer games than that on 18 occasions.

Number of sets

To date, head-to-head, the pair have used around 75% of the sets available to them, suggesting that four sets or fewer is most likely here. And the clay court setting doesn't affect the numbers, with the percentage-of-sets used figure dropping slightly to 74% when filtering for clay courts only.

It's unlikely, then, that we'll see a long, drawn-out match. Laying Five Sets at 13/53.60 is the value call.

Set Betting

Given Nadal's historical dominance at Roland Garros on clay it seems perverse to suggest he might lose, and that he might do so quickly. However, whilst this pairing have produced the odd epic - like their five-setter in the 2018 Wimbledon semi-final - it's far more common for them to wrap things up quickly.

Therefore, the slightly speculative call is to back Djokovic to win 3-1 at 5/16.2.

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