French Open Preview: The Betting Public Wants a Nadal Vs. Federer Final

Greg RiotAnalyst IMay 21, 2009

LONDON - JULY 06:  Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland pose for pictures with after Nadal won in five sets in the final on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 6, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Paris, France – On any given Sunday during the annual ATP World Tour tennis calendar a player is welcomed into the champion’s circle. As we are in the fifth month of the season naturally there have been numerous champions already; but with respect to the “Big Four” – Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic – Nadal has dominated.

Nadal has already won five titles, four of which were major titles at the Australian Open, Indian Wells Masters, Monte Carlo Masters and Rome Masters as well as the Barcelona Open.

Murray comes in second with three titles so far this season – one major title at the Miami Masters and the other two coming in Doha and Rotterdam.

Djokovic follows with two titles which he picked up in Dubai and Belgrade.

However, no Sunday was as important or significant as last Sunday at the Madrid Masters wherein Roger Federer picked up his first title on the season, beating Rafael Nadal in the final.

After last Sunday’s developments in Madrid the mood in the tennis betting market shifted and set the stage for what is now arguably the most anticipated French Open in recent history. Had Federer not won in Madrid last week, beating the King of Clay no less, he would have entered the French Open with a big fat ZERO for titles won this season and his value in the marketplace would have slipped further. But just like that, there has been an upswing in his value.

Every sports fanatic wants to see the best rivalry of their chosen sport on display in a championship match and so it is with the tennis betting public who are clamouring for a Nadal-Federer sequel in a fortnight's time.

Federer’s victory over Nadal has left many pondering the ever-drawing-nearer French Open. For many, the big question of course is whether the win increases Federer’s chances of lifting the elusive French Open crown.

However, this question hinges on the presumption that Federer will reach a fourth consecutive final in Paris. Keeping in mind the fact that apart from the Australian Open final this season, Federer had not reached the final of a tournament until last Sunday, doesn’t the aforementioned question put the cart before the horse? Would not the better question be whether Federer is a lock to reach the final?

So is Federer a lock to reach the French Open Final and to set up another battle against Nadal?

Prior to last Sunday there was valid reason to believe such a final would not materialise, rather a Nadal-Djokovic final (depending on the draw of course) was what most believed would be on the cards. In the run-up to the French Open this season Djokovic proved he was the second best player on clay – reaching back-to-back finals in Monte Carlo and Rome. At both turns his path to the title ran through Nadal - to no avail.

In Madrid, Djokovic came upon Nadal in the semis and he gave the Spaniard something to think about that day. Three times to be exact as that was how many times Djokovic held match point. Had he converted on any one of those three match points the French Open betting landscape would have been even more different. But it didn’t happen and that is significant. Nadal persevered in dramatic style and reached the finals – somewhat exhausted for the effort.

Federer, who had lost to Djokovic in both Miami and Rome, was fortunate not to have the Serbian staring him down; instead, he had a worn-out Nadal to contend with and beat his nemesis handily: 6-4, 6-4.

Undoubtedly, Nadal is a lock for the final at Roland Garros in the eyes of many and most betting folk are likely to be pencilling the Spaniard into the final in their brackets. But in terms of Federer reaching the final and setting up a sequel to the Nadal-Federer rivalry – many are not so sure (myself included). Even after Madrid.

The sports betting public will have to wait until Friday to better assess Federer’s chances of making it to the title match in Paris. But if we were to speculate right now, then the big question of whether Federer will reach the final hinges on the draw, and on which side of the draw Djokovic will fall.

If Djokovic falls in Federer’s half of the draw, the odds of a Nadal-Federer final will diminish significantly. Federer used to be able to school Djokovic consistently but lately he seems to succumb to a mental funk whenever he faces the Serbian – Miami (the infamous racquet smashing) and Rome Masters are case-and-point. As such, if a Federer-Djokovic semi-final comes about in Paris, the betting trend will most likely favour Djokovic.

Federer won’t be admitting this out loud but methinks he would rather see Djokovic in Nadal’s half of the draw. It would save Federer the worry of overcoming the Serbian en route to the final, and it would almost guarantee that the Nadal he would meet in the final would be a weary one, much the same as in Madrid. Although, after that semi (“that” being the Nadal-Djokovic semi), some would think Djokovic is a bigger threat to Nadal than Federer is.

However, to date, Federer is the only one of the two to have beaten Nadal on clay and that goes a long way to shaping the betting trend.

But most will still be picking Nadal to advance and go to his fifth consecutive Roland Garros final.

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