Rafa Nadal vs. Matteo Berrettini Odds, Pick, Prediction: Back Italian to Push Legend in Australian Open Semis
Clive Brunsikill/Getty. Pictured: Rafa Nadal runs to play a forehand against Denis Shapovalov at the Australian Open.
Nadal vs. Berrettini Odds
|Time | TV||10:30 p.m. ET | ESPN|
|Odds via FanDuel. For tips on watching tennis matches, click here.|
In the first semifinal of the Australian Open, Rafa Nadal will take on Matteo Berrettini in a rematch of their 2019 US Open semi.
Both players are a bit fortunate to be in the final four, given they had to endure fifth sets after taking 2-0 leads.
For Nadal, his quarterfinal encounter with Denis Shapovalov was more of a physical decline that he had to battle through than anything else. The Spaniard endured some stomach issues that began to trouble him, and although he claimed after the match that his movement was largely fine, Nadal did appear to be struggling a bit in the fourth and fifth sets.
Nonetheless, he allowed Shapovalov to combust and was steady in the fifth set, capitalizing on his opportunities to progress through. Nadal showed once again why he’s so tough to defeat, though the young Canadian did make it somewhat easy to execute given how wild he was towards the end.
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Berrettini’s difficulties were less associated with physical issues and more so had to do with the actual tennis. Dealing with an in-form opponent in Gael Monfils, he had to dig deep after losing a two-set lead of his own.
The world No. 7 converted on four of his 11 break points while the Frenchman was only able to capitalize on three of fourteen, and that conversion rate really was the difference considering there was only a six point gap between the duo overall.
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Nadal and Berrettini met about 2.5 years ago in a similar position — with Daniil Medvedev in the opposite semi and favored to reach the final at the US Open.
At the time, Berrettini was in the process of establishing himself as a household name on tour, and Nadal was the favorite to win the Slam after Novak Djokovic retired down two sets to Stan Wawrinka earlier in the event.
Ultimately, Nadal was pushed to the brink in the first set, but as the story often goes, he was able to come through a set that he easily could’ve lost, and that propelled him to a comfortable win.
Nonetheless, the match was a good learning experience for Berrettini, who has since gone on to reach two Slam quarterfinals, a final at Wimbledon and now at least a semifinal appearance in Melbourne. This isn’t the same player who was in New York 2.5 years ago, and it’s obviously an older Nadal as well.
Back then, Nadal had such an edge over Berrettini that he entered the match as a whopping -1700 favorite. That number has now shrunk to just under -200, and a much closer battle can be expected.
Somehow, this match will only be the second time that Berrettini and Nadal have seen each other, with the aforementioned US Open semifinal being the first.
Since that evening in New York, the pair have combined for seven titles on Tour, but they never ran into each other at any point.
In this iteration of Rafa vs. Matteo, I believe that we could see a far different outcome for a couple of reasons.
Berrettini has one of the most useful qualities that a tennis player can have, and that’s an ability to stay cool under pressure. In 2021 he was the best player at saving break points (73.07%), nearly four percent better than the second-placed Shapovalov and 7% better than the third-placed Sebastian Korda.
That big-point ability has carried into the Australian Open, where Berrettini has saved 78.5 percent of the 42 break points he’s faced.
Against a player like Nadal that is going to force you to execute in big moments, this is a requirement to succeed. Berrettini will also be the biggest server that Nadal has seen all tournament, but he’s not going to afford Nadal a ton of second-serve looks.
The highest first serve percentage that Nadal has dealt with all tournament was Karen Khachanov’s 70 percent. Berrettini has fallen below that threshold just twice in his five matches thus far, and his worst first serve rate of 60 percent came in his opening round matchup with Brandon Nakashima.
That’ll put a lot of pressure on Nadal to return well and get himself into good positions after returning Berrettini’s first serve, which is just not easy.
‘The Hammer’ has gotten through tough opponents who thrive on the ground, including Carlos Alcaraz, Pablo Carreno Busta, Monfils and even the aforementioned Nakashima.
He should be prepared to execute with his strokes and he shouldn’t have a particular issue dealing with the lefty, as his 71 percent Tour win rate versus lefties is even better than his 63 percent win rate versus righties.
To his credit, Nadal has implemented effective strategy and a high level of play all week, but after watching him struggle physically against Shapovalov in similar conditions to what he’ll face on Thursday, I feel as though this is a major opportunity for Berrettini.
I believe it’s worthwhile to take the spread at +3.5 (-110 or better), but considering Berrettini is happy to start the match on return and Nadal is happy to serve first, that could have an impact on the spread, and I feel that you can be aggressive with this spot.
Berrettini has a chance to pull off the upset, and at any number above +150, splitting up resources towards that possibility presents what I believe is a plus-expected value proposition.
With an implied probability of 39 percent at +156, allocating some resources towards this angle is an easy choice for me, given this is far closer to a 50-50 matchup, if anything, in my estimation.
Pick: 0.5u Berrettini +3.5 games -110 | 0.5u Berrettini +156