Will it be seven times lucky for Rafael Nadal?
Novak Djokovic’s supreme physical and mental condition will be tested against Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal in Sunday night’s men’s final at Rod Laver Arena.
Two time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and six time French open winner Rafael Nadal will meet for the 29th time on the ATP World Tour in Sundays compelling final.
The Serbian world number one and Spanish Clay court specialist will be vying for the opportunity to be crowned the 2012 Australian open champion and take home $2.3 million dollars in prize-money.
Rafa has the slight edge when these two superstars of men’s tennis have met, with the two time Wimbledon champion leading 16-13 in their head to head encounters.
Even though Nadal has a slightly improved record over his Serbian opponent, ‘Nole’ (Djokovic) who is vying for his fifth grand slam title on Sunday when play commences at Melbourne Park, had won all 6 matches in 2011 against the former world number one (Nadal) when the two heavyweights of tennis met.
All of the 6 encounters were in ATP tournament finals matches, which included the US Open and Wimbledon decider’s where the Spanish star failed to claim the tittles.
Novak is a completely different player to a couple of years ago, with the 2011 ATP tennis season proving to be his breakthrough year in the sport, as the Serbian 2010 Davis Cup winner was crowned champion in three out of the four grand slams throughout last year and reached the semi-finals at the French Open in Roland Garos, as Nadal won his sixth title on the clay courts.
Serbia’s highest ranking singles player lost less than 10 matches during the 2011 season, and proved how mentally secure and tough he is along with his extensive physical fitness and crushing forehand.
Both Nadal and Djokovic got through fairly easily to the quarter stage in the opening grand slam of the year in 2012, with Lleyton Hewitt the only player troubling the world number one, taking the 3rd set 6-4 which the 2011 Australian Open winner (Djokovic) won in 4 sets, against the 2005 finalist in the 4th round.
Djokovic looked fairly comfortable, against world number five David Ferrer in the first set of the quarter-finals taking it 6-4, but looked to have a injury scare with his hamstring in the second set and at times appeared very tired, and extremely weary, as the second set commenced and looked in be in considerable danger of retiring and being knocked out of the 2012 Australian Open at the quarter-final stage. Djokovic managed to pull through his illness in which he had significant troubles breathing, to reach the semi-finals once again and beat the Spaniard (Ferrer) in straight sets.
Rafa faced a tough and hard fought Tomas Berdych in his quarter-final encounter when the former world number one dropped the first set 7-6, against the number seven seed in a hard-fought first set tie-breaker.
The six-time Roland Garos champion was able to produce some fighting and powerful tennis to claim the next three sets and book his place in the Australian Open semi-finals.
Djokovic was only one match only from another consecutive grand slam final and Andy Murray who has remarkable movement and speed around the court stood in the number one’s way.
The defending US and Australian open champion started off the semi-final in a positive manner, by picking up the opening set against the number 4 seed (Murray).
The Scotsmen who has been incapable to win a grand slam title in his career so far, then lifted his intensity and groundstroke’s to put the world number 1 under all sorts of pressure by taking the second and 3rd set.
‘Nole’ (Djokovic) once again appeared to be extremely exhausted in that 3rd set and out on his feet when the set concluded. The defending Wimbledon champion needed to lift his energy levels and step up his groundstroke’s to compete with Murray to stay in the semi-final and the 2012 Australian open. Djokovic was behind two sets to 1 when the forth set commenced.
Novak come out all guns blazing early in the fourth set, winning his opening service game and breaking Murray’s serve on multiple occasions when the world number one was trailing by a set in the fourth. The fatigue and tiredness that appeared in Novak’s play look not to be apparent, as he raced through the fourth set only dropping a game. The semi-final between the first and fourth seed came down to a fifth and deciding set. The Serbian world number one had control early against his Scottish opponent and looked to breeze through the fifth set.
The 2010 Australian Open runner-up wasn’t going to get knocked out easily though, as the fourth seed come back late in the set and had opportunities to get back into the set. Djokovic with unbelievable defending from the baseline, withstood Murray’s late challenge, and physical exhaustion to eventually take the match 7-5 in the fifth, and booked his place into another Australian Open final.
After an extremely physical and gruelling match that almost lasted 5 hours, Djokovic will need to recover well for Sunday nights blockbuster final which will be another physical encounter.
Rafael Nadal didn’t have it any easier in his semi-final encounter; when he faced his rival and arguably one of the best ever, if not the best to ever play on the ATP Men’s World Tour.
The five time US Open Champion (Roger Federer) took the opening set against the Spaniard to land the first strike in the semi-final. The 2010 US Open champion (Nadal) then went up another gear in the second, to break Federer’s serve on multiple occasions and put the match on an even keel by taking the second set 6-2.
In another tie-break to decide the third set Federer was unable to taking advantage of his positive start and dropped the 3rd set, to give Nadal a two sets to one lead. Rafa then finished the match by taking the fourth set and booked his spot in Sunday’s final against Novak Djokovic.
In the 29 fixtures between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on the ATP World Tour, the world number one has never been as physically fit and mentally strong as he is, which was illustrated in the semi-final between him (Djokovic) and Andy Murray.
The world number two (Nadal) has the statistics that reveal, the past six fixtures between these two prolific players, Djokovic has been successful in all six including the 2011 US Open and Wimbledon final. Those remarkable wins in the two grand slams, is a significant mental edge that Djokovic has over his Spanish counterpart.
Both Nadal and Novak have powerful and crushing forehands with Nadal having a whipping forehand cross court, which the second seed can use to his advantage.
Both Nadal and Djokovic have been successful in beating two very difficult opponents, with Nadal beating the former world number one Roger Federer in the semi-final and defending US Open Champion Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray in his gruelling semi-final match.
Djokovic has played more time on court and has been in more physically demanding matches, that might be a significant advantage for Nadal tomorrow night, to claim his second Australian Open title, but Novak has proven how physically capable he is.
It’s going to be a tight, tough and physically demanding match in tomorrow nights final and could come down to taking clutch and crucial break points when the opportunity presents itself, and fighting to stay in points as the reward will be the 2012 Australian Open Men’s champion and over one million dollars.