On Tuesday night we witnessed one of the best French Open quarter-finals in living memory and that means that our pre-tournament selection, Rafael Nadal, lives to fight another day.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of his semi-final match against Alex Zverev, including their head-to-head record, key stats and of course, that all-important betting tips.
Zverev and Nadal unlikely semi-finalists
Both Zverev and Nadal defied the odds to win in four sets.
If Zverev’s was a triumph of a more experienced player over one who has all the talent but is clearly not yet the finished product, then Nadal’s win over Djokovic was an absolute classic.
If the quarter-final pre-match odds were to be believed, neither Rafael Nadal, nor Alex Zverev should be in this semi-final. Nadal was around the 2.8 mark to beat Novak Djokovic, while Zverev was about 3.7 to beat Carlos Alcaraz. Both defied the odds to win in four sets.
…and a reminder that Rafa Nadal isn’t the world’s most successful men’s player (in terms of Grand Slam wins, at least) for nothing. He defied age, a minor foot injury and unfavourable conditions (he generally plays better during the day than at night) to beat tournament hot favourite Djokovic in four beautifully-contested sets of world-class tennis featuring extremely long games and breath-taking points. It ended at after 1.30am local time.
The only real shame here was that they met in the quarter-finals rather than the semis or final, because this really was a match-up that deserved to be played on the biggest stage of all.
Nevertheless, on he goes…
Nadal hot favourite to go all the way
This was always going to be the case: the winner of the Djokovic vs Nadal match was going to become the red-hot favourite to win the whole thing, particularly with second-favourite, Alcaraz, being knocked out earlier on in the day.
And so it proved. Having been around 5.5 to win the tournament before his semi, Nadal is now just around the 1.5 mark on the outright market.
So, it’s a good thing that Rafa was our pre-tournament pick at odds of 3.2!French Open 2022 Betting: Nadal to do it all over again
Interestingly, he was around the 6.0 mark before the tournament began after disappointing in Rome and complaining about a long-term foot injury but even if you got the slightly shorter price of just over 3.0, you’re still in a great position.
Nadal holds all the trump cards
Nadal is 1.3, Zverev is 3.45 and it’s virtually impossible to make a case for Zverev at all.
Zverev has 19 career titles to his name and a best showing in Grand Slams in the form of three semi-finals, though he did win gold at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year and is now making his third consecutive Roland Garros semi-final.
Decent but not a patch on Nadal. The Spaniard has 21 Grand Slams titles, 13 of them here at Roland Garros, and a total of 91 tournament wins. Those 21 put him top for men’s Grand Slam wins and he’s also fresh from winning the Australian Open in January, proving his days of picking up the biggest prizes in the sport are far from over.
In terms of their head-to-head record, Nadal is 6-3 up. Nadal won all of he first five games he played against Zverev (including three on clay) before Zverev hit back to win the next three, one of them on the clay of Madrid earlier this year. However, Nadal then won in Rome, beating him 6-3 6-4 in the most recent encounter between the two.
So you can see why Nadal is such a hot favourite. And this despite Zverev being impressive in that victory over Alcaraz, where his serve was particularly good, boasting a 71% first serve percentage and firing down seven aces.
But still. Only the most loyal Zverev fan would go into this match believing the German can take out Rafa.
Zverev good for a set
Nadal, however, may not have it all his own way.
For starters, it’s not impossible that Zverev comes out all guns blazing and secures an early break after catching Rafa cold and manages to hold on to take the first set. A first set win for Zverev is a 2.52 chance, by the way…
TIP But it’s worth remembering that Zverev is going top have a huge advantage on serve all match.
Consider some of these stats: in his semi, Zverev served a maximum speed of 219 kmp, an average first serve speed of 202 kph and served seven aces. He won 73% of his points on first serve.
In his own semi, Nadal’s max speed on serve was down at 198kph, his average first serve was 181kph and he won just 65% of points on first serve.
Even if it’s not in the opening set, you’d think that at some stage Zverev will return well enough to break Nadal and that with his own powerful serve will manage to hold and go on and win a set. But that might just be as good as it gets for ‘Sacha’ before Nadal’s extra experience, greater stamina (despite being 10 years older), superior defensive game and all-round excellence on clay wins the day.
It’s 3.9 that Nadal wins 3-1 and that looks a much more appealing bet than the straight win at a much shorter price.
10CRIC’s pick: Back Rafa Nadal to win 3-1 at 3.9!