Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat.  Rafael Nadal had a phenomenal year last year, the best he has ever had as a second banana, and recall for us please that he had many of them when Roger was king.  Nadal may have ‘only’ won 3 tournaments, may not have one any that weren’t on clay, but aside from the odd off day which really only occurred at the AO against David Ferrer, he was not beaten in a big spot by anyone but Novak Djokovic.  He did not bow out of any tournament before the finals between his upset loss to Ferrer, and Queen’s Club, where he could have justifiably been tired, having just won the French, and having played more sets there than he usually does, having really tough matches with Isner and Federer.  But we are not gonna give any credence to that silly injury nonsense and that tired old routine he pulled on his buddy David Ferrer, making the grand show of his latest injury, making it seem like he did Ferrer the favor of not retiring.

That we are sick of.  Truly.  Pete Sampras used to often look dead, exhausted, dehydrated, whatever.  Then he’d hit 2 or 3 straight aces.  But he never cried about it.  Never.  Nadal has got to shut up in those situations.  We don’t care why he lost.  He lost.  And we can’t ever be sure about his injuries because he is seemingly always and never hurt simultaneously.  His health situation is a product of his grinder/pusher style, it’s gotten him to where he is, and if he really wants to complain about it at every turn, it’s bad form.  Look at Djokovic.  Clearly, Djokovic hurt his leg in the 4th set of the US Open final against Nadal.  Who thinks he’d have cited that injury to the media had he lost?  Djokovic wasn’t always the toughest guy, but he is a class act.

Are we dare saying that Nadal is not a class act?  Um, yeah.  What other tennis player dances around like a fool before the match, pulls the shadow boxing routine, makes players wait for him inordinately long, and always takes too long between serves?

Enough about Nadal.  He could win.  He very well could.  We were wrong about Kvitova.  And we no doubt will be wrong some more.  But Kvitova we aren’t wrong about long term.  She’s the real deal, and already established.  And good for Azarenka, who we had going to the final against her.  She dictated the match last night on her backhand, and took away Masha’s time.  That all said, we are pretty confident in Djokovic tonight.  Murray played him way better than we expected, and we’ll give him an ounce of credit.  He has worked hard to put himself in that position, up 2-1 in sets at a major against Djokovic.  It was a shame that on the biggest points he reverted back to regular old passive Andy Murray, or he’d be playing later.

We don’t think Djokovic respected Murray the way he respects the other two top guns.  He may now.  But he didn’t until he lost that 3rd set breaker.  But how could Djokovic not respect Nadal?  Based on the last 6 matches, across all surfaces, it is clear that he does.  Also, the matchup seems now to favor him.  He has the better serve, takes the ball earlier, has the better groundstrokes, hits more winners, and now plays defense and hangs in mentally as well or better.  On this court, where Djokovic has been unbeatable, knock knock, we see Djokovic having no problem with Nadal’s spin, his biggest weapon, because he takes the ball before it bounces up high.  We actually think Djokovic, again, is a bargain here in this spot.

2012 Australian Open Mens Final — 3:30 AM EST

Djokovic:  – 155

Nadal:  + 135

…….

We don’t care about the ‘Nadal has had more rest’ argument.  Djokovic is in Rafa’s head.  He lives there now.  One extra day off can’t change that.  Peruse the set betting as well.

Djokovic wins 3 sets to zero

+ 300

Nadal wins 3 sets to zero

+ 300

Djokovic wins 3 sets to one

+ 300

Nadal wins 3 sets to one

+ 450

Djokovic wins 3 sets to two

+ 500

Nadal wins 3 sets to two

+ 500

……

That is some tough predicting.  We are going to cover every base for Djokovic, as we did against Murray.  Lucky were we to theoretically cover the Djoker in 5 option, else we’d have had a bad night, theoretically.  Personally, and yeah, it’s a bit of deja vu but we don’t really see how Nadal is going to win points.  Especially since Djokovic has done better in the head to head lately on long points, points longer than 8 rally strokes, which is normally Rafa’s bread and butter.

So we are very comfortable with Djokovic in 4 sets, ceding a little credit to Rafa here.  Also, we like Djokovic a lot to win the first set (-140).  In the h2h, Djokovic has won the 1st set in their last 4 matches.  And Djokovic has now won the 1st set in twenty straight major matches and 31 of the last 32 major matches, in which he is 31-1.

BTW, who saw Vlade Divac sitting in Djokovic’s box Friday morning?  We are wondering what the back story is on that.

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