It was at the Australian Open in 2009, where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met in the final for what would be the seventh time in their storied rivalry. On Sunday (3am ET), despite all of the odds, they will meet on those same tennis courts again for a matchup that feels more fairytale than reality.
That’s because just two weeks ago, the prospect of another Federer/Nadal grand slam final, their record breaking ninth, seemed like an impossibility. Andy Murray, world No. 1 was playing great tennis and Novak Djokovic was returning to the major which has always been his best. Federer meanwhile entered the year as the 17th ranked player in the world as this was his first official tournament in the better part of six months. Nadal too saw his ranking drop to ninth, as he returned to play after an injury plagued 2016. So the fact this preview is now concentrating solely on the names of Nadal and Federer for our Australian Open final betting predictions and picks is a pleasant surprise.
Needless to say, both Nadal and Federer entered this tournament looking like ageing versions of the greats they had once been. Their best days seemed well in their past and their careers seemed to be headed more toward the twilight than anything else. It’s safe to say that when the draw came out for the Australian Open, neither Nadal or Federer really factored into the ultimate title picture.
But now, both have been playing great tennis and not showing signs of rust of lingering injury. Both have stepped into a time machine, and at least as far as the year’s first major goes, are experiencing a great resurgence. It’s safe to say no one likely expected to see another Federer/Nadal but now that we are, one of them is guaranteed to walk away Sunday with either their 18th or 15th major title.
That’s a big deal because the march for history, the one that seemed like it ended with Nadal’s most recent injury setback, could very well be back on. If Nadal wins, he will be just two majors away from tying his greatest rival and he’ll do so with the French Open up next.
Nadal has yet to lose a French Open final against Federer and the King of the Clay has more titles on that surface than anyone else all-time. But Nadal isn’t just a clay court player. In fact, in their three prior meetings at the Australian Open, Nadal is undefeated against Federer. Might that pattern change on Sunday?
Federer has been playing great tennis, getting through a rough patch of the draw even with the absence of Murray and Djokovic. The 35-year-old Swiss national had to go through the 10th seeded Tomas Berdych and fifth seeded Kei Nishikori before meeting countryman Stan Wawrinka in the semi-final. Seeded fourth, Wawrinka fought back from two sets down to force a decisive fifth and final set but in the end, Federer continued to have his number as he has throughout their careers.
Nadal too has been playing well after coming back from injury, and really fought through some tough matchups. Nadal’s Australian Open began a bit rocky as he needed the full five sets to win in the first round and then needed four to get past the speedy, sixth seeded Gael Monfils. Nadal would go an absolute grueling marathon with Gregor Dimitrov in the semis, but before that he played third seeded Milos Raonic in the quarters in what was his best match of the tournament. Nadal dispatched of the grand slam finalist in straight sets and played as well as he has in over a year.
To say that two guys who dominated the 2000s, winning 27 majors between them from 2005-14, are playing some of their best tennis now might seem like a bit of a stretch but it’s not completely off the mark. Both Nadal and Federer, coming off of injury-plagued seasons, look sharp and fresh. They look like the same two who met in 2009 at the Australian Open, which has been described as one of the best finals in tennis history. They look like two men capable of winning more majors, which just last year seemed like a laughable prospect, but now is a guarantee as one will walk away champion, in this their 35th all-time meeting.
Our Preview’s Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
In 2004 at the Miami Masters in the opening round of 32, a young upstart Spaniard who had just turned pro three years prior, won his first match against the two-time major winner and defending Wimbledon champion, Roger Federer. Little did these two know then that not only would they become the two best active players in the world, but theirs would be a rivalry that would define the narrative of tennis over that entire decade and beyond.
Nadal owns the head-to-head 23-11, including their last meeting in a grand slam which came in 2014 at the Australian Open semifinals. The result was the same in the 2012 semifinals and again in the 2009 finals, marking yet another major where Federer has yet to defeat his biggest rival.
The 30-year-old Nadal has won just one major not including the French Open since 2010 and the 35-year-old Federer hasn’t won any majors at all since 2012. On Sunday, one of those major droughts will end.
So now we come to weighing up this preview’s betting predictions and picks. Nadal is a shade of odds-on favorite with the best American friendly betting sites, being given a 1.5 set handicap in the spread against Federer. The total number of sets to be played is set at 3.5.
Federer has been playing crisper tennis and has really turned back the clock. But Nadal has his number at the Aussie Open and has more often than not gotten the better of his rival.
All that being considered, it would be surprising if this one didn’t go the distance. So take Nadal to win in five (Nadal is best @ -119 on the moneyline with 5Dimes), meaning take Federer to best the spread. We also expect the set total to go over 3.5, which is a betting market offered by Bovada. However this is a short odds pick at -310, so it may be wise to stick with this one suggestion:
- Bet on Federer +1.5 sets @ at -175 with Bovada Sportsbook. Note that other online sportsbooks, such as BetOnline, offer similar-looking spreads but may be referencing games rather than sets, so ensure you know which you are taking.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.