Rafael Nadal: Why Spaniard Will Cruise to 2012 Australian Open Semifinals

Adam SpencerCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 20:  Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand in his third round match against Lukas Lacko of Slovakia during day five of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 20, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal is hot right now. He's cruising through the 2012 Australian Open and making it look easy.

After a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 evisceration of Lukas Lacko on Day 5 of the tournament, Nadal is at the top of his game. Heading into a Round 4 matchup against Feliciano Lopez, the Spaniard is playing his best tennis and should have no problem advancing.

Lopez is coming off a marathon match against John Isner, winning in five grueling sets. If he's even slightly fatigued, he won't win a set against Nadal.

Then, Nadal will face either Tomas Berdych or Nicola Almagro in the quarterfinals. 

Nadal has some bad blood towards Berdych, with whom he's had some intense battles in the past. On a major stage, though, Nadal won't let Berdych pull off an upset against him.

It's incredibly important that Nadal continues to play well in these next two matches, because Roger Federer has an easier route to the semifinals than Nadal. Federer is playing Bernard Tomic in Round 4 after Tomic pulled off a major upset against Alexandr Dolgopolov in Round 3.

That's a huge advantage for Federer because Tomic is an unranked player. Therefore, the Swiss star should have absolutely no problem beating him in straight sets and advancing easily to the quarterfinals.

Then, he'll only have to beat either Juan Martin Del Potro (the likely opponent) or Philipp Kohlschreiber (in the case of another major upset) to get to a match against Nadal.

The easier matches will have the older Federer ready and waiting to give Nadal everything he can handle and more.

If both Nadal and Federer can make it to their semifinal match unscathed and relatively untested, we could be in for another epic match between the long-time rivals.

Neither of the two star players should lose before the semifinals, so fans need to prepare themselves for another Federer-Nadal showdown.

On outdoor hard courts, Nadal dominates Federer, winning four of their five matches. Federer will be looking to avenge those losses, which will make this potential matchup must-see TV.