Rafael Nadal reduced Roger Federer to tears for his single Australian Open title in 2009, six months after defeating his great rival in the “greatest tennis match in history” at Wimbledon. Despite four more attempts, however, fate has prevented the 19-time slam champion from repeating the feat.
Twice Nadal lost to seven-time AO champion Novak Djokovic, including last year’s three-set clash, adding to his 2012 epic five-set loss to the same man. A surprise defeat by Stan Wawrinka gave the Swiss his first grand slam title in 2014, and his compatriot Federer signaled his 2017 remarkable comeback with that final thriller.
Twice Nadal’s been plagued by injuries in those matchups, twice he’s been outplayed by a margin. It’s been a mixed bag of bad luck for the Spaniard when it comes to his run Down Under. But can he turn around his luck this time? Heading into Melbourne Rafa’s looked anything but stressed, and his smooth first round finish is a clear indication of his confidence streak.
As the reigning U.S. Open champ, Nadal was responsible for propelling Team Spain to win the first Davis Cup in the new format. He got to the ATP Cup finals as well, falling to a commanding Djokovic. But of the two in Australia, Rafa looks the fresher, having bageled Hugo Dellien in the first round, 6-2, 6-3, 6-0.
His great rival and friend Federer also looked relaxed in his round 1 matchup against Steve Johnson, winning in three sets, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. In opposite draws, it would be a dream final to see them repeat the 2017 event. How fitting would it be if Nadal would catch that elusive second Australian Open title (and equal the slam record) against the great rival whose record he is still chasing, as much as he respectfully denies it?
“I don’t care about 20 or 15 or 16,” Nadal said, “I just care about enjoying my tennis.The 38-year-old Swiss player will certainly be looking to protect his legacy in tennis.
It is not, like, 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career, no? “Honestly, it is something I don’t really think about.
I won the US Open a few months ago, and I was super happy in that moment. I want to do it the best way possible because that’s what I am doing since the beginning of my life almost”.
Although Roger Federer hasn’t played any warmup events, the 20-time slam champ has been in his element since arriving in Melbourne: joking around with his team and having fun in the press conferences.
According to Federer’s coach Severin Luthi in The Express, it’s never a good bet to write off the six-time AO champion.
.@rogerfederer playing hide-and-seek with his team.
“Anything is possible,” Luthi said. At 19, Nadal is the closest he’s ever been to equaling the Swiss legend’s record. Federer seems to have accepted that the inevitable might happen. “I think the way it’s going, obviously, Rafa and Novak will win more because they’re that good,” Federer told the Associated Press.
“And the season they had (in 2019), again, shows that there is more to come for them. I honestly think it’s going to be quite exciting to see how much longer can they go”. Whether that happens for Nadal at the Australian Open is another matter. He’s as strong as he’s ever been at the outset, but he’ll have to reverse his luck trend in Melbourne.