Novak Djokovic might have pounded Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open but when it comes to clay, the Spaniard remains favourite to clinch his 12th French Open title later this year.
While there’s buzz about fans backing Djokovic to win the title at Roland-Garros, bookmakers have shown their reluctance in slashing his odds too much given Nadal’s history at the tournament. Since playing at this first ever French Open in 2005, Nadal’s lost just two match on the red dirt of Paris, bowing out in the fourth round at the 2009 edition to Robin Soderling and then in the quarter-finals at the 2015 one.
That loss in 2015 came at the hands of Djokovic too and the talk in the town is that the Serb could well be in with a chance to push Nadal and even make it four Grand Slam wins in a row.
Nadal’s immense domination, but most vitally his return to full fitness makes him a heavy favourite to win this one – bet365 are offering 10/11 for his triumph at the French Open this season. Before the start of the Australian Open, the real concern for Nadal was if he would get through to the latter stages at the first major unscathed, without fitness woes.
When he blitzed past Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets in the semi-finals, it looked like that question had been answered. Even Tsitispas looked stunned with what had happened having gone into the match having gotten past Roger Federer in round four.
Then came the final and Nadal himself would have felt like how Tsitsipas did. Djokovic had an answer to every question that Nadal asked and consumed his second-ranked in straight sets – the first time ever that had happened at a Grand Slam final.
Clay is a different beast though. It’s not like Djokovic isn’t very good at it, it’s just that even a reasonably fit Nadal is too good at it.
Which is also why despite the shortening of odds for a Djokovic win at French Open (9/4 with bet365), they are still some way off Nadal.
What makes it very interesting but unsurprising is that the third-best option on offer, Dominic Thiem, last year’s runnerup is a distant third at 11/1 (Unibet) .