Australian Open 2012: Rafael Nadal vs. Tomas Berdych Preview

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Australian Open 2012: Rafael Nadal vs. Tomas Berdych Preview
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Rafael Nadal

The 2012 Australian Open men's quarterfinals start Tuesday with both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal scheduled for action. 

The two former Melbourne Park champions are each just one win away from setting up a blockbuster semifinal showdown, although they each have talented opponents to best in the quarterfinal round.

Federer will face Juan Martin Del Potro in one semifinal that is slated for the afternoon session.  In the evening, Nadal could face a stiff test from the Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych.

Nadal and Berdych have met thirteen times in the past with the current world No. 2 holding a 10-3 heads up record.

Berdych's trio of wins were all hard court victories—something that might give him confidence heading into the match. 

However, none of those victories are recent; they came at a time when Nadal was still developing back in 2006.

The two players have met nine times since Berdych's last victory over Nadal; the biggest match was 2010's Wimbledon final. 

In those nine matches, Nadal is a crushing 21-1 in terms of sets played, with Berdych taking a set down last season at the Miami Masters.

Nadal is a former Melbourne Park champion, however, when his entire Grand Slam chart is considered, the Australian Open is his worst Grand Slam event. 

He's fallen in each of the last two years to lower ranked players in the quarterfinal round, including last season when David Ferrer eliminated Rafa.

Berdych has played solid tennis so far this season at Melbourne Park, dropping only two sets so far in the tournament. 

However, the current world No. 7 has never made it through the quarterfinal round in either of the hard court Grand Slam events.

Berdych for the upset?

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Berdych may have to play razor-sharp tennis for three to four hours in the Melbourne Park quarterfinal just to stay with Nadal—the better conditioned athlete of the two.

The Spaniard is a clear favorite to advance to the semifinals, however, there's some significant potential for an upset here.

That potential stems—not so much from the matchup—but from the fact that Nadal has faltered in the Melbourne Park quarters on three occasions.

Now playing in his eighth Australian Open, there's only been one tournament (2009) where Nadal has been able to beat a top 10 player at Melbourne Park. 

Nadal is 2-4 against players ranked in the top 10 at the Australian Open, and Berdych supporters can ground some hope in that.

This match is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Melbourne time on Tue., Jan. 24, day nine of the 2012 Australian Open.

Prediction: Nadal in four.

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