Do my eyes deceive me? Rafa Nadal is 1.33 to beat Novak Djokovic in tomorrow's French Open final. I have never come onto this blog and written that I feel a price is great value for an individual match before. It's just not something I do, partly because I rarely get involved pre-match but also because it would have to be something very, very special for me to do so. Quite simply, it is very rare to find SP value at any price under evens in a tennis match, never mind one of the biggest matches of the year. So when I casually browsed through the Roland Garros final prices on Betunfair, my jaw almost hit the ground! 1.33??!!
This reminds me of the Wimbledon final last year, where Nadal started at something ridiculous like 1.5 before he was trounced by the Serb. OK, there is a big difference with this final. Firstly, Nadal is on his favourite surface and Djokovic on his least favourite. Secondly, Djokovic is not quite the invincible player he was in 2011 and has stuttered at times (in fact, in almost every game) on the run to this year's final. Thirdly, Nadal is in much better shape, cruising through without even dropping a set. And finally, Nadal has beaten Novak in two recent clay court events, both in straight sets. So I don't dispute that Nadal should be favourite for this match. But 1.33? There are some seriously misguided backers out there, in my opinion.
My case for a lay of Nadal is as follows. Firstly, Djokovic has beaten Nadal on clay twice before; both last year, both in finals, both in straight sets. Secondly, Djokovic may have dropped sets and struggled in earlier rounds but when it came to the toughest opponent of all, he breezed past Federer in straight sets. And he'll be more match hardened and confident he can come from behind, whereas Nadal has had it easy - I would say, TOO easy. Thirdly (as I mentioned in a previous post) Nadal beat Djokovic this year in Monte Carlo and Rome. But in the former, Djokovic was clearly not mentally focused due to the death of his grandfather and in the latter, he really should have won. Novak bossed most of the Rome final but messed up on key points with very uncharacteristic errors. Anyone who watched that final must be licking their lips at this ridiculous 1.33 on offer - I know I am!
I do of course, have an outright bet on Djokovic to win (placed during the Seppi match), so I am slightly biased as to who I want to win. Even so, I had no intention of getting involved in the match at all until I saw that price. Even if Nadal takes the first set, the price is so short it won't hurt me and I can guarantee you that Djokovic will take at least one set. In fact, Nadal is probably worth a second lay if he does take the first. There is also a very strong chance that the market will correct itself after just a few games, especially if Djokovic is troubling Rafa's serve - the price could shift by tens of ticks without even a break of serve. And if Djokovic does get the first break, you can expect the market to start panicking and possibly be able to green up immediately for a good sized green - though I won't be doing any such thing!
In my opinion, the correct price should be a lot closer to evens. Djokovic's year is all about Roland Garros. He owns all the other slams and doesn't give a toss about Masters 1000s. This is the one match he's been gearing up for in 2012. He has such self-belief that it doesn't matter if he is match points down to Tsonga or 2 sets down to Seppi. He knows he can win a game against these players from ANY position. No, Djokovic saves his very best for the very big games and this is the biggest of his life - the one which could put him in the Pantheon of all time greats. He will surely not mess up the way he did in Rome and I think he will achieve the Grand Slam of Grand Slams on Sunday. But even if he doesn't I will stand by my belief that 1.33 is the best value price you will see all year in a major tennis match.
N.B. Quick word on the women. If you are backing Sharapova at sub 1.3, you are crazy. If she doesn't win, I'll shave my balls with a butcher's knife but there is zero value at that price. I expect Errani will start brightly, as if she falls behind, she's finished, so there's always a chance of backing Sharapova higher.
Here's the woman herself: