Tennis fans would tell you there’s nothing more juicier than a Grand Slam clash between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the world of Tennis. As the semifinal dates for the first Grand Slam of the year, the prestigious Australian Open draw near, the world of Tennis prepares for another fiery encounter between two players who have been acclaimed as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) by their respective fan-bases. That debate may be a tedious one, but the fact that these two will go down in the Tennis history as two of the very best is not arguable.
Nadal is coming off a remarkable 2013 campaign in which he won 10 ATP titles including the French and the US Open, after returning from a career-threatening injury which had forced him to lay off the tennis courts for an aggregate of 222 days. His titles helped him reclaim the No.1 spot in the ATP World Tour Rankings for the first time since July 2011, when he lost it to Djokovic. Nadal had an injury scare in his 3rd round match in the tournament against Gael Monfils, as he felt pain in his knee, but he shrugged it off to pull through in straight sets and hasn’t looked back since.
The gutsy Spaniard has only lost one set en route to the semifinal, as he swept aside home favorites Tomic and Kokkinakis in the first two rounds before thrashing Monfils in straight sets. Faced with the challenge of the resourceful Japanese, Kei Nishikori in the fourth round, Nadal had to win seven games in all three sets to book his place in the quarter finals. There, he had to face the young Bulgarian gun, Grigor Dimitrov, who is waiting for his first big break at the ATP Circuit. Nadal extended his wait for an indefinite period, when he fought back from one set down, and won tie-breaks in two consecutive sets to break Dimitrov down, and win the tie. The match tested Nadal’s mental and physical limits, as he showed his ghastly blistered hand to the media in the post-match presser.
Federer’s story is similar to Nadal’s as the Swiss maestro also dropped his only set of the tournament against a struggling Andy Murray in his quarter final, but was otherwise, his sublime self in his path to the semi. After an abysmal 2013, Federer’s team-up with new coach Stefan Edberg has done wonders for the man, as he looks to capitalise on his new-found form and increase his already daunting majors count. Federer ran through Duckworth, Kavcic, Gabashvili and even the impressive Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga with considerable ease using his new gameplan, before meeting Murray in the quarter.
It will be interesting to see how this new serve-and-volley philosophy serves the ageing Swiss against the tireless Spaniard, who is looking a good bet to catch up with Federer’s Grand Slam count. But with Fed’s new-found form, the World No.1′s injury scares, and a faster playing surface at the Australian Open this year, Tennis pundits will give Federer as much chance of being in the final of the tournament come Friday Night as they gave Wawrinka against Djokovic in the quarters. If you watched that match, you’ll be expecting anything from this one too.