2011’s only undefeated tennis player, Australian Open Champ Novak Djokovic.

A few words placed well.  Roger Federer was plus 450 on the money line this morning, with Rafa coming off at – 700.  Never have we seen a line like that.  We didn’t touch it, but as always, we liked Federer, and we didn’t think he played that badly.  It was a very good 1st semi-final, and Roger verified some things for us.  He can still mount a charge, even on clay, and we think he looks good going into Rome and Roland Garros.  And had he got in a few more first serves in the second and third set, he definitely could’ve beaten Nadal.  You’d never hear differently from us anyway.  The real story here is that Novak Djokovic extended his undefeated streak in 2011 to 31 matches with a tough win over Brazilian clay court specialist Thomaz Belluci, who, upon watching him this afternoon, we thought, wouldn’t it be neat if he ends up in Nadal’s draw at RG?

Bellucci had everything but the staying power.  And now Novak Djokovic has some pretty big milestones in his sights.  For one, the world is yet to see Djokovic take out Rafa on clay.  Will the time come tomorrow, or maybe in a few weeks in an RG final?  Wouldn’t that delight?  Well, the odds makers don’t seem to like his chances.  In the Mutua Madrilena Masters 1000 final tomorrow,  here are the current odds:

Nadal:  – 300 (wager 300 to win 100 plus initial wager)

Djokovic:  + 220 (wager 100 to win 220 plus initial wager)

We don’t think too many people are expecting Djokovic to best John McEnroe’s record out of the box in 1984 of 42-0.  That would likely mean that Djokovic wins tomorrow and wins RG, and wins Rome of course, too.  But if Djokovic can get that first win against Nadal tomorrow on clay, then he likely moves into 2nd place on the all time best start list, because he’d be 32-0 and could then tie Bjorn Borg’s 33-0 start, in we believe 1975, by winning his first match in Rome.  Either way, we have high hopes for the Serb.  We think the odds are good that if Djokovic and Nadal have to square off 2 or 3 times here in the coming weeks on clay, including at Roland Garros, unless of course Roger decides to intervene, that they will wage a war of attrition on themselves that can’t be bad for Federer this summer at real majors, and which could lead to an upset of Nadal at RG.

Last year, Nadal did not drop a set on the dirt.  Already this year, he’s dropped two.  Andy Murray had a downright regal hour and a half against him in Monte Carlo, and Roger held his own today.  If Djokovic’s hold/return numbers stand up in the dirt the way they do on soft hardcourts (he wins something like 90% of his service games and 42% of his return games), and Nadal labors a bit (he looks a little weary running down those droppers), as he did not last year, then we certainly shall see.  Starting tomorrow.  Here’s to a classic clay court match.

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