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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Wawrinka should make Nadal work for tenth French Open title

Swiss ace is capable of brilliance

Stan Wawrinka defeated Andy Murray on Friday
1 of 1

Men's singles final
ITV & Eurosport 1, 2pm Sunday

Rafael Nadal has crushed all who dared to deny him a crack at a tenth French Open title and now only Stan Wawrinka stands in the way.

Nadal is widely considered to be the best clay-courter of all-time and only the great Bjorn Borg, who has six Paris titles, comes anywhere close to matching the Spaniard's achievements in the open era.

The 31-year-old has been relentless in search of La Decima. He has dropped just 29 games in six matches and is yet to concede a set on Parisian clay.

The Mallorcan has captured his tenth titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona this season and added another Madrid crown to his collection. He found Dominic Thiem too strong in Rome but reversed the Foro Italico form in spectacular fashion in Friday's semi-final rout.

A season of near-dominance points firmly in his favour and it's understandable that Nadal, who was odds-on before a ball was struck at Roland Garros, is no bigger than 2-9 to register a victory.

Thiem was expected to provide Nadal with his toughest test of the tournament but the Austrian, who was so impressive when dumping out a shell-shocked Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, was never able to find a route into a match that lost 6-3 6-4 6-0.

However Wawrinka, who came through a thrilling five-setter against Andy Murray in his semi-final, could really push Nadal.

The Swiss star stepped out of the considerable shadow of Roger Federer when he defeated Nadal in the final of the 2014 Australian Open to claim his first Grand Slam crown.

He has since captured Slam titles at Roland Garros in 2015 and in last year's US Open and his finals record stands at 3-0. He relishes the big occasion and Rafa's fearsome reputation won't frighten the 32-year-old.

Nadal is consistency personified on the surface but Wawrinka, who is a 9-2 shot for Paris glory, is capable of flicking a switch and producing magnificent tennis when the occasion calls for it.

That's exactly what the former champ did when he beat Djokovic two years ago and he repeated the trick when accounting for Murray in a brutal four-and-half-hour encounter. He must prove that he has recovered in time for the final but that is factored into Wawrinka's price.

Stan the Man, advised by Racing Post Sport at 12-1 at the start of the tournament, might not be capable of taking down Nadal with the Mallorcan in such fine form but punters who fancy the Swiss star can take heart from the head-to-head record between the pair. 

While he has won only three of their 18 meetings, each of those victories came in the last six clashes and that includes a clay win against against Nadal in Rome in 2015.

The number three seed crushed his backhand against Murray and if he can get that side of his game working to the same effect then he has a chance of exposing any chinks in Nadal's considerable armour.

The nine-time champion was a 10-1 shot to win without dropping a set at the start of the tournament and is a shade of odds-against to win 3-0 but that may do a disservice to a player of Wawrinka's calibre and he should be backed to make Nadal work for a tenth Roland Garros title.

S Wawrinka to win a set
2pts 5-6 bet365

Already advised outright
S Wawrinka
1pt e-w 12-1 May 28

Wawrinka, who came through a thrilling five-setter against Andy Murray in his semi-final match, could really push Nadal
E.W. Terms
Sky bet