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The Pick: Rafael Nadal vs. Jannik Sinner, Rome second round
The Italian held his own in his first meeting against the Spaniard. Does the teenager have a chance in this best-of-three match from Rome?
Published May 11, 2021
Jannik Sinner held up surprisingly well in his first encounter with Rafael Nadal in the 2020 French Open quarterfinal. Though he lost in straight sets, he was neck and neck with Nadal for the better part of two sets, ultimately losing 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1.
For a young tennis player, few things are likely as difficult as facing your childhood idol. Oftentimes the players are just happy to be there, enjoying a moment they’ve surely dreamed about for years.
The first time Denis Kudla played Roger Federer he told me it was an experience like none other, but one that certainly didn’t help his tennis. “It was totally surreal, I definitely didn’t give myself the best chance to win the match, it was so weird seeing him across the net.”
So how will Sinner handle Nadal the second time around? According to the oddsmakers, much better, as the teenager is listed as a +320 underdog, compared to his +600 underdog price in Paris. This price differential is mostly due to the more unpredictable nature of best-two-of-three sets, as well as a less dominant venue for the Spaniard. Nadal owns 13 French Open trophies, but has only captured the title in Rome nine times.
Expect the Italian to rip the cover off the ball from start to finish. He already hits it about as hard as humanly possible, but will benefit from the freedom that all tennis players feel when they have absolutely nothing to lose. Look for Sinner to attack Nadal’s forehand first, which will open up the backhand corner, unless he hits a clean winner, like he does here.
We all know what will happen if Nadal plays his best tennis, but when he’s not feeling it, he has a tendency to land his forehand a little short in the box. If that’s the case, look for Sinner to step up and blister the ball off both wings. But if Nadal starts catching fire, there’s not much Sinner, or anyone, can do.
From a betting perspective, a minimum wager on Sinner at +320 isn’t a bad idea, but only if you are able to live bet and hedge on Nadal at positive odds if he finds himself down a set, or a break. That way you can guarantee yourself a small payday if Sinner starts hot.
It’s practically impossible to advise someone to bet against Nadal on clay, but Sinner should be able to keep this one extremely close this time around.
The Pick: Rafael Nadal