Australian Open: Men’s Final preview
(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)
The world number one takes on Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the men’s final at Melbourne Park.
This is the third meeting for the pair at a Grand Slam, and their first in a Grand Slam final.
At stake, in addition to the prestigious Australian Open title, is more than 2-point-6 million dollars in prize money.
Nadal goes into the match as the favourite having beaten Wawrinka’s countryman, and sixth seed, Roger Federer in the semi-finals in straight sets.
The 13-time Grand Slam title winner says he isn’t underestimating his upcoming opponent.
“He’s playing great. I know him. He’s a good friend, great guy. So happy for him that he’s in the final. He deserve it. He’s playing better and better every year. He’s serving unbelievable. He’s hitting the ball very strong from the baseline. Very, very quick. Is very difficult to play against him today. I know will be a very, very tough match. If I am not able to play my best, I think I will not have chances because he’s coming to this match with a lot of victories and playing great.”
Stanislas Wawrinka defeated the Czech Republic’s Thomas Berdych in the round-of-four after knocking out defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
Although he’s disappointed he won’t be playing in an all-Swiss final, Wawrinka says he’s looking forward to battling it out on court with his good friend.
“Yeah, for sure it will have been amazing to play Roger in the final, to have an all-Swiss final. But watch the match. I’m happy to play Rafa, you know. He’s a really good friend. We practice a lot together. He’s amazing champion. So it’s going to be a great final for sure to play him.”
The 28-year-old says he’s feeling confident going into the final.
“Again, I’m playing my best tennis here; physically I’m ready. I had two days off, so that’s perfect for me before final. Going to try everything. Before to beat Djokovic was the same. I was losing 13, 14 times before that. Just the fact that I’m always trying and I always think that I can change all the statistic,that’s positive.”
Although Nadal comes into the match as the dominant favourite, it’s feared blisters he sustained on his serving hand earlier in the tournament could play to Wawrinka’s advantage.
During his semi-final match with Federer, Nadal requested a medical time out to treat his hand.
But he says he doesn’t see it being an issue come Sunday.
“But the blister is good. Is not bad. Looks better every day. We are doing the right things. Blister today is not a problem any more for normal life. Is not painful. Problem is to play tennis. The only problem is the position of the blister, the place. Because if is in another place, I will no have problem because I don’t feel pain today. Problem is to cover that blister in the position where that is.”
Nadal is hoping to win his 14th grand slam title and equal American Pete Sampras on the list of all time Grand Slam holders.
The 27-year-old is currently third behind Sampras, and Roger Federer who holds the most Grand Slam titles at 17.
Sampras, meanwhile, is in Melbourne to present the winner’s trophy at Sunday’s men’s final.
Reflecting on the way tennis is played today, Sampras lamented what he described as the lost art of serve-and volley-tennis.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion was the master of the serve-volley combination, and says tennis has changed substantially since he retired after winning the 2002 U-S Open.
“The game certainly has changed the last 10 years. The serve-and-volley tennis is a lost art. No one is really doing it. Everyone is staying back and hitting the crap out of the ball, which is fun to watch. You look at Wimbledon these days. It is one-dimensional. It’s just the nature of technology, maybe the nature of how everyone is growing up with technology. They’re used to not having to volley, serve and volley. It takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Rafael Nadal will still occupy the men’s number one position when the A-T-P rankings are published on Monday (27/1).
Wawrinka will have climbed to a career-high ranking of men’s world number five by making the final, and will be world number 3 should he win the title.