Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will present themselves as the men to beat at the 2021 Australian Open, which kicks off in less than a month in Melbourne Park. The world number 1 will go in search of the ninth title in Australia, while the Spaniard will try to repeat his only triumph dated 2009.
Given the absence of Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev will compete for the role of outsider, without forgetting Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas (semifinalist here two years ago). Speaking on the Tennis Channel, former WTA star Lindsay Davenport illustrated how Nadal needs to implement a different strategy to beat Djokovic in these conditions.
The two in fact met in the final of the Australian Open 2019, when Nole came out victorious with a peremptory 6-3 6-2 6-3 in a match absolutely without history. Overall, the Belgrade veteran leads 20-7 in the challenges against Rafa on the hard court.
The Majorcan, for his part, has gained confidence after annihilating his great rival at Roland Garros only a few months ago.
Davenport on Rafael Nadal's chance in Melbourne
“I wonder though how important are the conditions in Australia, that surface has changed a lot over the last 10 or 12 years,” the three-time Grand Slam winner told Tennis Channel.
“Some years it’s really fast, other years it is a little slower. It just seems like when he gets to the end of the tournament and he has to face Novak Djokovic his body is held up. Novak’s a better hard-court player in those conditions for whatever reason and it’s been tough for Rafael Nadal to solve that” - Lindsay Davenport said.
Renowned tennis coach Paul Annacone also admits that he won’t bet on Nadal to win the 2021 Australian Open should the 20-time Grand Slam winner face Djokovic at any stage. “I think very simply, Rafa is just a little bit worse on hard court than Novak in particular and Roger [Federer] as well on a faster hard court,” he said.
“But everyone else I’d put him ahead of. If he plays Novak at the end of the tournament, I’m not betting on him. But if he plays anyone else I’ll bet on him. I think the biggest thing for Nadal is to get through the first week relatively comfortably”.
Rafael Nadal has had a consistent backroom staff that has helped him in his long career. His current head coach, Carlos Moya, has been a strong pillar since joining Nadal’s team in 2016. But given the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic, Carlos Moya won’t be traveling with Rafael Nadal to the Australian Open 2021.
Moya announced the shocking update on Twitter. He consulted with Nadal before making the decision to not accompany the team to Australia. “After speaking with Rafa, we have decided that I won’t travel to Australia with the team”.