The second men’s Grand Slam title will be won on Sunday when Rafael Nadal meets Casper Ruud in the final of the French Open on what should be a special occasion regardless of who wins on the Philippe Chatrier Court.
Nadal has the opportunity to go two clear in the GOAT race with what would be Grand Slam title number 22 should he win. Ruud is at the other end of the scale looking to win his first major at the first attempt.
It doesn’t need me to go through the achievements of Rafael Nadal but it might be that his finest accolade is the fact that if he wins this match he will win this clay court major for a 14th time which would just be incredible. We don’t know how much longer the Spanish legend will go on for with the foot injury which he says is a constant that needs managing now so each time he is in a final like this it is going to be a serious event.
The concern over Nadal in this match is the amount of time he has been on court in the second week of this tournament. His last 16 win over Felix Auger-Aliassime and the quarter final victory over Novak Djokovic both went beyond four hours and the near to sets which were completed in his semi-final had taken well over three hours. For a guy who is carrying an injury you just wonder if that is due to catch up with him in the end.
Casper Ruud has been making plenty of history over the last 18 months or so and now he is looking to take down the biggest title of his career and become the first Norwegian male to win a Grand Slam singles event. Ruud broke into the top 10 a while ago so we can’t exactly say this run came as a surprise, but when you consider he hadn’t even reached a quarter final at this level prior to this tournament he might not have been the most obvious finalist to many.
Ruud has improved as this tournament has gone on too. He looked very nervous in the first round, although to be fair to him the occasion for that match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a weird one. One he got into the second week though he has played some really good stuff and even when he was a set down to Marin Cilic in the semi-final he didn’t panic and outplayed the Croatian for the next three sets. Ruud will need his very best to have a chance here but he might just have that with him.
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Usually we would look to the head-to-head between two players to give us a feel on a big match like this but we are not able to do that here because these two have never met one another in a competitive showdown. Nadal has mentored Ruud though so they will know the game each other plays but we will have to wait to see how that will play out when they are across the net from each other.
Those who followed me in on this tournament right from the very beginning will already be on Ruud to win this match at 22/1. Clearly he is a huge outsider for this match but given that he has already landed the place money I’m happy to let the outright ride, not least because we’re not exactly going to get much back by siding with Nadal anyway. If the Norwegian happens to win then happy days. I’ll head to the side markets for a bet on this final though.
That comes in the form of the total service breaks where I think the 7.5 line is overpriced at odds against. The return game of these two has been in terrific form this week. Ruud broke the big serving Marin Cilic five times in their semi-final while Nadal did the same in less than two completed sets to Alexander Zverev in the same round. Earlier in the competition Ruud broke Hubert Hurkacz six times so he is returning really well. These two might not have met competitively but they have trained together regularly so they will have seen the serve of the other a fair bit and will know the strengths and weaknesses of each other. I actually think Ruud will win a set here and if he does we only need two breaks per set but the ratio they are breaking at there is still every chance this covers in a straight sets contest.
Back Over 7.5 breaks of serve for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Coral
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