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Australian Open Men’s Final: One for the tennis romantics, as Nadal and Federer lock horns in Melbourne…

Australian Open Men’s Final: One for the tennis romantics, as Nadal and Federer lock horns in Melbourne…

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Australian Open Men’s Final: One for the tennis romantics, as Nadal and Federer lock horns in Melbourne…

Turn the clocks back 12 months. Rafael Nadal had just crashed out of the first round of the Australian Open and Roger Federer was about to embark on only his second season since 2002 without reaching a Grand Slam final. Now, with both set to take the stage in Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night, the world awaits the crowning of a repeat champion down-under… with five titles already between them.

Both were pushed to five sets in their respective semi-finals on Thursday and Friday, with Federer overcoming a mid-match blip against Stan Wawrinka to eventually win the final set 6-3.

The seventeen-time Grand Slam champion was able to dictate from the net, exposing Wawrinka’s movement for periods of the match which swung back and forth throughout.

Managing to win 72% of points on his first serve and 68% of points at the net, Federer will look to utilise this strength against Rafa, despite the Spaniard’s relentless chasing down of the ball on court.

Despite Dimitrov hitting nearly double the winners that Nadal did in their semi-final, the Spaniard was able to wear the Bulgarian down focusing on his backhand.

With Federer and Nadal both notoriously comfortable on the base line and coming into the net it may be a case of ‘who blinks first’ in marathon rallies under the floodlights.

Head-to-heads:
Nadal leads 23-11 in all competitions.
Nadal has won 5 out of the last 6 meetings.
Federer has 88 career titles (17 Grand Slam) and Nadal has 69 (14 Grand Slam).
Federer won their last meeting on a hard court 2-1 in Basel, 2015.
Federer has never beaten Nadal at the Australian Open in three attempts, (3-2, 3-1, 3-0)
Nadal leads 6-2 in Grand Slam final meetings.

With Nadal priced up as the favourite, it’s fair to suggest that the history of this tournament, as well as recent head-to-heads supports the price. However, with Federer’s game looking back to its smooth best you have to speculate whether the extra day of rest will prove crucial if this goes the distance.

Despite being considered as part of the same era, five years still separate the two finalists, and with Federer now approaching 36 the cynics will allude towards this being his last chance to win an eighteenth Grand Slam. With un-rivalled experience and regenerative talent, Federer’s form hasn’t dipped quite as dramatically as the Spaniard’s and he has to be favoured in holding his nerve on the pressure points.

Despite having a day less to prepare, you have to favour Nadal over the longer distance. However, with both expected to hold serve early on in this final, expect at least one tie-breaker to separate the legendary duo.

The heart says Federer but the head says Nadal, in what should be a gripping climax to an unpredictable tournament.