Djokovic won again in Rome, can he go one better and beat Nadal at Rolland Garros?
With his win in Madrid and then again in Rome, Novak
Djokovic has maintained his incredible start to 2011, setting himself up as one
of the main contenders heading into the French Open as well as becoming the
first player to qualify for the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals. He did not take the ATP number one ranking
during the competition, but a 6-4 6-4 victory over Nadal after having disposed
of Andy Murray in the Semi’s will suffice for the Serb, for now.
The 23 year old chalked up his thirty second consecutive win
in the final at the Caja Magica in
Madrid and will head to Paris with thirty seven straight wins after Rome. This
leaves him second only to the great John McEnroe when it comes to season
opening winning streaks (McEnroe chalked up forty two during 1984). Djokovic is
also endangering Guillermo Vilas’s total consecutive wins record of 46.
Having taken two clay titles in Madrid and Rome, he will now
look towards Roland Garros with the confidence that must ultimately come from
halting Nadal’s thirty seven win run on clay and thwarting him in their last
two final appearances. Despite the poor courts in Madrid, and the fact that
Nadal will surely be on top of his game in Paris, Djokovic will believe he can
take the French Open title and certainly he does not fear being one of the betting odds favorites.
After Madrid Djokovic said “Probably because of my winning
streak and because I am in the shape of a lifetime I am one of the favorites to
win the title….. It is my goal to try to go all the way at Roland Garros and I
am definitely setting my form up for the tournament.”
He is not wrong there. So far in 2011 Djokovic has taken
seven titles, including the first Grand Slam of the year in Australia.
However Djokovic has never been past the Semis in Roland
Garros, losing out to Nadal and this year he will start off against Thiemo de
Bakker and could face a big test against the Argentinean Juan Martin Del Potro.
2011 in the French
In the men’s singles, despite the form of Djokovic coming
into the tournament, you cannot look much past Rafael Nadal. Indeed it is
nearly true that the only things certain in life are death, taxes and Nadal
winning at Roland Garros.
He is the king of the red surface; having had his 37 clay
court match winning streak ended will not faze him. Paris is almost a home
court for him. Sure he had the shock loss to Soderling back in 2009 when en
route to a record breaking five consecutive titles, but Nadal is as dangerous
Coming into the tourney he has been in good form; taking the
title Barcelona, losing out to Djokovic in the final in Madrid and then in Rome
he played whilst still suffering from the effects of a fever to beat Feliciano
Lopez in the third round and made it all the way to the final (yes, I know he
lost to Djokovic again). Nadal will open in Paris against the big American John
Isner and could face Andy Murray in the Semi Finals.
So Nadal and Djokovic have to be the main protagonists for
the title in Roland Garros, but they are not the only players in with a chance
at the title.
The other real contender is of course three time runner up
and one time winner in Paris, Roger Federer. Some might argue that he is
lacking a little in 2011, but that might just be because over the years he has
set such a high standard for himself. An 85% Roger Federer is still a top
performer in my book.
Federer is currently ranked third in the world and has had
28 wins and 7 losses in 2011. However he has suffered his losses in key games -
to Nadal in the semis in Madrid on clay, to Djokovic in the semis at the BNP
Paribas open, the final in Dubai and the semis in the Australian open. The
losses to Djokovic are of particular concern given that the draw could see the
two facing each other in the semi finals in Paris.
Are we seeing the
winding down of the Federer era? Too early to say and he is too classy a player
to not be able to change up gears. However, his performance in Rome has left
more questions; Federer played an error strewn game in round three and lost out
to Richard Gasquet. After the match Federer said “I should never have lost, he
knows how close he came to losing. I had multiple choices”. But he didn’t take
those chances and he did lose.
Outside of these three on clay we cannot discount the other
Spaniard, David Ferrer. Ferrer is reaching something like the form of his 2008
season where he lost to Gael Monfis in the quarters in Paris. He has been
knocking on the door of a championship in 2011 having just lost in Madrid to
Djokovic and being runner up to Nadal in Barcelona. He has to be considered,
however he is surely the dark horse.
The runner up for the last two years, Robin Soderling, has
struggled a little on clay this season and has been unable to make it past the
quarters yet. He has still managed to take three championships (Brisbane, ABN
Amro and Open 13) notching up wins against Roddick and Youzhny but he has
suffered clay court losses to both Del Potro and Federer.
Then we have Andy Murray, the world number four who has yet
to claim a Grand Slam despite his promise and finals appearances. 2011 has seen
him lose to Djokovic in the heat of Australia, which was followed by three
disappointing outings on hard courts. He has found some form on the clay courts
but could not get past Nadal in Monaco or the more modestly skilled Bellucci of
Brazil in Madrid. He did look better in Rome, but he could not find an answer
to Djokovic in the semi finals.
Murray is always a wild card and there is no denying that on
any given day he has the tools to beat anyone, but he blows too hot and cold to
sustain it throughout a tournament and he is now perennially becoming the
bridesmaid and never the bride in finals.
Betting odds and
The sportsbooks have decreed that Djokovic and his form
leading into the tournament are not going to count for more than Nadal’s
history and the Spaniard is the favorite. Betting odds then typically have
Djokovic as a very close second and Federer in a group of one before the other
potentials. However after Rome the odds on Djokovic and Murray have narrowed,
whilst the bookies have lengthened the odds on Federer and Soderling (Federer
has not looked his usual self this year and Soderling is on the Nadal side of
Pinnacle sportsbook have the top three as follows: Nadal
2.010, Djokovic 2.620 and Federer 19.650 and Bodog.com has Nadal at 8/11. Djokovic
at 11/8 and Federer 14/1.
If you want to take a more risky wager and of course be in
line for a better payout then Pinnacle have Soderling at 51.150, Murray at
27.080 and Ferrer at 51.150 with Bodog running Murray and Del Potro at 16/1 and
Ferrer and Soderling at 25/1.
Myself? Betting Nadal of course!
Paris is his court and the King is coming
home. Djokovic is definitely the threat
and a final between these two might see Nadal pushed to five for the first time
ever at Roland Garros (dependant on Djokovic overcoming Federer if they do meet).
However I think Nadal is too strong and whilst Djokovic has been impressive and
might have turned a corner this year, I will take the tried and trusted over
the up and coming. The movement in the odds after Rome only makes a wager on
Nadal more appealing and let’s not forget he can equal the great Borg with a
sixth title win. That is some carrot!