Sports are a young man’s game and your wagering should generally reflect that. There are notable exceptions, particularly in team sports; veteran quarterbacks and aging sluggers often perform on the biggest stages (think John Elway and Kirk Gibson). But, by and large, backing athletes in their primes is a good idea. This is even more the case in individual sports.
Though Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at the age of 46, that is an outlier, not the rule. Even the greatest players of all time reach a point of no return. This year’s Australian Open is a chance to capitalize on that trend.
Coming into this year’s Australian Open, it seemed like a virtual certainty that either Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray would be crowned the champion. But both were upset early on. That set up a subplot of whether two over-the-hill superstars, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, could win the year’s first major. If either one does win, it will break a long dry spell; Federer last won a major in 2012. Nadal hasn’t reached a major semifinal in his last ten tries.
While those with heavy hearts and sentimentality saw an opening for Roger and Rafa, those paying attention felt it was just a matter of time before father time showed up. Both made runs in the recent past, only to fall short. However, early Monday morning, Nadal got by Gael Monfils; 24 hours later, Federer beat Mischa Zverev. Federer is now through to the semis, while Nadal is in the quarterfinals.
At this stage, Federer is considered the favorite by sportsbooks, with Nadal the third choice at 7/2.
Bettors should be drooling.
Make no mistake, I proudly wear my Federer hat all the time. He is exactly what you want from a superstar: brilliant, humble, and a role model on and off the court. However, he came into the tournament ranked 17th for a reason. This is not the Roger of 2004-07.
Nadal’s narrative is the same: injuries and age have cost him a great deal. He was dominant in 2008 and 2010. That is a long time ago.
Nadal and Federer will face Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka, respectively, in their next matches, and both of the old dogs are favored. Raonic and Wawrinka have flaws, but at this stage, they are the more consistent players. They shouldn’t be underdogs.
Raonic is a player on the rise. The 26-year-old Canadian reached his first major final last year and has improved his Aussie Open performance in each of the last four tournaments (reaching the semis last season). Reaching the finals this year would continue that trend.
Raonic is just 2-6 lifetime against Nadal, but he’s won the last two, including a match in Brisbane just a few weeks ago.
Wawrinka has won each of his last two matches in straight sets. The late-blooming 31-year-old has won a major each of the last three years. He is ranked fourth overall, and though his countryman and good friend Federer has won 18 of 21 career matches, recent results strongly indicate Wawrinka is the better player at this stage.
Don’t bet on names and ancient history; bet on recent results. Tom Brady has a cast of characters around him, most if not all of them a lot younger than the aging star. Tennis is an individual sport. Fade Gen X and bet the Millennials; their time has come.
Photo Credit: Mike McCune [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.