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Monday, January 30, 2012

Tennis: Australian Open 2012, Djokovic vs Nadal Rivalry

Novak Djokovic does it again to win his fourth Grand Slam title. What's interesting to note is that he now owns Rafael Nadal (he won his last seven matches against Nadal, three in Grand Slam finals) after starting off with a mediocre 30% win percentage in their first 23 head-to-head matches over a five-year span.

*Just added at the bottom, a video of Nadal and Djokovic about to collapse after playing for six hours at the Aussie Open Final and having to listen to the long winded sponsors and admin speeches. Pretty funny.

What's interesting about this rivalry, compared to say Federer vs Nadal is that the tide has completely shifted. Federer never owned Nadal, in fact, Nadal went from beating Federer half the time, to almost beating him every time (just like how Federer owns Roddick). Even though Federer destroyed Nadal (6-3, 6-0) in the 2011 year ending Championships in London, he hasn't beaten the Spaniard in a Grand Slam in five years.

Nadal over Federer: 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4
To compare apples to apples though, Roger is 5-6 years older than Novak and Rafa. To match Federer's glory years, Novak has to keep up this pace for another year or two. Novak and Rafa are 24 and 25 years old respectively, so their age isn't a huge factor in the match up. Nadal also came really close to beating Djokovic in the Aussie final, being up a break, 4-2, in the 5th so from a psychological perspective, Nadal knows he has a chance. It's funny that Nadal mentions in his autobiography that he doesn't have a clear strategy when playing Djokovic, unlike when he plays Federer, which is to always shoot to his backhand.

For this rivalry to be significant, there needs to be a balance in wins. Nadal needs to focus and hold serve because he gets broken like crazy by Djokovic.  If you know who will win before the match is even played, can you really call that a rivalry?

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