The final of the men’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia features the top two players in the world on Sunday afternoon in Rome.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet across the net for the 41st time at the Foro Italico at 15.00 UK time, with the last clay Masters 1000 title of the season up for grabs.
It was another winning day for this column on Saturday when Djokovic and Milos Raonic went past the 9.5 total games in the first set of their semi-final on their way to a tie break and we could be set for another close one today.
Rafael Nadal 1.70 vs Novak Djokovic 2.12 - BET and STREAM live on Unibet TV from 15.05
The layers have Rafa as favourite today at around 1.70, which looks a little short to me, unless Novak’s wrist injury has become an issue again.
Djokovic was seen just feeling the lower part of that arm and shaking it out in the closing stages of his three set win over Raonic yesterday and that concerns me and will worry his backers for the French Open.
It wasn’t mentioned in the post-match press conference, which it wouldn’t be unless someone bothered to ask, rather than the usual fawning over him and feigned interest in his off-court activities.
Having been in these pressers myself it would have been the usual irrelevant stuff pertaining to his fiancée and his friendship or otherwise with Rafa and how he felt Raonic had improved – nothing that might give us a guideline as to how fit the player is to play today and in a major in a week’s time.
Assuming that he’s okay Novak looks a touch of value at odds-against here, given Rafa’s struggles and the layers appear to have been too impressed by Nadal’s easy win over a really poor Grigor Dimitrov last night.
Nadal has struggled against Dimitrov before and the attack to the Bulgarian’s backhand shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Grigor and his team, but he seemed ill equipped to deal with it this time.
Given that Rafa had endured a long and tough three setter the previous night, while Grigor had an easy day it was a really poor display from Dimitrov, who had a shocker.
Perhaps he had too much birthday cake on Friday, but whatever the reason it wasn’t any kind of test for Rafa – the test will come today assuming Djokovic is fit.
Nadal isn’t as comfortable against the best two-handers and this is the best double hander around, who will try and break down Rafa’s forehand, rather than focusing on his backhand all the time.
And for me, that lefty forehand of Rafa’s has been below par of late, which doesn’t bode well for his supporters today.
The wrist is a worry, but I’ll side with Novak today to win his third Rome title.
Back Djokovic to beat Nadal at 2.12