Indy 500, Grand Prix, NASCAR prediction/analysis for today’s races

Here I present stats and figures re the Grand Prix of Monaco, a race evocative of the pageantry and mystique of this form of racing. It’s the toughest track of all, with the slowest average speed in Formula One racing. It occurs on one of the great days of sport, what with the Indianapolis 500 and Coca Cola 600 occuring on the very same day. More drama was unleashed with the controversial pole position finish by Nico Rosberg over Red Bull teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final qualifying session. That first turn today will be most interesting to see!

Starts: Tops among active, Fernando Alonso makes his 13th start on the famed course, Kimi Raikonnen and Felipe Massa both with their 12th attemps here also. No one else in double-digits.

Wins: 5 drivers among the 22 qualified have won at Monaco, Alonso the lone repeat winner. Sebastian Vettel won in his 6th appearance. Still without a victory as yet is Adrian Sutil, 0-6, along with Nico Hulkenberg, Kamul Cobayashi, and Pastor Maldonado, each 0-3.

Top 5: Alonso again leads here again, 6-12 for a .500 average. Also notable are Massa 5-11, Lewis Hamilton 5-7, Vettel 5-6. Hulkenberg and Maldonado have 3 top 5s without a victory.
Top 10: Alonso is 10-12 in this category, Raikkonen 8-11, Hamilton 6-7, Vettel 5-6. Maldonado is 0-3.

Most laps turned without victory: Massa 741 (equivalent to nearly 10 full races here). Sutil 431.

Most laps led without a victory. Suffice it to say that if you’re leading at all at Monaco, your chances of winning are rather good. Massa has led 23 laps without tasting the champagne here. He’s the only driver in this category! Just 6 active drivers have led laps here at all: Alonso, Raikkonen, Massa, Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel

Best gains in position per race, 3 race mininum:Sutil does seems to gain best here, 2.8 positions per race. followed by Alonso’s 1.6, and scores of 1.3 by Hamilton and 1.2 by Vettel.

Running at finish: One driver has managed to keep his car intact along actives: Hamilton, perfect in 7 races. Vettel is 5-6. Alonso 10-12.
Lead lap finishes: Both Hamilton (6-7) and Vettel (5-6) dominate here too. Alonso has the most actual finishes, going 9-12.

Here’s my top 5:

1 Hamilton
2 Vettel
3 Alonso
4 Rosberg
5 Daniel Ricciardo
*****
I love a 1.5 mile track. There’s enough speed and cornering to keep things interesting, without losing the drama of a super-speedway or a short track. I think the best racing really happens on these sort of courses. And the biggest test of all, arguably, occurs today with this 400-lap event, run from daylight to sunset. I’m further intrigued that one Kurt Busch will run here today and also at Indianapolis for the 500. I’ll certainly be rooting for him, as I respect drivers that win across different series. He’ll be at the 43rd and last position because he won’t be able to attend the required pre-race driver’s meeting.
Now for the numbers:
Starts: Jeff Gordon will make his leading 43rd start among actives, Joe Nemechek makes his 36th from a provisional position. No one else over 30 starts here.

Wins: A dozen active drivers have won at Charlotte. Tops is polesitter Jimmie Johnson, 6-25, a sharp 24% score, then Jeff Gordon 5-42, with Kasey Kahne 4-20. All others have 1 or 2 wins. Nemecheck is 0-35. Others awaiting their first win: Ryan Newman 0-26, Dale Earnhardt Jr 0-28, Greg Biffle 0-22

Top 5: Gordon is 16-42, but Jimmie has the edge going an astounding 12-25 here. Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne are 9-20. Martin Truex Jr hasn’t cracked the top 5 in 17 races, nor has David Gilliland in 15 races, nor Paul Menard in 14.

Top 10: Gordon again, 22-42 is his score here. Other notables over 50%: Jimmie 16-25, Matt Kenseth 15-29, Kyle Busch and Kahne 12-20, Carl Edwards 11-18, Denny Hamlin 10-17. Gilliland has no top 10 result here in 15 races, far and away the worst driver here.

Most laps without win: Nemecheck, 9984, followed by Earnhardt at 9454, Newman 8114, Biffle 7057.

Most laps led without win: Kyle Busch is the bridesmaid here, 862 laps, equivalent to 2 full races, to go along with 9 top-5 and 12 top-10 finishes, without making it to victory lane. Also: Biffle 437, Earnhardt 343, Brian Vickers 332.

Best average gain in position per race: Joey Logano in 10 races has an average finish of 10.4, best of the field, combined with a 5.5 gain in starting position. Also: Edwards 6.0, Kenseth 3.5, Keselowski 4.8, Jamie McMurray 4.9. The big surprise: Danica Patrick averages 6.7 based on just 3 races prior, and she starts this race 4th.

Running at finish: Two perfect scores here: Truex at 17 races, and Clint Bowyer in 16. In total runs, Jeff Gordon leads, going 32 of 42. Tony Stewart has one blemish in 29 races, Harvick the same in 26.

Lead lap finishes: Gordon 23-42 total. Denny Hamlin has the edge percentage-wise, 14-17, ahead of Jimmie, 18-25.

Here’s my top 5:
1 Keselowski
2 Patrick
3 Logano
4 Kahne
5 Bowyer

*****

In studying the numbers re Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I had to incorporate the old USAC Champ Car/Gold Crown/CCWS series on behalf of Jacques Villenueve’s 2 races here. He won in 1995, the last Indy race before the big divide that hurt the sport. Villenueve’s numbers here in 2 races: 2 starts, 1 win, 2 top 5s and 2 top 10s, 400 laps, 22 led, both times finishing on lead lap.
Ed Carpenter, the polesitter this year, has these stats:
10 starts, 1 top 5, 3 top 10s, 1822 laps, 43 led, average start of 14, average finish of 14.2, 8 times running at finish, just 4 on the lead lap.
Buddy Lazier, the 1996 winner returns, as does Juan Pablo Montoya. Here are Lazier’s numbers: 14 starts, 1 win, 5 top 5s, 6 top 10s, 2525 laps, 70 led, 18.8 average start, 12.6 average finish, 10 races running at finish, 5 on lead lap.
Montoya ran once and won, leading 167 laps.
My basis of numbers are, again, from www.racing-reference.info and info re the Verizon IndyCar series

Starts: Helio Castroneves is making his 14th start in IndyCar here, followed by Tony Kanaan’s 13 and Scott Dixon’s 12. Buddy Lazier makes start #15.
Wins: There are 7 winners from IndyCar on this track running today. Drivers still without include Marco Andretti and Ryan Briscoe, both 0-8, and these drivers who are winless in 6: Graham Rahal, Justin Wilson, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay,

Top 5s: No one remembers who finishes in the top 5 in the Indianapolis 500, but Marco has 4 such finishes in his 8 lifetime starts. Castroneves is 6-13, Tony Kanaan 6-12, Scott Dixon 5-11. Takuma Sato hasn’t hit the top in 4 starts.
Top 10s: Castroneves is a sterling 11-13 here. Dixon 8-11. Sato is 0-4.

Laps turned without victory: Briscoe 1440, Andretti 1405, Wilson 1091, Power 1078.

Laps led without victory: Andretti 121, Briscoe and Sato 31 each.

Best gain in position per race, 3 race minimum: No one seems to talk about Charlie Kimball, but in 3 races he’s got 2 top 10s, and average starts of 20.3, average finish of 10. 10 spots gained per race is the best figure here by far. Oriol Servia, with 1 top 5 and 2 top 10s gains 7 spots per race based on his 5 starts.
Running at finish: Helio again: 12-13. Dixon 9-11, Kanan 9-12. Kimball is perfect in 3.
Lead lap finishes: Helio is 11-13. Servia 4-5, Dixon 9-11, Kanaan 9-12.

I am not predicting a winner as there aren’t enough drivers with long histories on this track. Also, the collected data is rather scattered and I am not able to condense it all. It’s hard to say what Carpenter or Villenueve will do, having just few starts between them. And we all know the unpredictability of conditions at the track. I will say this, with champions at both Formula 1 and NASCAR in the field, plus other greats returning here, there are many storylines to pursue and I am intending a storybook finish, no matter the result.

 

First look: 2014-15 Enlightened Kentucky Derby/Oaks Trails

In revisiting this year’s Kentucky Derby, I had hoped to see as many horses as possible from my Enlightened Derby Trail, the ones that I felt deserved most to be in the top 20. Or,19, as it turned out to be.
The horses I had rejected based on low point totals who started anyway were
*Chitu: winner of the Sunland Derby, 9th in the KY Derby, and
*Uncle Sigh: 2nd in the Withers and the Gotham. 14th in the KY Derby

Horses that didn’t otherwise belong in the top 19:
Commanding Curve. I’ll eat those 2 words. But I didn’t give him a chance, truly. 3rd in the Louisiana Derby isn’t enough for my Trail.
Among the horses that scored in my top 20 and not in the KY Derby were:
Kid Cruz
Tamarando
Rebranded
Our Caravan
Rise Up
Matszak
My whole point of having an enlightened trail is to keep elements of the point system that’s in place (and which I think will die a long death if it ever does), along with having proper representation of all racing in North America, feeding into the tradition and specialness that makes this Derby what it is. Yes, it’s still special without the points and such. But look at the system that’s in place. It’s top heavy with racing in NY and California. Some of the races are not the best example a track can offer toward the Derby, especially those that are on turf, or require a contender to go through one geographic area if there are points still needed at the very end, as was the case with the all-weather Keeneland experience.
In essence, I’ve created mini Derby Trails. Entries to my Enlightened Derby Trail depend on who scores the most points under my system in a given geographical division. A few representatives from each division plus all that comprise what I call minor tracks is what’s called for here. When there are defections, the nod would then go to all-comers based on points, then earnings.

Here are the specific rules for tracks on my Trails:
I take the track’s one best representative race that would fit on a Derby Trail.

op ranked track ideally would be a Grade event for 3YO, ranked further by Grade 1 2 or 3, then by purse. The 3YO Grade events should be held between January 1 and 2 weeks before the Blue Grass Stakes. I considered all races for open company for 2YOs between June 1 and December 31.
At the top level, examples are obvious: Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial, etc. The most points for positions one through 4 are assigned here.
The next general level down in points go to tracks whose best race is an ungraded event for 3YO. Examples include the Calder Derby.

Next level down from there are the tracks whose best race is Graded for 2YO. I considered all races for open company for 2YOs between June 1 and December 31. Examples include Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.
For extra consideration I add here the Breeders Cup Juvenile and Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies, which trump all races in this category.
The lowest level are for the minor tracks, all those whose best race is ungraded for 2YOs. The great majority of tracks on the EDT fall in this category. Races such as the Governor’s Cup at Zia Park and the Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs are here.

Using information from www.bloodhorse.com and projecting the calendars for 2015, I built my overlighting pair of trails, one for the Derby (40 tracks), and one for the Oaks (33 tracks and races)

The 2014/2015 trails for both are linked in the worksheet. https://idealisticstats.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/2014-enlightened-derby-and-oaks-trails.xls

During the Trail I will update these pages with point totals and provide cumulative totals in a separate page, including divisional totals.

The top 4 from each of the 5 divisions (NY, Cali, Heartland, South and the minor tracks) all gain entry into the Derby. I’ll also list those who fall outside out the top 20 and post who would be next in in case of defections.

The divisions are:
NY: Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, Woodbine
Cali: Santa Anita (2 races), Los Alamitos, Del Mar, Golden Gate
South: Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, Sunland, Tampa Bay, Delta Downs, Oaklawn
Heartland: Arlington Park, Churchill, Turfway Park, Keeneland
In the major divisions, I’d take the top 3 horses in each based on my points system.
Minor tracks include all others in the chart. I take the top 4 point-getters from horses in the listed race from all 21 tracks.
In the Oaks Trail, where I identified 33 horses, the divisions look like this:
NY: Saratoga, Woodbine, Belmont, Aqueduct
Cali: Del Mar, Santa Anita (2 races), Los Alamitos
South: Delta Downs, Tampa Bay, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, Oaklawn
Heartland: Arlington Park, Churchill, Turfway Park, Keeneland
Minor tracks are all others listed in the chart.
Since the Oaks is maximized to 14 horses, I’d select the top 3 from each of the major divisions, and the top 2 from the minors.
***
What I’d love to do is travel to these tracks and be able to journal the experience. I’ve only visited the east coast tracks thus far. Maybe this year? It’s possible. Think of it: A racetrack road trip! Being that I don’t drive, I’d use bus or train, and ideally Megabus, where advance bus tickets start at $1 for inter-city travel. I’m still investigating which tracks I can likely get to. I’m having this sort of wanderlust suddenly. I’d like to visit places I’ve only seen on this here Internet. I’d also want to combine my travels with my other interests in life, music, and spirituality. Might be the subject of a book, or otherwise a rather consise blog with photos and music and such. The more I think of it, the more I feel it must be done.
**
Got 2 motorsport posts coming overnight for you. That time of year! 

2014 Italian Open men’s final analysis

It’s the top 2, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, for the 41st time, and the 21th time in a final. And it’s the 5th time they duel in this particulart tournament, the ATP Italian Open.
Comparing career stats, Nadal is ahead on nearly all of the primary ones, except 1st service points won. (Djokovic leads 73 to 72%, along with a larger aces to double fault ratio)
Djokovic also leads in tiebreaks, 64 to 63%, deciding sets of a match 71 to 70%.

Otherwise Rafa holds the real edge, ever so slightly, in other categories.
In just 3 matches on clay, Novak actually won..these were the 2011 Italian Open, 2011 Madrid Open, and 2013 Monte Carlo.
I looked at those matches to see what Novak might need to do to win today.
58% break points saved
50% break points converted
71% first serve points won
Now we’ll examine via cycles, Rafa first:

Below average for Nadal today, tho he’s showing more strength day by day and still enough of a mental edge to make his power shots stick. But he’ll rather self-absorbed and not terribly motivated as in prior matches.

Here’s Novak:

Doesn’t look for Novak himself, as he’s coming in with weak power, hardly any mental game. He has plenty of heart and will have to rely on that. His overall athletic ability is rather low, along with his focus.

I’m giving this one to Nadal, in 3 very close sets. Get the popcorn.

2014 Preakness Stakes selections

Not much time to cover the Preakness in full as I like. I have to handicap 11 races at Pimlico including the big race itself, plus contest races at Remington Park and Emerald Downs. Here’s who I like in the Preakness in capsule form:

DYNAMIC IMPACT skipped the Kentucky Derby, and won the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, lone start after graduating from maiden status. Forged lifetime top in that maiden win with a 96, pairing with a 95 in the stakes race. Jockey Miguel Mena has worked with trainer Mark Casse 4 times in the last 60 days, with 1 win (aboard this horse), and 2 in the money, for a 3.30 ROI. Both lifetime wins from an inside post, where he is today. Dark horse at best.

GENERAL A ROD finished mid-pack in the Run For The Roses, this beyond being in the money in all 5 prior races lifetime. Best average winning distance in pedigree (Roman Ruler + Dynaformer). Dark horse.

CALIFORNIA CHROME is winner of 5 straight, including the Kentucky and Santa Anita Derbies, plus the San Felipe. Scored a 103 Brisnet in the Kentucky Derby, best of this field for today’s distance. Forged a lifetime top in the SA Derby with a 106. Combined with the 102 in the San Felipe, while previously running just a 94 in a Cal-bred stakes event, you’d wonder if he’d bounce from triple-digits. It’s certainly possible today. Outside contender.

RING WEEKEND in the money after first lifetime start, including a win in the Tampa Bay Derby. Good pedigree (Tapit, plus Cryptoclearance damsire). Jockey Alan Garcia has worked with trainer Graham Motion 20 times in the last 60 days, getting 6 wins, 10 times in the money, for return of 2.59. Likely bounceback today. Scored a 97 at Tampa Bay, falling to an 84 finished a distant 2nd in the Calder Derby. Dark horse.

BAYERN has impressed, never out of the top 3 in any call-point in 4 races lifetime. Narrowly outpointed his rival in the Derby Trial last time, tho was DQ’d to 2nd. I like the mile effort from this sprinter, proving to have had the best trip of this field. He’s the lone benefit of track bias in the field. Horses on dirt routes during the meet are winning 30% of the time, as are those from posts 4 through 7 (19%). Contender.

RIA ANTONIA is the one horse I’d absolutely throw out. She doesn’t compete on any of my variables.

KID CRUZ won the Federico Tesio here last time out, and the Private Terms at Laurel. Only horse with a run at Pimlico in this field. This deep closer has a great stretch kick(stretch numbers per Brisnet from last 3 races range from 108 to 121). Scored a 90 in the Tesio, down from paired up numbers beforehand: 98 in the Private Terms, and a 99 in an allowance race at Aqueduct. Bounceback is more than likely. Contender.

SOCIAL INCLUSION has also hardly been out of the top 3 in any call-point. 3rd in the Wood Memorial after peaking with a 106 previous to that in an allowance race. Best work tab of this field, 4 works, 3 at Gulfstream, 1 at Pimlico, last one with a bullet. Can benefit from the sprint-favoring track bias. Outside contender.

PABLO DEL MONTE has contended but hasn’t won since an allowance race in October. Here’s what I’m banking on. Wesley Ward and Jeffrey Sanchez are each 2 for 4 at Pimlico. Lightning striking twice? I don’t know but it can happen again, or at least come close. There’s more tho. The 95 3rd place finish in the Blue Grass was narrowly his new top, beyond several scores of 91. That has to be a positive, if not this race, then next. Contender.

RIDE ON CURLIN I also totally threw out…just nothing matched up except in the pedigree department, which I do rank low compared to others.

Selections are 5-9-7 (Bayern, Pablo del Monte, Kid Cruz).
@idealisticstats still locked as I type this.

twitter/race update

Sorry to report that my Twitter account, @idealisticstats got locked. Not sure if it’s a security issue or not. Any information of any great length will be posted here on the blog.  All small details will be held back until the account is restored.

If you’re wondering, here’s what I have going on today:
Maryland Handicapping Contest picks at Pimlico:
race 2: 427
race 3: 975
race 4: 367
race 5: 352
race 6: 9-13-10
race 7: 9-5-3
race 8: 3-2-4
race 9: 5-10-9
race 10: 4-3-2
race 11: 6-7-8
race 12: 5-9-7

I’ll be busy later handicapping races at Emerald Downs and Remington Park.
Also I have a separate post shortly re the Preakness. I’m likely wagering this race and one other race of my choice that I think will offer a lot of value up front.

Good ESPN3 watching here too with ATP Rome semifinal action plus Indy 500 qualifying.

2014 Black-Eyed Susans/Pimlico Special analysis

In this post I’m giving you analysis and picks for 2 stakes races at Pimlico Race Course on Friday. Late night or overnight on Saturday I’ll post about the Preakness Stakes and one other race, likely one that I spot some value in. For my own wagering purposes, which I’m limiting these days, I’ll definitely include these 4 races. Alongsides, there is a contest by http://www.theracingbiz.com where I must pick winners in races 2 through 12 on Preakness Day. I have to play $2 mythical win/place selections on each race. This is the 3rd leg of this contest series. I skipped the first leg because I wasn’t sure about having to play for 1 prize, laden with swag. In leg 2, I finished 2nd to Pimlico’s track analyst, whom I’m surprised was eligible for this prize. But I got over that when I learned what else was at stake: 2 chances to score either a vacation package for Maryland Million Day on 10/18, or a wagering voucher to use that day. Not bad! Leg 3 offers the same. More info: http://www.theracingbiz.com/racing/maryland-handicapping-series-picks/
As for today, Friday, here’s what I’ve selected for the Black-Eyed Susans, a Grade 2 event for 3YO fillies, 9 furlongs:
FORTUNE PEARL has the home track advantage. Not only is she the one horse with any runs at Pimlico (last out in an optional claimer for fillies on 5/2) she has the only jockey/trainer connection with any runs during the meet, in jockey Trevor McCarthy and trainer Graham Motion. That last race, in her 3YO debut, produced a 90 Brisnet figure, much faster than her 2YO races, so there is some risk of bounce. Her closing effort in the race was arguably the best trip going in of this field. Here’s a look at that race.  I’m willing to overlook the big jump in class here and figure she’ll cash at a price. STOPCHARGING MARIA is the morning-line favorite, lukewarm at 7-2. She’s a rather classy horse, with nothing but Graded starts outside of her maiden debut. Won the Demoiselle and the Tempted, both at Aqueduct, last fall. She has the fastest winning speed at the 9 furlong distance, winning the Demoiselle with an 85 Brisnet. Watch that race here.  Finished well out of the mone in the Davona Dale after that one, then bounced back with another 85 in the Fantasy Stakes last out. 2 of her 3 wins have come from a middle post position. I think she’ll bounce back and I can understand why she might be a false favorite here, especially her 2 most recent runs were her only races finishing out of the money. Notably, Javier Castellano was not aboard for those two, and with his return could be a return to glory.
Bobby Flay sends out one of AP Indy’s last colts, AMERICA. This filly finished 3rd last out in the Gulfstream Park Oaks last out, and unplaced in 2 other Graded events after graduating from maiden status. In the GP Oaks, she scored a new top of 87, ahead of her 2YO best of 82. Her pace progression suggests she should be able to at least equal this effort this time or next.
Selections are 4-9-2. Any of these who may start at worse than 5-1 I’ll bet to win. I’ll include all 3 in exactas to each other and also under any favorite.
For the Pimlico Special, 3YOs +, going 1 and 3/16 miles, here’s what I see:
GOLDEN LAD bookended 5th place finishes across her 9-race career, finishing 1st or 2nd in-between these. Ran 4 new tops, including a 101 while finishing 5th in the Oaklawn Handicap last time out. I’ve rated this stalker as the fastest of these horses (last 3 races at 2nd point of call includes Brisnets of 105, 104, 103). Good work tab of 4 furlongs each, last one 8th of 26 at Belmont on 5/10. 2 wins from a middle post as well. Slow pace progression with these numbers only helps her chances. MAJOR KING is the big longshot of a dark horse, bred in Korea and entered in top races there. Last time out she made her US debut at Pimlico, on April 3. The effort was rather disappointing, never really involved in the 6 furlong effort. Considering she hadn’t run a sprint in months and adjusting to US conditions plus first time with Lasix, maybe it just wasn’t meant to happen. So, why win or contend today? I’m banking on this much: She is the one horse with a race on this track, and has the only connections who have raced at this meet (Xavier Perez, Valora Testerman). Also has the lone win among this field at the distance, which came last summer in Korea. Testerman has a ROI of +3.79 with horses this year, representing 2 wins in 20 starts, 7 total races in the money. Her last win was in the Grade 2 Minister’s Cup, and here’s a look:
CARVE outpaced GOLDEN LAD in the Oaklawn Handicap, the latter getting squeezed in the late stretch. CARVE’s pace has spiked in the last 4 starts, with new tops of 94, then 97, then 103. Certainly a different horse under claim by Steve Assmussen along with jockey Jesus Castanon, Carve was in the money with her 2 starts for them at age 4. Her trip in the Oaklawn, one of the best last out from today’s field, shows her in great form and must be considered. See how that race turned out:

Selections: 4-7-5

Madrid Open men’s singles final analysis

Kei Nishikori and Rafael Nadal do battle in the Mutual Madrid Open for the championship of this Masters 1000 tournament.

Kei, based on his success in the tournament will move up from his world #12 ranking to inside the top 10 regardless of how he fares today. He also makes further history in representing Japanese tennis players in the rankings. 62% lifetimes wins, 5 career titles. Under fellow countrymen Michael Chang’s tutelage, he’s already won two titles and got as far as the 4th round in the Aussie Open (taking on Nadal, no less). This is his first ATP Masters 1000 final, in a year that’s, percentage, his best of 8 years on the tour.
****
Enough’s been written about Nadal and his accomplishments, especially that of his success on clay. He reached the final of this year’s Aussie Open. He’s in his 3rd reign as the world’s best player, achieving the rank last July. He added wins in Doha, Rio on the ATP tour this year.
Comparing career numbers, Rafa has a clean sweep of all major stats. Kei does have a slightly better record in finals, 71% to 69% wins, along with a 76 to 70% edge in deciding sets.
In the head-to-head, its’ all Nadal, winning all 6 matches, dropping just 1 set. Kei, at his peak, might be able to compete a bit, but, I can’t even confidently point to one variable where may consistently have an edge. Normally in a final with two great players there are things the somewhat weaker player can attack. Here, in this final, Nadal is fully dominant. But, you know, watching Kei exercise his all-around play, playing at the top of his game lately, he’ll need to continue to ride that wave .

Let’s move onto the cycles, Nadal first:

Rafael on the cooldown, physical (it’s my new phrase, ‘on the cooldown”), but the heart is there, the mental game is strong. He won’t be as tenacious as in prior matches in the tournament. He might execute well but he won’t deliver as well or counterpunch consistently.
Now for Nishikori:

A tougher tournament overall for Kei…who’s only now starting to come out of a triple low. He did, indeed drop one set in his last 3 matches and gone to tiebreak in 3 that he won. Nothing at easy at all. I’d say in general he’s got a tougher uphill battle than Rafa.

Neither player is at their best today, but Rafa’s got stats and history, plus home crowd on his side. I think Rafa wins the first, Kei will make it very interesting in the 2nd set but I can’t see this quite going to a 3rd.
Rafa in straight sets for the win.