By Jake Davies
- Five reasons why Rafael Nadal will win the Australian Open on Sunday
- Nadal goes up against Roger Federer in their 34th match against each other.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – It is as if time had never moved on as Rafael Nadal will face Roger Federer once more in the Australian Open final.
In the showpiece final on Sunday, two of tennis’ greatest players, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will compete for another major title at the Australian Open. It is the first time these two will meet in a major final for six years and it may be one of the most important ones with both players having so much to play for. We look at five very notable reasons why Nadal will come out with the victory over the Swiss.
An overwhelming H2H record in favour of Nadal of 23 wins to 11 losses
It is a rivalry that transcends the sport of tennis. Federer and Nadal played their first ever match in the 2004 edition of the Miami Masters, but who would have predicted that these two professional tennis players would have this impact on the sport even 13 years after the first match between the pair.
One reason why Nadal holds all the cards to this particular match-up is because of the one-sided head-to-head record. Many often stress the point that Nadal spent a lot of his career dominating Federer on the clay courts, which is by far his strongest surface, but Nadal also has won some of the most important matches on a hard court, and of course, the Wimbledon 2008 classic that is suggested by some as the greatest match of all time, won late into the night.
Nadal is 12-2 in the previous matches on clay, but you could argue that the dominance he has inflicted on that surface has actually affected the way Federer approaches every other match. To a certain extent, the mental edge in this head-to-head lies with Nadal, because of the 23 wins he has over the Swiss including those wins on the red clay. The Spaniard has also won 5 of the last 6 matches, with 4 of those 5 match wins coming on a hard court. Federer winning the most recent final in Basel indoors in 2015.
Nadal is unbeaten in all of his three match-ups with Federer at the Australian Open, with a win in the 2009 Australian Open final and the 2014 semifinal in Melbourne.
The tactical keys to victory for Nadal
When analysing exactly what Nadal does to bother Federer so frequently in their head-to-head is simply the patterns of play that he utilises. The Spaniard comes to life when he plays the players that possess a one-handed backhand. He often tries to force his opponent into cross court rallies. Nadal will be firing his left-handed forehand cross court to Federer’s one-hander, which is so effective. The reason why it is such a great tactic is because Nadal hits the ball with so much topspin, which forces the ball to shoot up high on the one-handed backhand of his opponent and making it so difficult to control with that shot. It becomes less impactful when he implements this tactic against a double-handed backhand because they have the protection of the second hand on their racquet, which explains why he has struggled vs Novak Djokovic in a lot of their recent meetings.
This pattern of play is also not a risky strategy from Nadal. He is striking over the lowest part of the net when exchanging rallies with his forehand, but is creating twice as much damage on Federer by concentrating on his weaker wing. If Federer allows Nadal to constantly get into these rallies with him then it should be a very long night for the Swiss on Rod Laver Arena.
Confidence returning to his forehand
Most of Nadal’s success will rest solely on whether he feels confident with his favourite stroke – his brutal forehand. It is a shot that has struck fear in the best of rivals over the course of his career and if he is to get the better of Federer in on Sunday that will be a shot that has to be firing on all cylinders.
In the two year period where he struggled to rediscover his World No.1 form, the depth and reliability of his forehand had completely deserted him. The lack of penetration with that shot actually allowed his opponents to take advantage of the shorter balls he replied with off the forehand. It was a rare flaw that provided a glimmer of hope when his opponents prepared for a match against the fourteen-time Grand Slam winner. Now, Nadal is striking the ball consistently off the backhand and becoming more reliable and dangerous off the forehand.
Nadal has something to prove
The Spaniard has plenty to prove. Many have written off the great champion and suggested that he would never return to the top of the Men’s game. Nadal mostly would want to prove a lot to himself regardless of what was said about him outside of the tight-knit group of family and friends that he cherishes so dearly.
Like any great champion, the commitment, desire and intent to recreate the great memories of the past is something that continues to drive players like Nadal to this day. He would have hated ending his illustrious career on a considerable low moment and now wants to put things right once and for all.
Nadal is battle-hardened this tournament
Lastly, Nadal has faced many challenges this tournament. He beat Alexander Zverev in a gigantic effort in the third round and beat two top ten players in the next two rounds, Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic. The five-hour epic with Dimitrov may physically affect Nadal in a negative light, but I am sure he would welcome the challenge in preparation for an even greater obstacle awaiting in the final when he faces Roger Federer for the 34th encounter between the two
Nadal and Federer will decide the Australian Open final on Sunday.
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