Australian Open Men’s final preview
Stanislas Wawrinka comes up against the greatest possible challenge in his first Major final: Rafael Nadal. Does he have what it takes to tear up the odds and take his first Major trophy in Melbourne? The tennis review does its best to predict what will happen come tonight’s final.
History: Nadal is a former champion, winning the title in 2009, and a former runner up, losing the epic 2012 final 7-5 in the fifth. Wawrinka, in contrast, will make his debut in a Major final. Mind you, Melbourne is where Nadal has had some of his worst Slam defeats-to Tsonga in ’08 and Murray in ’10- and if he is vulnerable anywhere, it is here.
Form: Nadal has had to battle two of the game’s most promising up and coming players in Nishikori and Dimitrov. Against the former, the Spaniard really had to show some grit to get through in four. Then came his confidence boosting domination of old foe Federer. Still, as impressive as those Nadal wins have been, Wawrinka has outdone him in this category. The Swiss scored a career best victory over Djokovic, proving he has what it takes to beat the very best, and they don’t get better in Melbourne than Djokovic, on the big stage. That win was followed by a most impressive victory over Berdych in what has been the tournament’s most high quality encounter.
Match up: It does not look good for the Swiss. Not at all. Nadal leads the head to head 12-0. And it gets worse- Stan has not even won a set. Their last encounter at the London WTF was more positive for Stan though. He had chances to take both sets, his aggressive tennis getting the better of Nadal, but they were chance he still failed to take. As Nadal does to everyone on the tour, the Spaniard just got one more ball back and Wawrinka had to hit the lines to win the points. And Nadal is not just about defense. When he is not running side to side and hitting angles, he is taking on that forehand with all the aggression in the world and blasting it for winners. It is this ability, to play both defense and offense as well as the other, which has made Nadal a 13 time Major winner and what gives him the edge against the competition. For Stan to win, he is going to have to be at his absolute aggressive peak, and return at his best, too. The faster courts might help him. But more help than anything is going to be the knowledge that his best game can compete with Nadal’s and that history and head to heads can be turned on their heads when the better player wins on the day.
Advantage: Nadal, due to the 12-0 head to head, but in Stan’s form he has a chance.
Mentality: Who is mentally stronger than Nadal in men’s tennis? For a brief while Djokovic had his number but Nadal’s comeback in that rivalry has just established him as even more of a mental giant. Nadal has won 13 Majors and been runner up five times, and it has taken his opponent’s absolute best to get the better of him in those title matches. Nadal also plays very much in the moment and gives his utmost intensity to every point which no other player is able to do as consistently as he does. Wawrinka, however, has not had that many big matches in which to show his mental toughness. But he did do so in his last eight victory over Djokovic where he held it together beautifully against the four time champion.
Advantage: Nadal, but if anyone is in the mood to trump him this Australian Open, it is Wawrinka.
Prediction: Nadal will win this in four. A close first set, an easier second, a dropped third set as Wawrinka gets going and then a close fourth in which Nadal edges the Swiss out to take his 14th Major trophy.
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