The final of the 2013 ATP China Open sees the top two seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal meet for the 38th time at 9am UK time on Sunday.
Also in action on Sunday are Juan Martin Del Potro and Milos Raonic, who contest the final of the Japan Open in Tokyo at around 6am UK time.
Of my two wagers on Saturday, one was void when Tomas Berdych retired in the first set of his China Open semi final with Nadal after injuring his back going for a backhand slice.
The other was unfortunate, as Milos Raonic and Ivan Dodig played out the first set I expected and the overs looked good after a 13 game opener, but the Croatian’s spirit was broken after squandering a 4-1 lead in that tie break and he fell away all too tamely in the second set to foil the overs.
Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic
This is probably the match-up that I have written about the most and for the 38th time this superstar pair meet, with Nadal having taken over the mantle of world number one from Djokovic by virtue of that win over Berdych.
Djokovic won’t be happy about that, but he hasn’t won a title since Monte-Carlo back in the spring, so he can hardly be surprised that he’s been usurped at the head of the men’s game by the in-form Spaniard.
There’s little point delving into the head-to-heads here, as we all know what to expect from these two by now and it’s a pick ‘em at the best of times on a hard court.
My preference here is for Djokovic on the basis that he should have a real hunger to stop the rot against his rival, who has won six of their last seven meetings and I haven’t seen the intensity that I would like to see from Rafa this week. Some of his play has been quite sloppy and though he'll undoubtedly bring better to the court on Sunday, I just favour Nole.
Novak has never lost on this court (other than the 2008 Olympics) in 18 matches in Beijing and I suspect he’ll keep that record going on Sunday morning. The layers seem to agree and it’s a 1.75 shot that the Serbian lands his fourth straight China Open title.
Juan Martin Del Potro vs Milos Raonic
Not quite a 38th meeting between these two in Tokyo and indeed Raonic’s win over Delpo in Montreal in August was their only match to date and I would have to give the Canadian a good chance here on a similarly quick hard court.
After a wretched grass court swing Raonic has improved out of sight, thanks largely to his link-up with Ivan Ljubicic and his confidence must be sky high at the moment. Milos is now on a run of eight straight wins on the tour and he clearly enjoys conditions here after reaching the final last year.
Del Potro has had a tougher time making his 22nd tour level final, dropping sets against Marcos Baghdatis and Alex Dolgopolov and he edged Nico Almagro in two tie breaks in the semi finals. Delpo has won 15 of his 21 tour level finals though and he’s only once lost in a final to a player not ranked inside the top-10 at the time – to Tomas Berdych (27) in the 2008 final here in Tokyo. This has the makings of a very tight match and the value lies with the Canadian here for me in these conditions at 2.15.
Back Djokovic to beat Nadal at 1.75
Back Raonic to beat Del Potro at 2.15