Despite his undoubted standing as one of the all-time greats, few would have predicted the success Rafael Nadal has achieved since returning from his injury-induced absence.
He represents exceptional value at 9/2 to win the US Open later this month, and given his current form one would expect that price to contract significantly.
The Spaniard has now won 49 of his 52 matches in 2013, with notable victories at Indian Wells and last week’s Rogers Cup, meaning that he is yet to lose a match on hard surfaces this year.
Yet it wasn’t so much the bullying 6-2, 6-2 final victory over Milos Raonic that caught the eye in Montreal – though with just one point dropped on serve in the first set, it certainly impressed – as his semi-final victory over world number one Novak Djokovic. The Serb is the 7/4 favourite for glory in New York.
Djokovic had taken their four previous hard court encounters, over a period in which he turned the tide in the pair’s head-to-head record. However, Nadal showed markedly increased levels of aggression in his service returns and maintained his superb recent form on serve, registering 75 per cent in the deciding set. He hit far more strokes to the Serb’s forehand than in past encounters, which unsettled the defending champion.
Owing to his unrivalled success on clay courts the 27-year-old has become largely synonymous with the French Open, and his titanic battles with Roger Federer at Wimbledon have perhaps incited the spurious suspicion that hard courts do not showcase the Spaniard at his best.
However, Nadal has reached the US Open final in each of his last two appearances – winning the event in 2010 – and you have to go back to 2007 to find the last time he failed to reach the semis at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal has a chance to further his claims at the year’s final major in the ongoing Cincinnati Masters, where he faces Grigor Dimitrov in the third round at midnight tonight, a match for which he is 2/5 to win in straight sets, and 7/2 to prevail in three.
Should he win a maiden Cincinnati masters this Sunday, his claims for a second US title will become increasingly hard to refute.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing