2019-01-27 by W.M.
Australian Open 2019 Men’s Final: Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal Preview | Bleacher Report
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Novak Djokovic will be chasing history when he meets Rafael Nadal in the men’s final of the 2019 Australian Open on Sunday. Victory in the Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park would give Djokovic a record seventh Australian title, surpassing both Roger Federer and Roy Emerson.
It would also further endorse Djokovic’s place as the world No. 1 ahead of Nadal. The latter occupies the next spot in the rankings and has been in peak form during this tournament, having not dropped a single set en route to the final.
Nadal is also chasing some history of his own:
ATP Media Info @ATPMediaInfo
If @RafaelNadal wins #AusOpen title on Sunday, he will become 1st man in Open Era and 3rd in history to complete 2 career Grand Slams (also Roy Emerson, @RodLaver).
Nadal seeks 2nd @AustralianOpen title to go with 11 @RolandGarros, 2 @Wimbledon and 3 @USOpen championships.
He’s playing well enough to win this title for the first time since 2009. However, beating Djokovic on the hard courts of Melbourne has proved close-to-impossible in recent years, as Nadal knows only too well.
History Favours Djokovic
If the past is anything to go by, Djokovic will have this title all to himself after Sunday. He’s won it six times previously, including in 2012 when he emerged victorious from a five-set final against Nadal that lasted five hours and 53 minutes.
Djokovic even owns the overall edge over Nadal, having beaten his decorated opponent 27 times during 52 encounters. The occasion, as well as the surface in Melbourne, are also to Djokovic’s advantage against a familiar opponent:
ATP Media Info @ATPMediaInfo
 @DjokerNole vs  @RafaelNadal Stats
Djokovic 27-25 (Most H2Hs Open Era)
Djokovic 18-7 Hard Court (7-Match, 14-Set Win Streaks)
Djokovic 14-10 Finals
Djokovic 1-0 #AusOpen (2012 Final)
Nadal 10-5 Best of 5
Nadal 9-5 Grand Slams
Nadal 4-3 Grand Slam Finals
Nadal 9-7 Tiebreaks
Over the years each player has pushed the other to adapt his game in order to stay ahead. The most recent meeting took place at the 2018 edition of Wimbledon, when Djokovic won a five-set semi-final.
His ability to hold serve late on proved crucial. Doing the same thing again won’t be easy, though, against a different kind of Nadal in Australia.
The Spaniard has been attacking points from closer to the net and delivering faster, flatter serves, often aimed wide.
Nadal is Fresher for the Final
Playing with greater speed and aggression is Nadal’s obvious equaliser against the weight of history. It will help the 32-year-old should be the fresher man for this final.
Nadal has spent less time on court:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
Ruthless Rafael Nadal is into the #AusOpen final, and he did it in spectacular fashion.
6-2, 6-4, 6-0 over Stefanos Tsitsipas in one hour and 46 minutes.
Across six matches, Nadal spent only 12 hours and 10 min on court (2:02 avg), and losing an average of 2.72 games per set.
A big reason why he’s made quick work of his previous matches is the improvement in his service game. Working with coach Carlos Moya, Nadal has sped up his delivery and refined his technique.
The results have been staggering:
Reem Abulleil @ReemAbulleil
Rafael Nadal hasn’t dropped a set yet this #ausopen.
He dropped serve twice, saving 14/16 break points he faced.
He has won 81% of his first-serve points.
He is averaging 32.8 winners per match.
His longest match was R3 v De Minaur, 2hr 22min https://t.co/E2XadJtfQo
Nadal has to make being the fresher of the two count. It’s his best means of getting off to a fast start and building an early lead against a player close to unbeatable when he finds his groove on these courts.
Recovering from ankle surgery before the tournament began was supposed to put Nadal at a disadvantage. Yet he’s described how he never lost confidence in his game, even when his body was failing him, per the Daily Telegraph: “I was worried about having another issue. But in terms of tennis, I know I was playing well.”
Nadal knows he’s playing as well as at any other point during his illustrious career. He’ll also know beating Djokovic in a tournament he’s owned is no easy feat but one he can achieve.