Australian Open 2019: Nadal and Djokovic: a classic in the head | sports

Australian Open 2019: Nadal and Djokovic: a classic in the head | sports

"Djokovic? What am I going to say about Djokovic? Do not trust? I distrust him in everything! Djokovic? He is always dangerous, in any circumstance … " It's July 11, at Wimbledon, and Rafael Nadal just pay homage to the epic in a very tight pulse with Juan Martín del Potro. Suddenly, the Balearic breaks the monotony of the speech with journalists and responds with irritation. The Serb warned, the Serb was coming. And Nadal knew it. Two days later, Nole cut him off in a tachycardic semifinals and two later he was proclaimed champion, ending a drought of more than two years on the big stages and shredding a thousand ghosts, because until then he had gotten into a maze and I had lost the exit key.

It was a liberation. From there, the great Djokovic left the catacombs and began to rule again with an iron fist, triumphing in New York and, consequently, raising his fourteenth major. Meanwhile, the knee played another trick on Nadal and the Spaniard was temporarily out of action. The uncertainty that surrounded one moved to the other side. However, the Spaniard has had six games to rejoin the race to infinity, because in the background, with Roger Federer not too far from the starting gate, both are aware that each trophy is worth gold and each encounter is a war. Each success is one more step towards the great goal.

That's why, the moment Nadal beat Tsitsipas on Thursday, the Melbourne final had already begun to play. The one from Manacor has shown muscle throughout the tournament, while the deployment of the Balkan had been less lavish. Until Friday. Djokovic rolled up his sleeves, sharpened the scythe and got rid of the French Lucas Pouille in only 1h 23m (6-0, 6-2 and 6-2). It was a demonstration of strength. Here I am. "When he has that look, cold and winning, he is a fearsome player. He went out on the track to send a message to Rafa, "said Australian Pat Cash, double finalist in Australia (1987, 1988) and Wimbledon champion (1987).

Very different in form, in the background there is a common element between Nadal and Djokovic, two of the most granite minds in the history of tennis: they are two reborn. One has dodged the endless obstacles that have brought him his herculean chassis, while the other, in addition to the major setback suffered in an elbow, had to defeat the worst of the enemies: oneself.

Hence, the crux of the final that will face them this Sunday (9.30, Eurosport) reside essentially in the head. "Winning Rafa in the fifth set of Wimbledon mentally catapulted me back to have more confidence," recalled Nole yesterday, who then added another significant tagline: "We will both arrive in good physical condition, but the mental aspect will determine who will cross the finish line as the winner. "

Technical nuances aside, the psychological factor seems determinant in the 53rd episode of the saga, the longest in the history of tennis. Nobody has faced more times than they, protagonists of the great classic of the racket and also of the other two more repeated crosses: Djokovic-Federer (25-22) and Nadal-Federer (23-15). Both arrive with an extraordinary dynamic, having saved a lot of fuel -in the previous six rounds they invested 12h 12m, Nadal and 11h 59m, Djokovic- and with even records. The Spaniard lands clean and intimidating, without having lost a single set, while the Serbian left only two: one against Shapovalov and one against Medvedev.

2013, the last victory of Nadal in dura

"Rafa is better than ever on a hard track," said Djokovic, who won the last fast surface finish in the penultimate round of Indian Wells 2016; in this field, to find the most recent victory of Nadal (32 years) against his beast (31) must rewind until 2013, when he beat in the final of the US Open. "He has improved his service a lot; now saves more energy, since it shortens the points when it takes out, and thus it arrives with more force in the remaining games ", he dissected the Belgrade one, emphasizing again the emotional factor:" We can promise one thing: knowing both of us , let's leave everything on the track. At the mental level, the one that is able to be more concentrated during the important points will have a lot of wins ".

Should he win his seventh trophy, Djokovic would break with Roy Emerson and Federer as the most successful tennis player in Australia, as well as take another important bite to the Grand Slam cake; would be with 15 majors, two from Nadal and five from the Swiss. Meanwhile, if he wins the Spanish would close the siege on Federer in a way ostensible, still remaining the entire season ahead. In Melbourne, then, many finals are played within one.


Djokovic, during the semifinals against Pouille.
Djokovic, during the semifinals against Pouille. REUTERS

Always with good predisposition, Djokovic spoke yesterday with the journalists with his usual kindness. However, both in the speech and in the face of the Serbian, winner of 14 great, and were aware of the tension that surrounds a final of these characteristics. Although seven years have already passed, he and Nadal still have fresh memories in their memory at the Australian headquarters in 2012; the longest that has ever been played in a Grand Slam.

"I hope it does not last as long as that time, but I'm sure it will be another great game. Probably the one that most represents the concept of our rivalry. You can say that this match would be the icing on the cake, "said Nole, who praised his rival at all times.

"I think people will enjoy it. Playing before him requires a different tactical approach, but I am sure that the same thing happens to him. Rafa is the biggest rival I've had throughout my career, "he said; "He is, without a doubt, the most intense that I have ever seen or played. It makes you alert from the first point, it never lets you relax. To face him you must be very well physically and be prepared to run for hours. "

Regarding how he will focus his pulse, he said he does not want to prolong the rallies excessively. "I'll try to send, but against Nadal, that's easier said than done. Depends on how the thing goes … I do not want to get into long exchanges; So far, my points to one or two shots have worked, "he explained before referring to his evolution. If Nadal said a couple of days ago that he had adapted his game to his age, he stated the opposite: "I had to adapt my age to the game. I feel like my body is fine and I do not think I'm going to compromise my game. It remains the same, in general. At the moment I do not intend to change anything. "

The historic reflects that both met for the first time in 2006, in a quarterfinal duel at Roland Garros. Also, that in the long history of crosses between the two is only one meeting in Melbourne, where Nadal has a tendency to stretch the finals: of the four he previously played, the Mallorcan reached five sets in three of them: 2009 (Federer) , 2012 (Djokovic) and 2017 (Federer).

The only one that was resolved in fewer sets (4) was the one in 2014, when he played very badly on the back and lost against the Swiss Stan Wawrinka.

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