French Open betting: Another win for Rafa is a piece of cake

4Jun 2013

Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal is hitting peak form at just the right time to win an amazing eighth French Open title, and Ralph Ellis can't believe he can still be backed at odds against...

There's a telling line in the ITV documentary on Jose Mourinho that defines what makes him such a successful manager. He's asked how he's changed since he left Chelsea. "I have more titles," he says, thinking carefully about his answer. "I have more money," he adds, and smiles -before coming to the real point: "And I have even more desire to win."

Switch sports and the same quote could just as easily have come from Rafael Nadal explaining how things have changed for him in the eight years since he won the first of seven French Open titles to announce himself as the world's greatest clay court player.

The TV news bulletins on his three-set cruise to knock out Japan's Kei Nishikori yesterday concentrated on the giant cake he was given to celebrate his 27th birthday. As Rafa does, he smiled to all the right people, joined in the fun. But the pictures that told the real story came in the three-second clip of him striking the winning point. There was a steely look of grim determination on his face, a punch of the air. It wasn't an expression of triumph because in his mind he's done nothing just by reaching the quarter-finals. It was more a statement of intent that once again he's going all the way.

It's no secret that after years of pounding the world's tennis courts, twisting and turning, Nadal has got dodgy knees. You can even watch an X-ray computer animation of his problems, kindly stuck on YouTube by the New York Times. But if there are two bits of his body that are ferociously strong then they are his heart and his mind.

Any other athlete might have been tempted to feel his way back to fitness more gently this season. Seven months out of the sport tends to make you cautious. Footballers worry about the first heavy tackle when they've had knee surgery, rugby players fear the first big hit, fast bowlers the moment their leading leg thumps down on the front crease at delivery. Why wouldn't a tennis player be daunted at what harm five sets of twisting and turning might do?

Not Nadal. He's come back with a roar not a whimper with an astonishing 40 victories in 42 matches in 2013 so far. Even when the Roland Garros suits tried to make things more difficult by forcing him to play in successive days because they mucked up their schedule, he had a moan but then got to the heart of the matter: "The only thing I can do is be positive, smile, and try to win my match," he said. And he did.

He didn't have a great first week. The stats show it was his worst at Paris in terms of percentage of points won in any of the last eight years, and maybe that's why he is still odds against at 2.04 to be the tournament winner and retain the trophy he's made his own. But it wasn't bad either, certainly comparable with previous years where he's started slowly then peaked when it mattered.

But that just makes it a big opportunity to cash in. Anybody with his record of serial success at a tournament, coupled with current form in a year in which he's already landed five titles (at Sao Paulo, Acapulco, Indian Wells, Barcelona and Rome), should be odds-on. He is injury free, and ought to comfortably justify a price of 1.6 to wipe away his quarter-final opponent Stanislas Wawrinka tomorrow in three sets.

Most of all it's clear he's got his head right. Like Mourinho, it contains the mind of a winner.

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Keywords: French Open, betting, Rafa, Nadal, Ralph Ellis

Source: Betfair

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