Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal
|Date & Time||Saturday December 22, 2018, 12:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: -- Over/Under:
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet in the tennis Exhibition King Salman.
Rafael Nadal hasn’t played a match since having to retire in the semifinals of the US Open, as he dealt with an issue to his right knee and could barely cover the court. While the time off is sure to help Nadal in his recovery, he’s sure to be rusty in this exhibition match with such a long layoff. Before the injury, Nadal was one of the more consistent players in the world, which includes wins in 15 of his last 17 matches and a title in Toronto where he dropped just one set. Hopefully Nadal can get back in form and start the 2019 season with a bang. Nadal has won 16 of his last 19 matches on hard court. Nadal has also split his last six exhibition matches.
Novak Djokovic is coming off a loss in the finals in Singapore, so he not only has more recent matches under this belt, but he’s also probably the more hungrier player after coming up short on the big stage. Before the loss, Djokovic won 26 of his last 28 matches and was playing as well as we’ve ever seen from the 31-year-old. There was a point when it looked like Djokovic was a bit washed up and wasn’t going to be able to return to the level we’re used to seeing, but he certainly quieted those critics and has put himself in the drivers seat for any tournament he enters. Djokovic finished 2018 on an absolute tear, which should have him in position for an even 2019 assuming he stays healthy. Djokovic has won 13 of his last 15 matches on hard court. Djokovic has lost two of his last three exhibition matches.
Djokovic has won 10 of the last 13 meetings against Nadal, which includes the most recent win in the 2018 Wimbledon semifinals. Djokovic has also won each of the last eight meetings against Nadal on hard court. Also, 10 of the last 11 meetings between these players have been decided in straight sets.
Djokovic has not only dominated Nadal in recent meetings, but he’s the fresher player entering this meaningless match. Nadal has not only been battling injuries, but he hasn’t played a match since September. That’s an awfully long time and even for greats, it takes reps to get the timing down and get back in the swing of things. This is a match Djokovic should win, even though it means completely nothing.