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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The 2 best players from Spain, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal (above).

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/nadal-almagro-live-from-abierto-mexicano-in-alcapulco-on-live-soon-see-vegas-odds-dubai-duty-free-finals-odds/

Doug Adler had said it, and we all had to be thinking it, that if Nicolas Almagro was ever in position to pull the upset and grab a W against Nadal, then last night was the night.  Almagro is very comfortable on the Acapulco clay, is a two time past champion, and of his 12 titles and 6 runner-ups, all have come on clay.  Almagro has hardly looked better than this year, in which he made the quarters in Melbourne and has gotten his ranking all the way up to #9.  And Nadal has hardly looked worse.  We do not care that he is 12-1.  He isn’t playing clean tennis, he’s laboring, and guys at least have a chance against him, and they can feel it.  Almagro had his crack, with a break point/set point while up 5-4 in the 1st.  Almagro has a greatly bolstered chance there last night if he gets up 1-0 in sets.  Then again, the absolute gutless wimp that he is, he’d probably blow that, the way he blew that break point, the way he blew that 2 sets and a break lead over Ferrer in Melbourne, the way he usually blows all of his chances in non 500 level clay events.  But the match was competitve, and really, if you are apologizing or excuse making for Rafa right now, as so many are, the bottom line is this: he is no longer unbeatable on clay.  Novak Djokovic much be licking his chops thinking about that first RG title and the completion of the career slam, which we bet he can just about taste.

If Almagro is gutless then countryman David Ferrer is the opposite.  Ferrer, who gutted out the win against Almagro, when he pulled that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide routine in the Melbourne quarters, did what he has to do sometimes to win.  He hung in until the choke light turned on in Almagro’s cabin.  Ferrer, an absolute beast of a competitor, played one of the worst matches of his career last May, in losing to Nadal in a meek 3 sets at Roland Garros, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.  It’s not often that a Ferrer makes a major semi, and to get bounced so unceremoniously was a big disappointment.

We don’t see how that wouldn’t be on Ferrer’s mind tonight.  Like with Almagro last night, you have to wonder if Ferrer doesn’t beat Nadal in this spot, will he really ever?  Ferrer trails the h2h 16-4 and has lost 12 out of the last 13 matchups in the rivalry.    Tonight’s odds:

Abierto Mexicano Telcel (Alcapulco, Mexico) — Men’s Final

David Ferrer:  + 165

Rafael Nadal:  – 210

……….

Though the matchup has been a nightmare for Ferrer of late, he does hold two important distinctions against Nadal.  He has beaten him on clay, though not since 2004, and he is the only guy aside from Federer, Djokovic, and Murray to defeat Nadal twice in a major (2011 Aussie, 2007 USO).

We think Ferrer has a healthy shot here.  Ferrer has made a living off of the South/Central American clay court swing in his career.  He’s the defending champ and he is a flat out great early season player.  We respect Ferrer’s game.  For a guy 5’9, he absolutely gets everything out of his ability.  For a grinder, we respect the way he does not cede his spot right on the baseline, rather than floating well beyond the court like Nadal.  Much harder to hit the ball early, on the rise, like Ferrer does, than to do what Nadal does.  And Nadal looks kind of gimpy.  The 25 second rule is obviously bothering him, a strange timeout after set one last night has us wondering, and Nadal is out of shape, as evidenced by the amount he is sweating, which seems unnatural.

While the 2 are friends, we sense a serious distaste for Nadal’s routines with Ferrer, who is a fierce competitor.  We know for a fact that Nadal’s pre-match routines, jogging around the court, and aligning the bottles, irk Ferrer.  We also feel that Ferrer likes to play fast and Nadal slow, and that Ferrer doesn’t always think Nadal is playing up to the speed of the server in return games.  These are some interesting side stories going into tonight’s match.  As is also the line, which is notoriously low for Rafa on clay, which tells us that Vegas doesn’t believe in him very much right now.

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