Sunday at the French Open sees Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem take to the courts in the men's singles final, and our tennis columnist, Dan Weston, is back to preview the encounter...
"Only Thiem’s 2016 victory over Nadal in Buenos Aires was a success on non-quick clay. Across the other slow-medium clay venues - Monte Carlo, Barcelona and here - Nadal has utterly schooled Thiem."
Nadal and Thiem with straight set wins in Friday's semi-finals
We picked up a winner in Friday's semi-final with Rafa Nadal comprehensively thrashing Juan Martin Del Potro, to cover the -6.5 game handicap with ease. In the other semi-final, Marco Cecchinato's strange run in the last two weeks was ended by Dominic Thiem, also in straight sets, although the first two sets were somewhat closer than anything Del Potro could muster.
With the two heavy favourites in the semi-finals winning, we have the final that most people during the latter stages would have wanted, Nadal v Thiem, and before I discuss the data in detail, I wanted to talk about their previous meetings a little more.
Nadal dominant on slow/medium paced clay in head to head meetings
The duo have met nine times throughout their career, all on clay, with Nadal taking six meetings to Thiem's three. However, here last year in the semi-finals, Nadal destroyed Thiem, losing just seven games in a rout, but it is worth mentioning that Thiem triumphed in their last meeting in Madrid last month, in the quarter-finals.
We can also see a clear dynamic across these previous match-ups. Quicker clay conditions - Rome, and in particular, Madrid, seem to be something of a leveller. Thiem has won 7-5 6-3 and lost creditably 7-6 6-4 in Madrid, and won 6-4 6-3 in Rome. Only Thiem's 2016 victory over Nadal in Buenos Aires was a success on non-quick clay. Across the other slow-medium clay venues - Monte Carlo, Barcelona and here - Nadal has utterly schooled Thiem.
This historical analysis doesn't lend itself to fancying Thiem's chances of denying Nadal an 11th French Open title this afternoon, and neither did my model pricing either.
Nadal with a huge edge on return based on clay data
Across the last 12 months on clay, Nadal has held serve 88.7% to Thiem's 85.7% (3.0% edge) while breaking opponents 50.0% to 30.1% (19.9% edge), and this incredible advantage he has on return was a big factor in me pricing Nadal as a [1.17] favourite to lift the trophy today.
However, the exchange - with over £1.2 million traded on the match already - has Nadal as a [1.26] favourite, which is around a 6% difference in implied odds percentage and certainly enough to be actionable value.
Nadal on the game handicap is a logical recommendation
While we have an edge here, I appreciate that backing a heavy odds-on shot isn't most people's cup of tea, so the game handicap should be a viable proposition. Nadal -5.5 games is available on the Exchange at [1.68] and given the fact that Nadal has tended to dominate Thiem on non-quick clay, this should be a very likely outcome if Nadal wins the final. Those a little keener to take on some extra risk could consider taking on the -6.5 games at [1.94].
Follow Dan on Twitter @TennisRatings
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