990593-16126026-640-360Rafael Nadal (above) seeks his 9th Monte Carlo Masters 1000 shield 10 hours from now.

ATP MASTERS 1000 FINAL — Monte Carlo, Monaco (8 AM EST)

Rafael Nadal:  – 225

Novak Djokovic:  + 175

…………

Nadal leads the h2h 19-14, and has grabbed 13 of 14 on clay in the matchup, and the last 3, including the “hotly” contested 2012 final at Roland Garros at which Rafa cried and whined about having to play in a little rain (since he was getting pounded during that stretch).  We don’t see these odds as Vegas being that into Rafa here, despite the whole slow red clay story.  Nadal has won the previous matchup at the MC, back in 2009, going 3 sets.  Not sure if Nadal has ever lost at MC in fact, and not he shouldn’t be the bigger favorite here.

Djokovic is a wilting lily no more.  He and Azarenka both had the trait, and as they matured, they have both developed extreme toughness.  We’d like to commend him on that now, and Azarenka, we’ll save for later.  It is very hard for an athlete to change their personality, and in tennis, the turnaround is so stark, especially with Djokovic, that we would have to harken back to Andre Agassi, to think of a similar mentality change.  And Agassi won at RG late in the game, after his attitude adjustment.  We see Djokovic getting his RG trophy a lot earlier than Agassi did, and we were thinking this year.  So we were of course very disappointed to see Djokovic hurt his ankle so badly in DC versus Sam Querrey.  It may not seem to affect him, and he has won 6 straight matches since rolling the ankle, but he will need his wheels today.

Djokovic wants it badly, for sure, and usually, we’d take a flyer on him, even in this situation on clay versus Nadal.  There are probably those of the mind that if he is playing, then he’s fine.  And certainly, the ankle did not slow the main man down against Sam Querrey, breaking Querrey in his first game after the injury, and getting stronger as the match went on to boot, allowing Sam Q only 1 of the last 13 games.  But we think Djokovic should get himself absolutely perfect for RG, and we don’t see how war of attrition tennis versus Nadal 5 weeks before Paris helps him to do that, unless Djokovic is so there mentally that he has completely blocked the injury out of his mind, and is looking to make a statement here versus Nadal, who we don’t think has played that great here, playing very close matches with Grigor Dimitrov, who split 158 points with Nadal evenly, and with Tsonga, who usually has no traction at all against Rafa on clay (6-3, 7-6 is very close for Tsonga, LOL).

We’d like to see Djoker at his best on that first Sunday in June, but there have been whispers that he may lose his ranking during the clay season if he takes his foot off the gas.  We will trust the decision to the Djokovic camp, who has been making all the right moves since jettisoning Todd Moron, um, Martin, sorry.  One thing we can not stand though, is to see a hurt player making an extended go of it.  See Angelique Kerber’s brutal play these last few months.  Health comes from rest and treatment.  All that said, this will be compelling tennis for a variety of reasons.  Gun to our head though, we’d probably take Rafa, pained as we are to admit.

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