Who can stop Rafael Nadal from reaching the final? The Spaniard will play the Australian Open 2020 quarter-final against Dominic Thiem on Wednesday. The challenge between these two players has intensified on clay, where Thiem twice played against Rafa in the French Open final.
In the head-to-head Nadal leads 9-4, but on hard-courts, the challenge becomes more interesting. They only played a precedent on hard-courts, in the quarterfinals of the US Open 2018, a match won by Nadal in five sets. However Thiem is making incredible improvements on hard-courts and, despite Nadal being favored, the Austrian will be a serious threat to his path.
In a possible semi-final, Nadal could meet either Stan Wawrinka or Alexander Zverev. Wawrinka looks in great shape and, when the Swiss find his groove, then he can beat anyone. However, there is still too much difference between the two, but who knows.
Paradoxically, a possible semi-final against Alexander Zverev would be easier for Rafa. The German, at his first possible Slam semi-final, could be overwhelmed by emotion and pressure. In a possible final, Nadal could cross either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.
If Nadal were to challenge Federer, the final would be balanced; an opportunity for Nadal to avenge the defeat of 2017. Federer is playing well, but the Swiss left a lot of physical and mental energy in his path. Differently, with Djokovic the discussion is different.
The Serb is the only one who, on Melbourne Park hard-courts is technically and physically superior to Spaniard. We have already seen it in the last year final, won by Nole without any troubles. In a possible final, Djokovic could stop Rafael Nadal's ambitions.