Denis Shapovalov vs. Rafael Nadal Australian Open Odds & Best Bet

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Denis Shapovalov vs. Rafael Nadal

Shapovalov Odds+280
Nadal Odds-350
Time | TV10 p.m. ET | ESPN+
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After taking out Alexander Zverev — the man who many thought would win this year's Australian Open — Denis Shapovalov will set his sights on the semifinals when he takes on old friend Rafael Nadal.

While you may take this literally, because Nadal is graying, the two also have built up quite the history in just four years. Allow me to take you through it.

Can Shapovalov Finally Get Over Hump?

The eccentric Canadian lefty knows Nadal quite well. Back in 2017, when Shapovalov was a teenager with only a handful of main-draw matches under his belt, he achieved a career-defining win over the Spaniard.

In front of his home fans in Montreal, he came from a set down to beat Nadal in a three-set epic at a Masters 1000, which is no easy ask — particularly for someone as inexperienced as Shapolvalov was at the time.

Since then, the two have had some memorable matches — like a tight match at the 2019 Davis Cup which ended in a lengthy second-set tiebreak, and a three-set marathon which had to go to a shootout in the third — but Shapovalov hasn't followed up that initial triumph with a win. He did manage to beat Nadal in an exhibition match last season, but when it's counted Nadal has been able to get the better of him.

It does feel the moment is getting closer once again. After the win in Montreal and two straight-sets wins by Nadal, their match on the clay in Rome last year really could have gone either way. Shapovalov came out of the gates firing, going a double-break up in the first and eventually taking the set, and would re-establish his momentum in the second by getting an immediate break of the Nadal serve. After the World No. 5 took that set, Shapovalov would again go a break ahead in the third, and after losing the lead would have a look at two match points deep in the set before losing in a final-set tiebreak.

Should that match in Rome have gone the other way, we may be looking at a different line here. The fact remains that this is going to be a mental test for Shapovalov after coming so close to a second big win over one of the greatest of all time.

In terms of his play here in Melbourne, there's not much to complain about. He started off rocky by dropping a set to Laslo Djere and struggling to put away Soonwoo Kwon, but he took out Reilly Opelka in impressive fashion before his shocking win over Zverev.

In the latter two matches, he changed up his returning strategy and had some of the best answers I've ever seen out of him against two of the biggest serves on tour.

Nadal Showing Signs of Trouble?

Nadal has been teetering on the edge of trouble over the last week, but in classic Nadal fashion he's found ways to win. He disposed of Marcos Giron and Yannick Hanfmann as expected, and just as he looked to be in control against Karen Khachanov he fumbled away momentum.

He would fall a break behind in the third, failing to break back despite having so many chances, before Khachanov's legs gave out in the fourth and final set. Then, he battled in an epic 30-point tiebreak with Adrian Mannarino before taking his last match in academic fashion.

So while he's only dropped a set at this tournament, his last two matches have been the slightest bit rocky. That comes on the heels of a final at the Melbourne Summer Set last week where he had to dig deep to beat Maxime Cressy after falling a break behind in the second set.

Nadal's biggest weapon at times is the intimidation factor — causing opponents to tense up when they're on the precipice of making him sweat just a bit. That shouldn't be the case here against Shapovalov. How he will win this match will be behind his defensive skills, hoping the Canadian returns to his error-prone ways.

Betting Value

I'm not totally sure if Shapovalov can get across the finish line here, but there's certainly value in attacking this game spread. The Canadian should take at least one set judging by the history between the two and their most recent meeting in Rome. I think he has a very good chance of taking the match as well given the size of his game.

The lefty has always been a confidence-driven player. When you catch Shapovalov feeling very good about his game, he's capable of beating just about anyone. His serve and groundstrokes are maybe the hardest to catch up to on tour, the issue has always been about whether or not he can land them.

I expect his confidence to be sky-high here coming off the win over Zverev, and considering he won't fear Nadal in this spot. I also love the way he's improved as a returner, which was easily the weakest part of his game.

Shapovalov should send Nadal scrambling, and with just a few errors coming out from the Spaniard I think there's the chance here he could win this one.

Pick: Shapovalov +5.5 Games, Shapovalov +280 (0.5u)

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