The clay court part of the season is well underway, which inevitably means Rafael Nadal is carrying all before him. If he was in decent form before, the move to his favourite surface has made the world number one appear unbeatable.
This leads punters to ponder how far that statement can be taken in betting terms. Not many will be betting against the Spaniard in next month’s French Open – at the time of writing he can be backed at 1.35 to claim his fifth consecutive Roland Garros title – and the early straight bet that some will look at is whether the champion will lose a set.
Nadal is currently on offer at 3.5 to win every set he plays on the way to glory and whilst this market is underdeveloped, it is severely tempting.
A small amount of research reveals Nadal has lost just seven sets in winning his last four titles in Paris, none of which were dropped last year. Indeed, he lost only 41 games in the 2008 tournament, meaning his average set score throughout the event was approximately 6-2. Roger Federer was brushed aside one, three and love in the final.
Such a novelty bet is always worth researching (as the punters who made a huge profit from hole-in-one golf bets will testify; they discovered nearly 50% of professional golf tournaments contain a hole-in-one and took advantage of generous odds at independent bookmakers).
However, instinct always plays a part in these instances. For example, the current World snooker championships, packed full of century breaks, appeared from the outset a good event to back a 147 maximum break being made. Stephen Hendry duly obliged.
In the same way Nadal gives the impression that he can repeat his clean sweep of sets at the French Open, as he is playing even better than last time around and had has opened a wider gap between himself and Federer and his other rivals.
This could be a common theme for tennis punters over the coming months: the question is not if Nadal will win, but rather by what distance.
By Philip Oliver