Andy Schooler previews Sunday’s French Open men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Casper Ruud.
2pts Novak Djokovic to beat Casper Ruud 3-0 at 6/4 (Sky Bet, BetVictor, bet365)
Novak Djokovic going off a short price for a Grand Slam final?
Yes, we’ve been here before – and it doesn’t usually end well for the underdog.
This is a man who nearly always turns up with his best form for the big matches – the Serb has now won 10 of his last 12 Grand Slam finals, while if you add in semi-finals, he’s won 19 of his last 22 at the business end of majors.
He’s a hot favourite here – no longer than 2/9 – and has a big advantage in terms of experience, notably the fact that he’s won 22 Slams before. Ruud is still seeking his first.
Djokovic looked locked in once again when facing Carlos Alcaraz in Friday’s supposed blockbuster which turned out to be a major disappointment following cramping issues for the Spaniard.
It was certainly the sort of level Ruud will fear.
However, perhaps that 22 number may actually work in Norwegian’s favour.
Djokovic is playing for history – a 23rd Grand Slam title would carry him beyond Rafael Nadal in terms of majors won and take him clear at the top of the all-time list for the first time in his remarkable career.
With Roger Federer now retired and real doubts over Nadal being able to compete again, victory here could effectively settle the GOAT debate.
That brings obvious pressure and we saw at the 2021 US Open, when the calendar-year Grand Slam was on the line, that Djokovic is actually human.
However, the 36-year-old seems unfazed.
After his win over Alcaraz, he said: "Pressure is always on my shoulders, so it's not going to be different. I think that having pressure is a privilege. But it's a source of motivation, as well."
Ruud also left Roland Garros on Friday having spoken of pressure – but he says the lack of it is what has him playing well.
The world number four came into the tournament after a largely disappointing start to 2023 but he’s improved over the course of the last two weeks and appears to be peaking at just the right time having looked good against Holger Rune in the quarter-finals before destroying Alex Zverev in straight sets.
"I tried to play without pressure, without thinking too much, and not to play with too much emotion, if that makes sense," he said.
His forehand is a real weapon and has been in good working order in the last two rounds but will it be able to punch holes in the famous Djokovic defence?
Even if rain arrives – and the forecast says there is potential for it – that seems unlikely, certainly if their previous matches are anything to go by.
There have been four of them with Djokovic winning in straight sets on each occasion.
Of particular concern for Ruud is how he’s struggled to break serve – he’s managed to do so just three times in their eight sets.
The return has long been the weaker side of his game so if Djokovic is again able to get stuck into his serve – and he’s broken 12 times in those previous four matches – then it’s hard to see how Ruud is going to win this.
He does at least have the experience of playing in Grand Slam finals before, including here last year, although that was a chastening one as he won just six games against Nadal.
Ruud should do better this time around but I still expect a comfortable win for Djokovic and have no qualms in backing him to WIN IN STRAIGHT SETS at 6/4.
In the sub-markets, I also like the look of Djokovic to serve over 6.5 aces at evens with BetVictor.
He’s managed to land this in three of those four previous encounters, hitting 12 on the clay of Rome back in 2020. And it’s worth remembering each of those matches was settled in two sets – they will play at least three here.
Djokovic has also hit over 6.5 in four of his six rounds at this tournament.
However, that potential for mid-match rain is a worry – it would slow the pace of the court and make it harder for Djokovic to hit those service winners.
Maybe look at the forecast on match day to get a more accurate picture before deciding whether or not to get involved.
Published at 1630 BST on 10/06/23
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