French Open Men’s Semifinal Betting Preview: Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal

French Open Men’s Semifinal Betting Preview: Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal article feature image
  • French Open betting action will continue on Friday with both the men's and women's semifinals.
  • Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will meet for the sixth time at Roland Garros at 6:50 a.m. ET.
  • Daniel Scotti builds a case for each and offers his favorite bet for this highly-anticipated match.

Friday (weather permitting) will mark the 39th clash between two of the greatest ever, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, and the sixth time in Paris at Roland Garros.

Unsurprisingly, Nadal has won all five of their previous encounters at the French Open — four times in four sets and once in straights.

While the two haven’t met on clay in the past seven years, I still think these results hold some merit for Friday’s installment of the rivalry.

Although the two have endured slight dips in their respective games over the past decade, I do believe both men are playing at a level that is at least comparable (perhaps more offensive, even) to that of the mid 2000s when they were cleaning up Grand Slams.

Before I get to the bet I like, let’s build a case for both Federer and Nadal.

The Case for Roger Federer

Federer been both impressive and inspiring this clay season. He’s proven a lot of doubters wrong (myself included) with regard to his clay acumen after three years away from the dirt; due in large part to his pinpoint serving and big groundstrokes.

Federer has also implemented the serve and volley to his clay game, despite its unorthodoxy on slow surfaces. These factors — plus Fed’s sheer clutch gene — have made the Swiss Maestro very difficult to break thus far in Paris. Through five matches in this tournament so far, Federer has only lost serve four times.

Another thing I’ve noticed from Federer over the past few weeks or so is his movement. When Federer is playing at his best — his court positioning is unrivaled: he rarely takes on strokes behind the baseline (rather, inside the court, hugging the baseline) and he’s flying around the court looking for forehands.

And it’s that forehand — taken early and aggressively — that has always been Federer’s key to winning against Nadal. It’s tough for Fed to do much damage against Rafa on the backhand wing.

While Federer’s backhand, crosscourt, pattern gives the vast majority of right-handers on Tour fits, because of how early and linearly Federer hits it — Nadal, and his beautiful lefty forehand, have historically found ways to counterpunch against it.

That said, the forehand crosscourt to Rafa’s backhand is where he can potentially put Nadal against the ropes.

The Case for Rafael Nadal

As a Nadal fan (dare I say stan), I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for quite some time. After bowing out to Federer (from a break up!) in the 2017 Aussie Open final — and then losing to Fed in three Masters 1000 matches that season (all on hard courts) — the rivalry’s momentum (which had long been in favor of Rafa) has recently turned in Federer’s favor.

Federer deciding to stay away from the clay the past three seasons obviously played a giant role in that shift. But, now that Fed has returned to the clay, Nadal can reassert himself against his top rival. And what better scenario than the semifinals of Roland Garros — where Nadal boasts a 91-2 all-time record.

After a sluggish start to the clay season (with losses against Fognini, Thiem and Tsitsipas), Nadal has unquestionably rounded into form in Paris, piggybacking off his title run in Rome. Aside from one set against Goffin, Nadal has cruised through every set at Roland Garros — including, most recently, a shellacking against World No. 7 Kei Nishikori. In that quarterfinal match, the Spaniard lost just five games.

For me, though, the most impressive thing about Nadal in Paris has been his forehand.

While this shouldn’t come as too bold of a take, I’ve felt that Nadal’s backhand has been his key to success (at least on quicker courts) over the past year or so. If you think back to last year’s Wimbledon semifinal, or even Nadal’s title run in Canada, Nadal’s offense-oriented ball striking off the backhand wing had given the Spaniard a new wrinkle to his attack.

Yet, in Paris, Nadal has gone back to old reliable, the forehand, which he’s combined well with his patented kick serve to 1-2 punch opponents. As I touched on earlier, Nadal’s forehand will be a necessary weapon in beating Federer — and it’s firing on all cylinders.

Bet To Watch

Nadal wins 3-1 (+275)

I think we see Nadal in four sets over Federer here at the French Open for the fifth time.

Rafa with all of the real estate behind Chatrier is like a Les Paul being played out of Marshall speakers. If you don’t understand that reference, watch Duane Allman live in concert). It gives him all of the room he needs to retrieve balls and counterpunch. I expect him to employ this tactic on the return side of things while remaining aggressive on his own serve.

If you’re seeking a safer option, take a look at Federer +2.5 sets at even money, which gives you a little more wiggle room (in case he was to push it to five).

I do like Federer to take one set against Nadal, who can start slow at times. Think back to the US Open marathon match against Thiem last year — when the Spaniard sucked down a bagel before prevailing in five. I could easily see a big-serving Federer stealing the first set.

However, as the match wears on, so should Federer — due to the relentlessness of Rafa’s defense and attack.

Good luck!

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