Former world number one Rafael Nadal looks to continue his return to form at the World Tour Finals on Friday in an all-Spanish clash with David Ferrer.
And as is always the way with the round robin format we’re left with a dead rubber to contend with, as on this occasion Nadal has already won the group and Ferrer is out of the tournament.
Thursday night’s dead rubber ended in a highly contentious defeat for the under 9.5 aces wager, with the official stats returning 10 when quite clearly to my eyes it was a maximum of nine – all from Tomas Berdych.
I can only assume that at least one or two of the serves that went down in the book as aces didn’t take into account the very clear touches that Novak Djokovic got on them.
In any case it was the lack of intensity from an already-qualified Djokovic was equally to blame, with the Serb failing to close from a set and 2-0 ahead against an opponent who was out of the tournament.
Rafael Nadal vs David Ferrer
Unless you happen to be a fan of either player this clash of the Spaniards isn’t exactly one to get the pulse racing and even less so now that it has nothing on it whatsoever (other than more money for the parties concerned).
Nadal has been improving his level of late, but he has certainly been aided greatly this week by two utterly abysmal displays from his opening two opponents, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray.
Wawrinka and Murray combined to produce 64 unforced errors in four short sets and, while some of that must be credited to Nadal, most of it is due to really poor days by Stan and Andy.
Ferrer tried as hard as he almost always does in defeats by Wawrinka and Murray, who played much better against him than was the case versus Nadal, and we’re now left wondering who will be the most motivated of the pair on Friday?
It wouldn’t be unfair to state that Nadal is very much in Ferrer’s head, as their career series shows, and even in Nadal’s worst year on tour this season Rafa still beat Ferrer in their only 2015 meeting.
That was on the clay of Monte-Carlo back in April when in his previous tournament Nadal was beaten by Fernando Verdasco and in his next one he was defeated by Fabio Fognini.
This will be their 30th meeting at main level and Nadal leads 23-6, but away from clay it’s close as can be at 4-4 on indoor and outdoor hard.
I’m not exactly keen to back Nadal here at 1.24 and especially not in these circumstances and I wonder if it’s worth siding with Ferrer in this dead rubber at a tempting 4.25.
He has beaten Nadal in these conditions before and it’s not as if Nadal will gain anything by winning – he’ll face Novak Djokovic anyway in the semi finals, win or lose against Ferrer.
Historically, their opening sets have followed a very similar one-break pattern, with eight of their last nine in all competitions ending either 6-4 or 6-3, with Nadal winning the opener on four of those occasions and Ferrer five.
Based purely on those stats the 3.35 on Ferrer taking the opener has to be a decent long shot and especially given the lack of importance of this match.
Nadal was broken early by both Murray and Wawrinka in his opening two matches and so first break of serve to Ferrer could also be one to consider, as could most double faults to Ferrer.
Ferrer is a 2.75 chance to break serve first and considering Nadal’s slow starts and the fact that Ferrer leads the world in return games won this season – winning 35 percent of them – that’s another good option in this dead rubber.
At least it’ll be a quick kill if it doesn’t work out, unlike last night’s shambles.
Value bet: Back Ferrer to break serve first at 2.75