Rafa Nadal vs. Ricardas Berankis: Odds, Picks, Preview of Nadal’s Return (Jan. 5)
Credit: Kelly Defina, Getty. Rafa Nadal hits a forehand in a practice session at Rod Laver Arena.
- Rafa Nadal makes his return to tour-level singles for the first time since August on Wednesday.
- Nadal is favored against the powerful Ricardas Berankis in his return.
- Avery Zimmerman breaks down the match and his best bet below.
Rafa Nadal vs. Ricardas Berankis
|Time||9:45 p.m. ET|
|Head-to-Head Record: 0-0|
|Odds via FanDuel. For tips on how to watch tennis, click here.
Rafa Nadal’s first singles match of the ATP season will come on Wednesday night against Ricardas Berankis in the Melbourne Summer Set.
The 20-time slam champion and all-time great is now the world number six after shutting down his season after withdrawing from the Toronto Open due to a foot injury. Following a subsequent surgery and positive recovery timeline, Nadal is back on the court and looking to gear up for the Australian Open.
While Nadal played a doubles match on Tuesday with Jaume Munar (pulling out a third set super-breaker victory), he hasn’t played a tour-level singles match since August 5, when he was upset at the Washington Open by Lloyd Harris.
Nadal did play in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, an exhibition tournament that high profile players often play in prior to the Australian swing. He suffered two defeats the event, falling to Andy Murray and Denis Shapovalov.
It wasn’t all bad from Nadal, who showed signs that he would still be capable of executing the same combinations and strategies that have defined his immensely successful career.
While the movement wasn’t up to Nadal’s standards, he looked much more fluid in his doubles match, albeit it was on a doubles court which results in much less movement. The match did show us that Nadal’s forehand is confirmed to have arrived in Melbourne.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) January 4, 2022
Lithuanian Berankis will be on the other side of the court, and he can hit a massive ball when playing well. He got through the qualifiers to the event before taking out American Marcos Giron in the first round. Giron is a consistent player who favors his forehand, but Berankis did a great job of executing in clutch moments (4/4 break points) and defending his serve (77 percent win rate behind his first serve, 48 percent behind his second).
Though the pair haven’t faced before, Berankis won’t roll over against Nadal. His winning percentage against lefties is just one percent lower than his winning percentage against righties, and he has taken a set in 20 percent of his meetings with top-10 players.
This isn’t the easiest match to find value in for multiple reasons.
It’s hard to ascertain Nadal’s level and fitness heading into this match without seeing him play a competitive singles match since August of 2021. Going off of exhibitions and doubles matches can only tell you so much, and there’s not really any data to analyze on his end.
Berankis is a very up-and-down player, and he can truly provide issues for top players when his rhythm is there. In the 2020 “Cincinnati” Masters, Berankis pushed Novak Djokovic to a first-set tiebreaker and went up a break in the second set before falling.
Can he do the same against a rusty Nadal here? If the Spaniard isn’t able to keep a consistent level, he may be forced to battle, and considering the lack of timing that can be expected to some extent from Nadal, it’s not hard to envision Berankis competing.
Because of this, I see slight value on the Berankis over of 7.5 games, but it’s certainly plausible that he gets played off the court. I’m comfortable taking that risk.
Pick: Ricardas Berankis over 7.5 games (-125 via DraftKings)