Aussie Open: Nadal vs Federer final preview
Originally published on: 26/02/10 15:24
1. This is the first showdown between Roger and Rafa since that Wimbledon final
Need we say more? Well, for anybody who has been under a rather large rock for the past six months, the tennis world witnessed a changing of the guard during the summer of 2008.
Federer and Nadal met in the finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon for the third year in succession, but this time, after an epic five-set Wimbledon final.
Since then, the world’s top two players’ paths have not crossed – until now. The closest they have come to a rematch was at the US Open in September, but one Andy Murray stopped the Spaniard in the semi-final before falling to Federer in the final.
2. Federer’s date with history
After being stuck with ‘just’ 12 Grand Slam titles to his name for a year, Federer finally moved within one title of Pete Sampras’ current record career haul of 14 in New York last season. Victory against Nadal would bring him level with the American legend.
3. Three Grand Slam finals, three different surfaces
Having met in a record-equalling seven Grand Slam finals, Feds and Nadal become only the second pair to play each other in finals on three different surfaces – not least because it has only been possible since 1978 when the US Open became a hard court tournament.
Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl were the only other pair to meet up on grass, clay and hard courts – but not in the locations you might expect. Sure, the clay showdowns were in Paris and the hard court finals in New York, but their one grass-court final was played at Kooyong in 1983, before the Aussie Open moved to Melbourne. Wilander won, and later became the only player to win down under on both the grass and hard courts.
4. Top two seeds in the final
Just the way it should be, right? Perhaps, but it happens less often than you might think. The last top pairing to face off in Melbourne were Andre Agassi and Yevgeny Kafelnikov back in 2000, and in fact the top seeds have only met 25 times since seeding was introduced in 1925 – including the 2009 final.
5. Nadal bidding to be the first Spaniard to win down under
Nadal could prove to be Spain’s lucky seventh finalist should he claim the first Slam of the year. No Spaniard – male or female – has ever won the Australian Open, with Conchita Martinez the last to fall in the final back in 1998.
6. Can Feds make a dent in Nadal’s head-to-head dominance?
Only three players have a leading career head-to-head record against Roger Federer: Dominik Hrbaty and Andy Murray are the other two, but nobody has beaten Federer more often than Nadal. The Spaniard holds a 12-6 lead over the Swiss, and hasn’t lost to Feds in over a year – but Federer does have a 3-2 lead in the matches they’ve played on hard courts…speaking of which:
7. Can Nadal win a Slam on a hard court?
Yes, he’s a clay court king, and yes, he pulled off one of the most stunning doubles in tennis last year by winning Roland Garros and Wimbledon back to back – but can Nadal cut it on the hard stuff? For all those finals in Paris and SW19, this is the world No.1’s first final on a hard court. But look at it this way – only one man stands between Rafa and another great first – and he’s beaten him in just such circumstances, not so long ago.
8. Is the Aussie Open the most ‘open’ Slam?
And if Nadal should win, he will become the 25th Australian Open champion of the Open era, making it the Grand Slam with the most different winners. Maybe it’s because of the surface, given that most players now train on hard courts, or perhaps the early calendar date catches some players off-guard or ill-prepared. But one thing is for sure – the Aussie Open is seldom dull!
And two things that won’t change after tomorrow’s final –
1. The ATP No.1 ranking
Considering Nadal surpassed Federer at the top of the rankings just five months ago, he has built up quite a lead whilst there. With 2000 points for the winner and 1000 for the runner-up, Nadal can take his rankings lead to over 3000 points; but victory for Federer win will cut the lead to less than 1700.
2. European dominance in the men’s Slams
Amazingly, the past 18 Slams have gone to European players, and the Aussie Open final will be no exception. Admittedly, Nadal and Federer have shared the majority of the spoils in that department – and one or the other will extend that run to 19 in the final.