Despite strange phenomena destroying his confidence is recent years, Jack Houghton, buzzing from a profitable tournament, thinks Tsitsipas will buck the trend...
"When it comes to the Grand Slams, the form of the week-by-week game hasn't easily translated, meaning that, in the last five years, only Dominic Thiem (winner of last year's US Open), has managed to deny one of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal the title..."
A profitable tournament
Having taken an aggressive position against Nadal and had several match results go my way, whatever happens in the final, this French Open will be my most profitable tournament for several seasons.
That comes as blessed relief. Because whilst my specialism - top-flight men's singles - has remained a money maker, the margins have been smaller of late, and too often profitable beginnings to tournaments have been marred by unprofitable ends.
I have been putting this down to something I will call the class-is-permanent phenomenon.
The phenomenon can be understood by thinking about what has happened at the top end of the men's game in recent years. As I've written about before, like at this year's Australian Open, "the top of the men's game has not been this compressed for two decades".
In other words, the days when Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and (for a while there) Murray, showed a level of form and dominance far above what any other player was capable of have gone, and, week-by-week, there are now far more players winning tournaments.
The problem is that, when it comes to the Grand Slams, the form of the week-by-week game hasn't easily translated, meaning that, in the last five years, only Dominic Thiem (winner of last year's US Open), has managed to deny one of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal the title. On the big occasion, form matters less than class, which (as the old betting adage goes), is permanent.
There are lots of potential hypotheses that could explain what is happening. Perhaps the Big Three save themselves and the efforts of full preparation for the big occasion. Perhaps the nature of Grand Slam matches suits the talents and experiences of the Big Three better than others. Perhaps the inexperience and awe felt by newer players will mean they will always struggle to slay their heroes.
A combination of factors is likely at play. But yet again we find ourselves with a strange final betting market.
Novak Djokovic is the short-odds favourite at 1.341/3, with Stefanos Tsitsipas at 3.90. And yet, according to my ratings, the match resembles the coin toss that I explored when previewing this tournament. The spreadsheet says Djokovic should be 1.9210/11 and Tsitsipas should be 2.09.
Interestingly, though, whilst I have been bruised by lots of similar situations involving the Big Three in recent years, this time there is reason to be confident, and it revolves around how close the matches on clay have been between this duo in the past.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is big value here.
To date, head-to-head, the pair have used 87% of the sets available to them, suggesting that this will go long. And if we just consider clay-court matches, that figure rises to 91%.
Provided Tsitsipas doesn't crumble under the pressure of his first Grand Slam final, backing Five Sets at 4.003/1 is the value call.
With this in mind, supporting Tsitsipas to win 3-2 at around 10.009/1 makes sense. This might be Djokovic's 29th Grand Slam final and he might have 83 ATP titles compared to Tsitsipas' seven, but when the pair met in last year's French Open semi-final, Tsitsipas fought back from 2-0 down to take it to a decider.
With Djokovic possibly fatigued from his curfew-breaking semi-final marathon against Nadal, and Tsitsipas laying claim to becoming a new king of clay with his win in Monte Carlo and his dismantling of the likes of Medvedev and Zverev on route to this final, this can be Tsitsipas' (long) day.
Odds of around 1.705/7 that the pair will play more than +38.0 games look value. Using a percentage-of-available-games measure, the pair use an average of 65% of the available games. That suggests an over/under midpoint of around +42.0 games.
This one should be keenly contested, and should go long.
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