Australian Open 2019 Men’s Final: Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal Preview | Bleacher Report

FILE PHOTO (EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF IMAGES - Image numbers 1088212694, 1087871870 - GRADIENT ADDED) In this composite image a comparison has been made between  Novak Djokovic of Serbia (L) and Rafael Nadal of Spain. They will meet in the Australian Open Men's singles final on January 27, 2019 at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia. ***LEFT IMAGE*** MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 25: Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand in his men's semi final match against Lucas Pouille of France during day 12 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 25, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE***  MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24: Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a backhand in his Men's Singles Semi Final match during day 11 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

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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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

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