The Australian Open men’s final will feature a first time finalist in 2014, as soon-to-be Swiss No. 1 Stanislas Wawrinka prepares to beat the odds against the top seed, Rafael Nadal. For Nadal, this is an opportunity to become the only player in the Open Era to win all of the Grand Slam titles twice – a remarkable feat for a player 27-years of age. The Nadal vs Wawrinka head-to-head stands at a commanding 12-0 for the Spaniard, who has never lost a set to Wawrinka on the professional tour.
Following his historic 2013 season, where he won 10 ATP World Tour Titles, including 5 Masters 1000 titles and 2 Grand Slams, Rafael Nadal is looking to make 2014 an even more fruitful year than its predecessor. The Spaniard began his season by running through the Doha Open draw to win the title, then arrived in Melbourne, where he extended his winning streak to 11-0 ahead of the Australian Open final. The Spaniard is bidding to become just the third man in history to win each of the Grand Slam titles on two or more occasions, joining elite players Rod Laver and Roy Emerson. If he is victorious, he will also join Pete Sampras as the only other male competitor to reach 14 Grand Slam titles – with Federer holding the record at 17.
Nadal is scheduled to meet Stanislas Wawrinka, whom he holds a significant 12-0 head-to-head record over. While a considerable favourite ahead of the final, Nadal believes that the Wawrinka he will meet on Sunday night is not the same competitor he faced on prior occasions.
“He’s playing better than ever. Is not a question of winning one or two. Is a question that he’s a player that is ready to win against everybody today. If I don’t play my best tennis, I am sure that he will win three sets against me.”
The world No. 8’s route to the final was not a simple one. Stanislas needed to get past Tommy Robredo, Vasek Pospisil, defending champ Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych to reach the finals for the first time in his 12+ year career on the tour. Now, he is looking to become the first player to defeat the top two seeds at a Grand Slam since Michael Stich accomplished the feat at the 1991 Wimbledon Championships.
Wawrinka has been in this sort of position before and is not threatened by the enormous gap between them in the head-to-head, as he managed to turn a 14-match losing streak against Novak Djokovic in a thrilling five-set victory in the quarter-finals. The key lies in his preparation and his inner confidence in himself and his abilities.
“Especially as a player, I have more confidence in myself. I know that when I go on court I can beat almost everybody, even on the big stage like in a Grand Slam semi-final now. So for sure it’s a lot about confidence, especially with my game when I’m playing quite fast from the baseline, trying to always be aggressive. I take a lot of risks sometimes, so it’s important to be really fresh and relaxed in my head.”
Twelve consecutive losses to the Spaniard could significantly impact a player’s confidence heading into the final, but Wawrinka is determined to once again perform at his best and try to earn the elusive win over the world No. 1.
“I think [Nadal is] playing for sure some of his best tennis. Especially when you have to play the night session here, it’s a little bit slower. He can really play his game and try to play aggressive. I played him so many times, lost so many times, but I’m going to try again. I know what I have to do. I know that I have to play aggressive, serve really well, and trying to always push him. We’ll see how I can do that tomorrow night.”
This marks the third Grand Slam meeting between the two competitors, with the first taking place in Melbourne in 2007 and the second at the French Open last year, both ending in straight set victories for Nadal. The task at hand is for Wawrinka to wriggle his way onto the scoreboard, slowly building his confidence against Nadal by finally winning his first set against the Spaniard. While I do not doubt he could manage a set against Rafa, it is highly unlikely he will succeed in winning any more of them.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Four Sets
Check out the Nadal v Wawrinka Head to Head matches