Rafael Nadal drew the No. 2 seed in the Australian Open, and the Spanish star has dominated as expected, winning his first three matches in straight sets. Although he has two more probable cakewalks in front of him, his last two matches in Melbourne will have enough challenge for the entire tournament.
Assuming Nadal makes it to the semifinals, there’s an excellent chance that he’ll face off yet again with longtime nemesis Roger Federer. The Swiss star hasn’t won a Grand Slam since the 2010 Aussie Open, and a hungry Federer is a dangerous opponent for anyone.
Even so, Nadal has gone 9-3 vs. Federer since 2008 and has a better-than-even chance of continuing that trend. Federer hasn’t looked quite as sharp in the early rounds as the Spaniard has, and will also (in all likelihood) have to get past the dangerous Juan Martin del Potro before he faces Nadal.
Assuming Rafa comes through in the semifinals, he’s almost certain to meet top-seeded defending champ Novak Djokovic in the final. After two losses to the Serbian standout in Grand Slam finals in 2011, Nadal will be out for revenge.
Getting that revenge, however, will be beyond even Nadal’s considerable skills. After having his way with Djokovic during the early stages of their rivalry, Nadal has dropped six straight, with three of those coming on hard courts (including the U.S. Open final last year).
Djokovic may not equal last year’s 43-match win streak anytime soon, but he’s still as hot as any player in tennis. He’ll add to his collection of Grand Slam titles in Melbourne at Nadal’s expense.