French Open Picks Day 12 With Odds and Nadal vs Djokovic Predictions
by Ricky Dimon - 6/6/2013
Ricky Dimon continues his daily French Open previews with a blockbuster men’s semifinal lineup on Friday. He is 13-7 and up 2.75 units for the tournament.
Odds provided by BetOnline Sportsbook
Rafael Nadal (-165) vs. Novak Djokovic (+145)
This is a matchup that transcends tennis. It pits two of the three most popular players in the sport and the two best players in the world (contrary to what the current rankings say) against each other. One is trying to complete the final piece to his career Grand Slam puzzle (Djokovic has won the other three slams at least once). The other is trying to extend his record by winning an eighth title at Roland Garros. Sports fan across the board should love this.
And it should not disappoint. Djokovic and Nadal monopolized the three clay-court Masters titles leading into the French Open (Djokovic won one, Nadal won two), and they have mostly cruised this fortnight on their way to the semifinals. They have taken turns being especially dominant. Whereas Nadal dropped the first set in each of his first two matches, Djokovic won his first three rounds without surrendering a set, and six of the Serb's first nine frames were no closer than 6-3. Djokovic then needed four to get past Philipp Kohlschreiber before ousting Tommy Haas in a relatively competitive three-setter. At just about the same time, Nadal crushed Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 and blew out Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.
Djokovic will take heart from his recent 6-2, 7-6(1) scalp of Nadal in the Monte-Carlo final. The world No. 1 also owns two additional clay-court victories over the Spaniard (Madrid and Rome in 2011). Still, the King of Clay is dominating their head-to-head series on the red dirt, 12-3. That includes a perfect 4-0 mark at Roland Garros, where Nadal is 11-1 lifetime in sets against Djokovic. They faced each other in a rain-interrupted final last season, and Nadal -- despite playing in conditions that favored his opponent -- triumphed in four. Friday's weather forecast--80 degrees and sunny -- should give an edge to the defending champ. Nadal's groundstrokes will be flying through the air and jumping off the court, much like they have been throughout the second week and much different from the action he got on the ball in rounds one and two amidst cold and rainy conditions.
But to hell with all the previous analysis. Here's all you need to know: Nadal is 57-1 lifetime at Roland Garros, 26-0 in his last 26 matches at his favorite tournament, and he has won the thing seven times in eight previous appearances. How can you pick against this kind of machine?
David Ferrer (-150) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (+130)
On paper, this is not yet the tournament of Tsonga’s career. This is his fifth trip to a major semifinal, and he went all the way to the title match at the 2008 Australian Open. But it would be almost impossible to argue that Tsonga is not playing the best tennis of his life this fortnight. The Frenchman has refused to give up a single set through five rounds. Only once prior to the semis was he even pushed to a tiebreaker, and a whopping 11 of his 15 contested sets were no closer than 6-3. Tsonga’s surge reached its zenith on Wednesday against Roger Federer, when the crowd favorite hammered the 17-time Grand Slam champion 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
Something will have to give in this one, because Ferrer is also yet to drop a set at this event. Whereas Tsonga is actually taking a slight step down in competition from his quarterfinal matchup, this is a big step up for Ferrer. The fifth-ranked Spaniard faced countryman Tommy Robredo in the quarterfinals with Robredo coming off three consecutive five-setters. Through five matches, the highest seed Ferrer faced was No. 23 Kevin Anderson.
Ferrer is favored because of the surface. Twenty-three of his 38 career tournament finals have come on clay, and this is the first time he has ever reached back-to-back semifinals at one of the four Grand Slams. Tsonga, though, is an underrated clay-court performer. His lifetime winning percentage at Roland Garros (77.3) is actually superior to that of Ferrer (75.6). The world No. 8 advanced to the quarterfinals last year and had four match points to upset Djokovic before eventually succumbing in five sets.
What is the recipe for beating Ferrer? Tsonga has it — serve huge, keep points short, and simply overpower him. That is easier said than done, especially on clay, but Tsonga hits a big enough ball to do it, and the anticipated conditions on Friday should be conducive to his effort. A fan base that is sure to be raucous in its hopes for a first French champion since Yannick Noah in 1983 will only help Tsonga.
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