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The Pick, presented by DraftKings Sportsbook: Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic, French Open
Nadal has always held an edge against Djokovic at Roland Garros, but the Serbian has won two of their last three meetings on the terre battue.
Published May 30, 2022
When the French Open draw was released, the prospect of a quarterfinal between fifth seed Rafael Nadal and top seed Novak Djokovic was the talk of the tournament. Of course, this is a match that people would have loved to see in the semifinals or final, but the fact of that matter is that we’re getting it.
Now, how to bet it?
There will be a lot on the line, as Djokovic trails Nadal by one Grand Slam in his quest to be the all-time leader in men's major singles titles. Nadal was able to break the tie by winning his 21st at the Australian Open, and there’s now a serious sense of urgency from the Serbian to win one here—or at least prevent Nadal from getting his 22nd.
And overall, it’s hard not to see Djokovic being the one that prevails.
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Heading into this tournament, Nadal’s foot was a serious concern. The Spaniard turned in some pedestrian performances during the clay-court season, with a near-loss to world No. 48 David Goffin in Madrid and a defeat at the hands of world No. 15 Denis Shapovalov at the same event sticking out. Now, Nadal has to face one of the greatest players in tennis history after having needed nearly four-and-a-half hours to get by Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16. With that in mind, it’s fair to wonder whether or not the Spaniard will be able to hold up physically against Djokovic, one of the fittest athletes on the planet.
Clay has always been a surface in which Nadal has had an edge over Djokovic, but the Serbian did win a title in Rome before the French Open. That’s one of the biggest clay-court tournaments there is, and it’s also one with very similar conditions to Roland Garros. That means Djokovic is peaking on this surface at the right time—and it’s also hard to ignore the fact that the Serbian won 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2 when these two met in the French Open semifinals last year. That win should have Djokovic feeling extremely confident heading into this match, especially against this version of Nadal. Djokovic will not hesitate to move Nadal around the court and test his foot, and it wouldn't be surprising if he works in some drop shots to really put the pressure on the Spaniard.
Djokovic also hasn’t dropped a single set at the French Open thus far, so his body hasn’t been taxed at all to this point. That’s yet another reason that it’s just hard to believe that the world No. 1 won’t be the one that advances.
If you aren’t crazy about backing Djokovic at his pricey -215 odds, don’t be afraid to take the 3.5-game spread. Djokovic covered that mark in last year’s win over Nadal, and this match could end up being somewhat similar.
The Pick: Djokovic -3.5 Games (-130)