The two are closely matched on ratings going into the final, writes Jack Houghton, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see a drawn-out match…
Preparing the data for this particular side-market preview, it was a surprise to have to trawl back nearly five years to find the recorder that I used the previous time Djokovic and Nadal met in the closing of a significant: the 2014 French Open. That it’s been so long says something about the increasing fragility of this duo, especially the injury woes and private strife which has witnessed both having extending intervals off the court in recent decades.
They are back, though, with Nadal, particularly, appearing for imperious as when at his peak, revealing hard-court form that many (myself included) assumed was beyond his delicate body’s capability. That has meant that my assertion – that an outsider would mess the centenary celebrations of the Big Three – has not yet been borne out, despite the powerful performance of pre-tournament 90.00-recommendation, Daniil Medvedev, that briefly looked to trouble Djokovic within their last-16 experience.
No, this year’s Australian Open title will go the way of the establishment and, whilst Djokovic is the small favourite at 1.81 into Nadal’s 2.22, I would struggle to separate the two. They enter the closing boasting near-identical Elo scores based on my evaluations also, although Djokovic’s excellence raises on this front when filtering for hard-court matches only, that has to do with Nadal’s recent inability to progress more than a few rounds around the challenging stuff before retiring with injury than it does any playing inferiority. And, as Dan Weston asserts in his eponymous trailer (test it out, along with his upcoming final preview, here), it is Nadal who seems at the ascendency in Melbourne.
Most Aces – It’s all about the price Considering that their pre-eminence in the last couple of decades, it is always startling to reflect on how few experts this duo serves, demonstrating how much the sport has changed since the 1990s, when it seemed like big servers would eternally dominate the men’s game, except for a brief interlude during the clay court season, when some older guys would get to play with a couple more matches.
The ace count within their own games is usually low and closely contested, however, up to now, head-to-head, Djokovic has functioned more on 32 occasions, accounting for 63 percent of the aces. This last figure is slightly skewed, however, by some matches where Djokovic dominated the ace-race, such as the mammoth five-setter semi-final at Wimbledon this past year. It is worth remembering that eight of the matches have seen the duo tie on ace count.
According to the information, Djokovic should most likely be about 1.56 to serve the most aces, which looks to be about where the industry is settling. When the chances dropped as much as 1.40, however, I would be a coating, hoping for a repeat of the 2012 final here, at which Nadal won the ace-race from one.
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