Rafael Nadal vs. Carlos Alcaraz Odds, Picks, Predictions: Teenager Capable of Massive Win at Indian Wells Masters (March 19)
Icon Sportswire/Getty. Carlos Alcaraz hits a forehand at the Indian Wells tennis tournament.
Rafael Nadal vs. Carlos Alcaraz Odds
|Time||5:20 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. For tips on watching tennis matches, click here.|
We have as important of a clash as you can find outside of a Grand Slam on the ATP Tour this evening, with the biggest rising star of the game, Carlos Alcaraz, taking on his idol and one of the greatest legends the sport has ever seen, Rafael Nadal.
The 18-year-old Alcaraz has been a shooting star on Tour over the past year, climbing the ranks to go from 141 at the start of 2021 to an appearance in the top 15 after this week is over. That’s astonishing for any player, and it’s a steep rise that we didn’t even really see from the ‘Big 3’, at least not at this rapid speed.
Nadal, the 21-time Grand Slam champion, hasn’t been too bad on the season himself, however, and he stands at a perfect 19-0 with titles at the Melbourne Summer Series, Australian Open and Mexican Open in Acapulco. It’s his best start to the year, and a title in Indian Wells would cap that off in a special way.
While Nadal is the far more experienced and seasoned player, there isn’t too much of a gap in pure ability between the two players at this point. Nadal’s overall Elo Rating is 2081 compared to Alcaraz’s 2068, and his hard court Elo is about 30 points better.
That’s not a surprising stat to see when you consider just how Alcaraz has been playing on the season. He’s lost just one match on the year, that coming in a deciding set tiebreaker at the Australian Open against Matteo Berrettini. Alcaraz won the Rio Open on clay, and he’s 6-0 without dropping a set on all other hard court matches.
Nadal and Alcaraz have played once before, squaring off in the Madrid Open in 2021. The elder Spaniard dominated the proceedings, and it seemed a bit like Alcaraz was a deer in the headlights at times.
In that case, you get the sense that Alcaraz was just happy to be playing his idol in their home country, but this time around he’ll be playing with much grander belief.
He hasn’t dropped a set this week despite playing high-quality opponents such as Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils and last year’s Indian Wells champion, Cameron Norrie.
Alcaraz has broken in 60% of the return games he’s had this week, breaking each of his opponents more than they had been broke in each of their other matches combined. On serve, Alcaraz has been vulnerable on occasions against Norrie and first-round opponent Mackenzie McDonald, but generally he’s been tough to crack, conceding just 16 break points in four matches.
Nadal has shown to be a touch more vulnerable this week, but his incredible mentality and ability to deliver under pressure has served him well. Facing a 5-2 double-break third set deficit in his opening match against Sebastian Korda, Nadal turned into a wall with a bit of help from the American. Nadal came all the way back to win the match in a tiebreaker.
Since then, he’s been down a break in at least one set from each of his matches, but he’s rallied to win all but one of those sets, that coming against Nick Kyrgios. Even against the talented Aussie, however, he overcame a 4-5* 15-30 deficit to break Kyrgios and take the first set, a key moment in the match.
Who has the edge when the two countrymen take the court on Saturday evening?
Fading Nadal over the long-term is something that wouldn’t allow me to wager on sports. I would simply have no money to play with. However, in this instance, I’ll try to remove the names from the players to an extent to paint a picture of why Alcaraz is more than capable of getting the job done today.
While the players’ Elo Ratings offer an insight to just how close they are in level at this point, their stats in the week offer a different look. Nadal has a 22% break rate, and while he’s faced much larger servers than Alcaraz, he’s only maintaining a hold rate 3% better than the teenager on the week.
The one place where Nadal has a considerable edge is in generating free points off of the serve, but he’s hindered himself a touch by hitting 23 double faults on the week to go with 25 aces. That doesn’t account for service winners, but it is a bit of a problem for Nadal.
Alcaraz has an 8-to-7 ace-to-double fault ratio, but that’s really the worst part of his game right now and it isn’t where Alcaraz excels. He prefers to be competing on the ground, and he’s one of the best in the world at that right now.
Nadal will likely look to attack the Alcaraz backhand with his forehand, and it’ll be crucial for Alcaraz to try and avoid consistently engaging in those rallies, but his backhand should be able to hold up to a considerable degree.
On paper, this appears to be a 50-50 battle, if not one that has a slight edge for Alcaraz, but when accounting for the intangible factors that play in Nadal’s favor, the balance likely shifts a touch in his favor. Of course, the 35-year-old is dealing with a nagging foot problem, though speculating about how much of an impact that has is futile.
If we put Alcaraz just under 50%, then getting on this price with an implied probability of 43% seems like a positive expected value situation. Considering I’m in that camp, I’m happy to get on Alcaraz at this number.
Pick: Carlos Alcaraz ML +134