Tennis Betting: Not so Open for Nadal
Nadal still needs to prove that he can achieve the same result in a situation where the pressure is most intense
The Betfair Contrarian isn't convinced about Rafael Nadal and is advising a lay of him heading into the French Open.
After defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets in Rome, Rafael Nadal has been catapulted back up to second in the world rankings and into a new low of 1.84 to claim his seventh Roland Garros title in eight years.
The Contrarian is shunning the premature coronation though, instead presenting a case for laying the defending champion...
Djokovic retains the psychological edge...
Successive clay-court victories over world number one Djokovic 3.70 are a significant boost to Nadal's morale, which was surely wounded by seven straight defeats to his current chief adversary.
However, Nadal still needs to prove that he can achieve the same result in a situation where the pressure is most intense - a Grand Slam final. The last three have thrust the pair together and on each occasion Djokovic has prevailed, including in this year's epic Australian Open final when the loser was largely faultless. Nadal got lucky at last year's French Open, swerving a direct confrontation as Federer kindly eliminated the then-invincible Serbian for him in the semi-finals. The consequence is that you have to go back 20 months to find his last Grand Slam win against Djokovic.
...and is on the verge of an historic feat
Djokovic has tonnes at stake at Roland Garros, with the French Open title the one presently depriving him of a Career Grand Slam. Lifting the trophy would see him accomplish something that neither Nadal nor Federer can rival - four consecutive Grand Slam successes. Only one man in the Open era has engineered such a sequence, the legendary Rod Laver way back in 1969.
It is also perhaps a mistake to read too much into Djokovic's results in between winning in Australia and travelling to Paris, a spell in which he was beaten five times. Whereas in the first half of 2011, he was relentless in his pursuit of any silverware available, the toll such energy exertion took and on his fitness at the close of the campaign seemingly alerted him that such an approach was unsustainable. So he is now required to peak for major tournaments. And on the evidence of the last few Grand Slams, Djokovic at top form remains the best player in the world.
Rome glory counts for little
As if to prove the point that Nadal's recent wins over Djokovic on clay risk being rendered irrelevant, there isn't much correlation between victory in Rome and Paris. There were just seven instances in the last 33 years of a player going the distance in both and three of those were in 2005, 2006 and 2007, when Nadal was outright untouchable on the surface. Most tellingly, only one of the last four Roman rulers replicated their success in France, with Djokovic failing to build on the momentum in 2008 and 2011 and Nadal reigning supreme before his one prior Roland Garros loss in 2009.
Federer refuses to go away
Tennis logic dictates that at 30, Federer (12.0) should step aside and start mingling with Aaron Krickstein and Henri Leconte on the Champions Tour. Instead, he has enjoyed a delightful 2012 so far, scooping four trophies to Nadal's three, Djokovic's two and Andy Murray's one, and rightly retains the ambition of adding to his record haul of 16 Grand Slam titles.
A win over Nadal in Paris is one of the few things unticked on his to-do list, but straight set triumphs in two of their last three meetings will inspire belief that this time will be different.