Over the last two years, VSiN has been pumping out more tennis content than ever. Whether it’s through tournament previews or daily best bets, it has been our goal to help casual tennis bettors become knowledgeable and profitable. However, we recognize that Grand Slams will attract more new tennis bettors than anything. And considering the French Open is coming up — and being played in a slower part of the sports calendar — a lot of people can probably use a little guidance. Well, we’re going to do everything we can to help people make some money on this prestigious tournament. But that starts with a little piece of advice that you probably weren’t expecting to hear: Stay away from Rafael Nadal.

Nadal, who is known as the King of Clay, has won the French Open 14 times in his career. You only have to go back to 2022 to find the last time he was in the winner’s circle. That year, Nadal earned a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 win over Casper Ruud in the final, absolutely dominating after two weeks in which he played through a serious foot problem. The reality is that there isn’t much that can make Nadal uncomfortable in Paris. The Spaniard is a ridiculous 112-3 in the matches he has played at Roland Garros, and beating Nadal at Court Philippe-Chatrier is one of the ultimate “final boss” measuring sticks in sports. Only Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling can tell the tale of what it took to beat Nadal in this tournament. But there will be another player that joins those two in 2024. And there’s a pretty good chance it happens early in the tournament.


Nadal simply hasn’t been the same player over the last two years, with bad luck in the health department being the main culprit. The Spaniard suffered a hip injury at the 2023 Australian Open, where he lost in straight sets to American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round. That injury required surgery that forced him out of action for the remainder of 2023. And since returning in 2024, Nadal hasn’t looked like his former dominant self. That’s especially true of his play on clay this year. Nadal didn’t suit up for the Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo, where he is an 11-time champion. He then lost in the Round of 32 at the Barcelona Open, a tournament he has won 12 times. Nadal then produced some decent results in Madrid, winning three matches and bowing out in the Round of 16. But even that was a disappointing tournament for a five-time champion. Finally, Nadal got blasted off the court by Hubert Hurkacz in the Round of 64 at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, which is a tournament he has won 10 times.

The Spaniard has dealt with on-and-off pain since returning to action, and he has even hinted at skipping out on the French Open because of it. But the reality is that time is getting the best of Nadal, and the numbers show it. Nadal has a career hold percentage of 84.4% and a career break percentage of 42.7% on clay. But in his last eight clay-court matches, Nadal’s hold percentage is just 75.9% and his break percentage is just 31.7%. Those are significant drops in two of the most important aspects of the sport. Nadal is also less willing to battle along the baseline, which is something that made him one of the best players in tennis history. Nobody on the planet was able to grind like peak Nadal, who could keep rallies alive for what felt like forever and then steal the point with on-the-run winners. Now, Nadal is trying to win points a little quicker, relying more on his power and less on his legs. Sadly, that’s not something he wants to do. It’s something he has to do.

The problem with Nadal’s new playing style is that he doesn’t have the skill set for it. According to TennisViz and Tennis Data Innovations, Nadal’s forehand quality was 8.8 out of 10 and his backhand quality was 8.4 out of 10 from 2018 to 2022 — which were still years that were on the back end of his prime. In 2024, Nadal’s forehand quality is down at 7.7 and his backhand quality is 7.0. When you combine that decline along the baseline with his struggles as both a server and a returner, you’re no longer talking about one of the best clay-court players in the world. On top of that, some of Nadal’s aura has worn off. Players used to be petrified of facing Nadal on clay, where his ability to pummel topspin forehands to the corners of the court made beating him a daunting challenge. But recent losses to Hurkacz, Jiri Lehecka and Alex de Minaur prove that Nadal is now at risk of losing to any above-average player.

Some of this might not seem all that shocking. Age eventually catches up to everybody. But the reason I’m flagging it is because Nadal is currently the fourth-most bet player at DraftKings Sportsbook, by both handle and tickets. And only six players in the world are listed above him on the odds board. People are making the mistake of assuming Nadal is capable of flipping a switch, turning back the clock and winning this event for the 15th time. But the numbers I referenced earlier don’t lie. Nadal is no longer playing like an elite player, and he’s really no longer playing like a top-25 player. TennisViz and Tennis Data Innovations have a catch-all metric called Performance Rating, and Nadal’s clay-court score in 2024 is 7.48. That’s only good for the 37th-highest mark on tour. So, when looking to bet the Roland Garros futures market, you must go elsewhere.

Nadal could also be a good player to fade in an individual matchup early on. Perhaps waiting a round makes sense, as Nadal should get a favorable draw and will likely get preferential treatment when it comes to match time and location. He’ll also have a ton of adrenaline when he first gets out there, and the fans can probably get rowdy enough to will him to a win. We saw it happen multiple times in Serena Williams’ final US Open run. But as far as I’m concerned, Nadal is on “upset watch” the second he steps foot on the gorgeous red clay. So, you’re going to want to keep a close eye on how his draw shakes out.

This is also Nadal’s first major since the 2023 Australian Open, meaning it’s his first best-of-five tournament in over a year. His body has had trouble holding up in best-of-three events, and this will be an entirely different beast. Even if he turns in a good performance in his first match, there’s a good chance he looks like a completely different player in the next one. But realistically, all it should take is a formidable opponent to do the honors of sending Nadal home. And while it might be emotional when that ultimately happens, you can make the moment a little more palatable by getting out in front of it and potentially cashing a ticket. After all, that’s what it’s all about.

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