Betting Preview: Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal 2022 French Open

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are set to meet in the 2022 French Open quarter-finals and in some ways, this is the kind of match where you simply say, “Who ya got?” 

Who are you riding with in this supreme battle of champions, a match-up which contains 41 combined major-tournament men’s singles championships? If you’re riding with Novak Djokovic in this Roland Garros quarter-final, and you fully believe in him, you’ll probably bet on him to win and let the chips fall where they may. If you believe in Rafael Nadal, you’ll probably do the same thing. 

Yet, if you’re not entirely sure who will win – which probably applies to a large number of people on the planet who follow tennis – let’s consider the various nuances and details of this match as you consider how to assess this gigantic French Open quarter-final, which feels like a final, or at least (with a nod to Carlos Alcaraz) a semi-final.  

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Djokovic vs Nadal French Open Odds

Betting MarketNovak DjokovicRafael Nadal
To win the match$1.44$2.80
First set result$1.50$2.40
To win the tournament$2.40$5.50

Odds correct at time of publishing, via Neds.

Djokovic vs Nadal French Open Preview

Let’s start with Rafael Nadal’s health. We’re referring to his feet, which have been a frequent source of pain and discomfort for the Spanish icon in the latter stages of his career. The knee has been bothersome as well, but in 2022, the foot has been the main concern for Rafa, who could not move late in his Rome loss to Denis Shapovalov. Novak Djokovic entered Roland Garros with superior health and fitness, and for that reason, he made more sense as the pre-tournament favorite than Nadal. 

However, Rafa has made his way through the first four matches of this tournament with no apparent problems with his foot. His movement looks fine. If he did have problems getting to balls, it was because of the angle and spin used by Felix Auger-Aliassime in a complicated fourth-round match. The actual process of running to the ball and getting the ball back with depth was not physically hampered at any point. Yes, Nadal went through some very bad patches in this match, particularly the first set and the early part of the fourth set, but not because he wasn’t able to display full range of motion. He simply had some patches in which he lost focus. That isn’t a good sign heading into a match against Djokovic, who will punish those lapses, but it’s also not an indicator of his body failing him.

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One nuance to mention, though, is that Nadal didn’t gain full rhythm in his game in either Madrid or Rome leading up to Roland Garros, so he needed Week 1 in Paris to play his way into it. Easy wins in his first three matches might have left him undercooked for the Auger-Aliassime match, which hit the 3-hour mark early in the fourth set and represented a real endurance test on a scale Nadal has not had to deal with over the past few months.  

Now the question becomes: if Nadal had to play that long and endure that many fluctuations in performance on Sunday, will he be fresh enough for a long fight against Djokovic on Tuesday night in France? 

He’s Rafael Nadal, 21-time major champion, so of course he is capable of delivering the goods. He can do anything. He has proven it time and again. Nadal’s own capacities should not be questioned

The problem: Novak Djokovic is a fitter athlete and a better mover than Nadal right now. He is healthier. He doesn’t have a foot injury to deal with. Because he didn’t play tennis during the COVID-19 period early in the year, he doesn’t have as much tread on the tires as he normally would, which leaves even more fuel in the tank. 

No one needs to say a whole lot about Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, where he has won 13 championships and has established himself as the greatest clay-court tennis player of all time. Yet, that belongs to the past. Winning No. 14 requires beating Djokovic, and more than that, a healthier, fresher version of Djokovic. The more one studies this match, the more one realizes that Nadal is facing an uphill battle, despite his legendary achievements in Paris.  

If you are going to bet on this match, you might want to wait until late in the first set or early in the second. Nadal won the first set last year but then watched Djokovic take the next three sets in a French Open semi-final, the first time Nadal has ever lost in the semi-final or final round of Roland Garros.  

Nadal clearly needs the first set more than Djokovic does. Nadal probably needs to win this match in straights or four sets. If the match goes five sets, Djokovic is likely to outlast Rafa, much like he outlasted Nadal last year. That match went four sets, but the epic third set – which lasted almost 100 minutes – felt like two sets in terms of the work and effort it required from both men.  

You have your guideposts for how and when to bet on this match. Now we get to sit back and see what will actually happen. 

French Open odds correct at time of publishing, via Neds.

Matt Zemek

Matt has written professionally about US College Football since 2000, and has blogged about professional Tennis since 2014. He wants the Australian Open to play Thursday night Women's Semi-Finals, and Friday evening Men's Semi-Finals. Contribute to his Patreon for exclusive content here.

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