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Rafa Nadal vs. Karen Khachanov Australian Open Odds, Pick, Prediction (Jan. 21)

Rafa Nadal vs. Karen Khachanov Australian Open Odds, Pick, Prediction (Jan. 21) article feature image

TPN/Getty. Pictured: Rafa Nadal hits a forehand in the second round of the Australian Open.

Rafa Nadal vs. Karen Khachanov

Nadal Odds-600
Khachanov Odds+400
Time4:15 a.m. ET
Odds via Caesars. For tips on how to watch tennis, click here.

Rafa Nadal will get his first real test of the Australian Open when he faces Karen Khachanov in the third round.

The 20-time slam champion hasn’t dropped a set since arriving in Australia for the start of the year, winning the Melbourne Summer Set tournament in three straight-set victories and getting through his first two Aussie Open opponents without any trouble.

Nadal beat the American Marcos Giron with an absolutely dominant service performance that included a 71% first serve rate and a 68% win rate behind his second serve. You’re not going to beat Rafa when he’s putting up those numbers, and Yannick Hanfmann wasn’t able to take any advantage of a far worse serving performance.

Against the powerful German, Nadal posted just one ace against five double faults while only making 54% of his first serves. The Spaniard was simply too good on the ground, creating 16 break points and limiting Hanfmann to two.

Khachanov has looked really good in his opening rounds, which came against Denis Kudla and Benjamin Bonzi. Both players are strong off the ground, so Khachanov’s effective performance off both wings has served him well. The Russian has hit 107 winners in his first two rounds, which indicates an emphasis on aggressive first strike tennis, which he’ll have to do against Nadal.

However, that type of style leaves him open to a problem he’s dealt with for his whole career, which is spells of loose play. Khachanov has totaled 83 errors in that span, and while he can get away with that without much fuss against Kudla and Bonzi, he’ll have to be tighter against one of the best defenders of all time.

Shots that would go for winners against most players often won’t against Nadal, and that has caused trouble for Khachanov in the past, as he’s taken just one set in seven meetings against him.  In those matches, seven of seven tiebreakers have gone the way of Nadal, an indicator that Khachanov’s propensity for losing focus in big moments has killed him against a mental warrior in Nadal.

Does he have any chance of turning the tide in a massive spot?

Betting Value

While Khachanov has struggled brutally in pressure moments against Nadal, he’s been able to cause problems for him on frequent occasions.

They certainly haven’t been enough to register anything productive, but the hitting style that Khachanov plays with can take the racquet out of even the best players at times. That means free points will be vital for Khachanov, and we’ve seen in the past that generating them can keep him tight with Nadal.

In their last two meetings, which came in 2019, Khachanov amassed three tiebreakers in four sets, partly due to the 19 aces and just one double fault that he hit. Khachanov obviously wasn’t able to take any of those breakers, but he’s going to have an advantage on serve in this matchup if current form holds.

Khachanov’s 36 aces and four double faults through two rounds are a very encouraging sign, especially when Nadal’s ratio is eight-to-seven. That doesn’t account for service winners, but it could create a big edge for a player that sorely needs it.

I have faith in Khachanov’s ability to continue his good form, and while fading Nadal isn’t a historically profitable play, there are genuine reasons to believe that Khachanov can generate some of the magic that he found at the US Open in 2018.

Pick: Over 33.5 Games (-120 via Caesars)

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