French Open Men's Final Tips: Back Casper to give Nadal Ruud awakening

Dan Weston previews Sunday's men's single final at the French Open and recommends his best bet for Rafael Nadal v Casper Ruud...

Nadal with experience heading into the final

At 14:00 UK time, Casper Ruud and Rafa Nadal get the men's final at Roland Garros underway, and in terms of achievements in the game so far, this is David versus Goliath. Nadal, who is competing for his 14th French Open title, meets Ruud, who is in his first Slam final and has only made one final in his entire career above the 250 level.

In terms of experience at least, it's a complete mismatch. Even though this isn't played in Spain, this essentially is Nadal's home and he's certainly more adept in the conditions in Paris compared to in his home country.

That's something that the market is clearly factoring into the pricing, with Nadal currently trading at 1.21 to be celebrating with the trophy later on Sunday afternoon.

Despite Ruud doing his best work on clay, the duo have never met, so the first few games might involve the pair working each other out.

Injury and fatigue the big question marks

Nadal was expected to struggle this fortnight with injury, but after beating Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final and then getting past Alexander Zverev by way of retirement, he's yet again in the final and based on the tournament data in his six matches so far, deservedly so. He's running at 112% combined service/return points won this tournament - elite level data - but Ruud isn't far behind at 110%.

The Norwegian has, however, dropped six sets to Nadal's three, and that plus the fatigue accumulated via a fairly unnecessary final in Geneva the week prior, could play into Nadal's hands. We've seen so many times throughout the years on this surface that fatigued players are likely to struggle against the King of Clay.

Data suggests Nadal isn't miles ahead of Ruud this year

Looking at the 2022 clay data, Ruud has a solid edge on serve, winning 3% more service points, but Nadal, which is one of if not the best returner on tour, has won 6% more return points, so his status as favourite looks very justified. However, the price does look a little short.

Ruud is a high level clay courter - without doubt top 10 and probably around top five - and, while I do expect Nadal to get the job done, it shouldn't be done at all easy for the Spaniard.

Ruud +6.5 games should settle around the 1.90 mark, and I think this line is pretty reasonable - the neutral will be hoping for a close match, and I think there's a solid chance of that happening.

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