It's men's semi-finals day at the French Open with Rafal Nadal and Novak Djokovic favourites to meet in Sunday's final. Dan Weston previews both matches...
"Before Rome, the previous nine head-to-head clashes all had gone in Nadal's favour and Schwartzman has held serve just 58% in their meetings in the last three years."
Nadal into tournament favourite in advance of semi-finals
We have reached the semi-final stage in Paris and the two outstanding players are still in the draw. Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are both heavy favourites to make Sunday's final and its the King of Clay - going for his 13th title - who is now into the 11/102.14 favourite to lift the trophy on Sunday.
I've argued over the last week or two that Nadal should be tournament favourite and now the outright market agrees with me. It will be interesting to see Sunday's pricing if the duo both win today, as I'll likely make Nadal a solid favourite against the world number one.
King of Clay not far from value
Nadal faces a repeat of his recent Rome quarter-final against Diego Schwartzman - which the Spaniard lost - and it's interesting to note that Nadal was priced around 1/201.05 to get the win that day. After that defeat, Nadal is now 2/111.18 to get the win here and that's a little strange, given that Nadal doesn't have the best record in slightly quicker conditions in Rome (compared to his record in slower clay courts at least) and the best of five set format should suit the better player more.
Before Rome, the previous nine head-to-head clashes all had gone in Nadal's favour. Schwartzman has held serve just 58% in their meetings in the last three years. I actually have his projected hold percentage even lower than this for today, at 47% - it's very likely that Nadal, the best returner on tour, can exploit the serve weakness of Schwartzman.
If Nadal was a few ticks bigger - I'm thinking in the low 1/51.20s - then I'd like his price quite a bit and the game handicap could then be a potentially viable consideration. The main line currently is -7.5 games on Nadal at 11/102.14 but it's not quite enough for me.
Djokovic accurately priced for Tsitsipas clash
In the second semi-final, Novak Djokovic's price looks pretty much spot-on at 4/111.36 against Stefanos Tsitsipas. In the last 18 months on clay, Djokovic has a slight service advantage from his hold percentage, and a bigger return edge, breaking opponents around 7% more, and these advantages are enough to justify this market line.
The duo have met five times in the past in main tour matches, with Djokovic winning three, and Djokovic taking the solitary clay encounter in Madrid last year. The matches, albeit mostly on hard courts, have been pretty serve-orientated, and could indicate the potential for a competitive match this afternoon.
However, there's not enough value to get involved with today's matches from a pre-match perspective, and we will wait for some potential value on Nadal - assuming he doesn't play a five-hour epic today - against Djokovic on Sunday.
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