Australian Open Final Preview Roger Federer Vs Rafa Nadal

Australian Open Federer Nadal

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com

The biggest surprise of the Australian Open, a tournament beset with shocks, is the names of the two finalists, and very well-known names at that-Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. The Tennis Review previews a final in which history is at stake but which history will not dictate.

A slam that was expected to deliver another slam final in the Djokovic Murray era witnessed that potential final disintegrate before the last eight and instead has brought us another final, featuring a rivalry rising from the ashes, one not seen in a slam championship match since 2009, on the Rod Laver Arena, no less- Federer Vs Nadal aka Fedal.

Those scenes from their last slam final will be well remembered in the lead up to this year’s final. Federer seemed to be in control that day going into the fifth set, but he could not close the deal, and Nadal won, taking the trophy and breaking Federer’s heart, leaving the Swiss in tears as he gave his runner-up speech.

Eight years is a long time in tennis, and both men have moved on- Federer went on to complete the career slam at that season’s Roland Garros, and take the Australian Open title a year later on his journey to holding the record of 17 slams, and Nadal went from one achievement to another, winning his career slam in New York in 2010 and winning his 14th slam at Roland Garros ’14.

Federer Australian Open

Photo courtesy of MensXP.com

Fedal fans had moved on, too. With Federer and Nadal no longer the world’s No.1 and 2, and with their being only one Fedal match, in Basel 2015, since the Australian Open ’14 semis, another Fedal slam final seemed to be the stuff of dreams (or nightmares depending on who you support) especially as both men have been contending with injuries the past year.

Yet here we are with Fedal part 35 ahead of us in the Australian Open final, a slam in which both the Swiss and the Spaniard have resurrected their careers- (Federer is seeded 17th and Nadal 9th and neither were favored to get past the last eight)- and their rivalry the hard way, both men twisting and turning along highs and lows as they made their way through the draw. Roger Federer, coming off a six month injury lay off, beat Tomas Berdych in straights, Kei Nishikori in five, Murray’s conqueror Mischa Zverev in straights, and Stan Wawrinka, in five, while Rafa Nadal, who had not been to a slam semi since Roland Garros 2014, beat Sascha Zverev in five, Gael Monfils in four, Milos Raonic in straights, and Grigor Dimitrov in five.

All the hard work, for whoever wins what will be the toughest match for either of them, the final, will be worth it with history there to be made for both men- Federer can win his fifth Australian Open crown and break his own slam record of 17 while Nadal can win his second Norman Brookes Challenge Cup and move one slam trophy ahead of Pete Sampras to 15 as well as complete the double career grand slam with at least two trophies at each of the four slams.

Watching that history unfold is almost worth tuning in for alone, and the match is fortunate to have such a historic backdrop, one which will overshadow whatever result or kind of match we get. For while the best case scenario would be a five set classic such as we got in 2009 to warrant the hype and what is at stake, there is also the danger of the worst case scenario, a familiar scenario in Melbourne, one played out the last three times Fedal has played out on Rod Laver- Nadal breaking the will of his rival with his relentless brutal baseline game, teasingĀ out patches of the best of the Swiss in each match before bubbling his demons to the surface, and drowning the beauty of the Federer game in a tidal wave of heavy top spin and awe-inspiring will-power (Federer has been a good match up for Nadal at the Australian Open- the Spaniard beat him for the title in the 2009 final, and defeated him in 2012 and 2014 in the semis stage, in four and three sets respectively).

Nadal Australian Open

Photo courtesy of www.makfax.com.mk

Nadal has dominated the head the head, (he leads it 23-11 and 6-2 in slam finals and while the head to head is skewed with so much of it played on clay that clay dominance by Nadal did, by the Swiss’ own admission, get into his head) and his strategy of attacking the Swiss’ backhand with his highly spun loopy ground-strokes is well known. This year, though, with faster balls and a slightly faster surface (due to the surface being set a little earlier than usual meaning the court, which gets faster as the tournament progresses was fast from the get-go), the ball will bounce lower to the Federer backhand which is more to the seventeenth seed’s liking, allowing him to stay down and pick the ball off, and meaning the Swiss’ own serve and second balls will bite through the court with the kind of venom needed to knock Nadal out for the count, and while Nadal also plays well on medium fast surfaces with his defense frustrating opponents into error and his forehand down the line finishing them off, he is more prone to being floored on them when facing a big serving aggressive opponent, and few come as big serving and aggressive as a mid 30s Federer.

Predicting the match on conditions in Melbourne, a city which can have four seasons in one day, is nigh on impossible, however, and unnecessary, too, because in a match which is sure to have as many highs and lows as differing conditions, the result will not come down to the temperature, the speed of the courts, the weight of the ball, or the bounce, aspects which will play a role but not a deciding one, that will instead be played by which player is in the best condition mentally on the day and, most crucially, in the moment when the big points are played.

When it comes to the points that decide breaks, sets and slam titles, neither man is going to pay too much attention to history or the strange omens surrounding the match- such as Nadal beating another dangerous seed in the 2009 semis, again the second semi, in five long sets to come back and beat Federer in the final, or Pete Sampras being seeded 17 at the 2002 US Open and beating long term rival Andre Agassi to win his 14th and final slam.

This season’s Australian Open final will rise above both those elements lurking somewhere in both men’s minds and be about the here and now – who plays better on the day, who can keep their first serve percentage high, and their second serve, too, who can execute their game despite the nerves and the pressure, and who can take their chances, chances they have worked hard for, ones they know do not come so often as they used, too, and which, if you keep your eye on the ball, come around when you least expect it, and when they do, you had better be ready, and if there were ever two men ready, then it is Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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