French Open Men's Semi-Final Tips: Djokovic potential handicap value against Nadal

Friday's action at the French Open sees the men's semi-finals take place, including a blockbuster clash between Djokovic and Nadal. Dan Weston previews the action which is being shown on Betfair Live Video...

Tsitsipas favourite over Zverev in first semi-final

There are two superb-looking men's semi-finals in prospect on Friday with action at Roland Garros expected to get underway at around 14:00 UK time - both matches will be live streamed on Betfair. In the first, Alexander Zverev takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas, and it is the Greek, Tsitsipas, who is the 1.45 favourite to make his first Grand Slam final.

Tsitsipas has won four of their six main tour matches, and is one from one on clay, although Zverev did get the better of him in the final of Acapulco in March on hard court. This year on clay, Tsitsipas has won just over 4% of serve points on clay, but Zverev does have an edge on return of around 2%. The dynamic is pretty similar over the last year or two as well - based on this, Tsitsipas does look the better player of the two on the surface.

Whether that quite justifies market pricing to this extent is more debatable. I don't quite see Tsitsipas as being this short, and I think Zverev's chances are a little better than the market thinks here.

Nadal price shorter than recent clay meetings with Djokovic

However, I want to move on to the second semi-final tomorrow, which is a match I'm sure the neutrals can't wait for - Novak Djokovic versus Rafa Nadal. It's the King of Clay, Nadal, who is the 1.39 favourite to make the final.

I'm not 100% sure on this market price, either. Yes, Nadal has a stunning record at Roland Garros. Yes, Nadal has won their last five meetings on clay, and yes, Nadal thrashed Djokovic at a bigger market price in last year's final. But in the last three clay matches between the two players, Nadal has been priced around the 1.60/1.75/1.55 mark, so the current market line is rather shorter than those recent meetings.

Djokovic with slightly better clay numbers this year

If we look at 2021 performances on clay, Djokovic has actually won a higher percentage of service and return points than Nadal, but has a lower win percentage.

The reasoning for this is partly because of a poor tiebreak record, but also notable underperformance on break points on return based on return points won expectation, which is a dynamic that usually mean-reverts eventually.

Djokovic's numbers on clay are strong despite that tricky fourth round match here against Lorenzo Musetti, and eventually tough four-setter against the Italian big-server, Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-final. However, Nadal did drop a set himself against Diego Schwartzman in the last round.

We can get 1.79 on Djokovic receiving a 5.5 game head start on the game handicap, and that looks like a reasonable enough spot to me. The world number one has been priced in excess of 3.0 just four times in Grand Slams since 2010, and he's covered this line on three of those four occasions, and lost by six games on the other.

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