Australian Open 2012: Bold Predictions for Rafa Nadal-Novak Djokovic Final

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2012

Australian Open 2012: Bold Predictions for Rafa Nadal-Novak Djokovic Final

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    We've finally come to the point where we can say it's bold to pick Rafael Nadal over Novak Djokovic. The last time he beat Novak was in 2010 in the Round Robin stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, 7-5, 6-2.

    Nadal leads the series 16-13 overall, but Djokovic has won the last six contests between them. This is a rematch of the 2011 US Open Final and the fourth meeting in a Grand Slam final for the pair.

    Djokovic leads the series on hard court 10-5. We all know he only lost six matches in all of 2011.

    So why will Rafael Nadal beat him on Sunday?

    Look no further than these five bold predictions about the final match to be played in Melbourne.

    They should convince you to wake up at 3:30 EST for the Australian Open Final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

    Forget the Pro Bowl. Forget the NHL All-Star Game. Forget that Ohio State and Michigan are playing each other as ranked teams (in basketball) for the first time in 20 years. You can use the rest of your Sunday for sleep.

    This is that important.

Djokovic Will Win the First Set...and It Will Help Nadal

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    Nadal lost the first set in both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches.

    Djokovic hasn't dropped a first set thus far in 2011.

    Djokovic played a nearly five-hour semifinal match with Andy Murray on Friday, leaving him with one less day to recover than Nadal, who played a three-hour and 40-minute match against Roger Federer on Thursday.

    Djokovic will win the first set because of his ability for quick recoveries. When Djokovic beat Nadal in the 2011 US Open final, he was coming off a five-set match against Roger Federer. It didn't take him long to get going, as he won the first set against Nadal 6-2.

    That time, however, Nadal was the one coming off of one less day of rest, so the field was pretty much even. In this tournament, the difference may be that the player to play the longest semifinal also has the shortest rest.

    As the match wears on this will start to show, but I predict it won't show in the first set.

Nadal Will Win Three Straight Sets

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    Once Nadal wins the second set, he will gain some serious steam.

    In his last two matches, even though he has lost the first set in both, he has come back to win three straight sets in comfortable fashion.  Against Tomas Berdych, Nadal won the second, third and fourth sets 7-6, 6-4, 6-3, respectively. Against Roger Federer, he won the second, third and fourth sets 6-2, 7-6, 6-4.

    In November, Nadal did the same thing to Juan Martin Del Potro in the Davis Cup. He lost the first set 1-6, but came back to win the next three: 6-4, 6-1, 7-6.

    He did the same thing against Andy Murray in the 2011 Wimbledon Semifinal, to Roben Soderling in the 2010 Wimbledon Quarterfinal, to Gael Monfils in the Fourth Round of the 2009 US Open, to Sam Querrey in the 2008 Davis Cup, to Mardy Fish in the 2008 US Open Quarterfinal, to Ernest Gulbis at Wimbledon in 2008 and to Mikhail Youzhny at Wimbledon in 2007.

Nadal Will Double His Net Approaches from Semifinal

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    This may be my boldest prediction of all, as Nadal does not often play at the net.

    In the semifinal match against Federer, Nadal only approached the net 15 times. I'm predicting he'll make that 30 against Djokovic.

    He approached the net 22 times against Berdych, only seven times against Feliciano Lopez, 10 times against Lukas Lacko, 22 against Tommy Haas and 13 times against Alex Kuznetsov.

    The two reasons this will change:

    1. Nadal didn't need to be at the net much in these matches. Against Djokovic he will. Novak knows Nadal is much more rested and will need to move him around the court. Look for more drop shots than ever in a match between these two.

    2. Nadal may come to the net more on his own accord. After losing six straight to Djokovic, something needs to be changed. I'm not suggesting he'll change his whole ground-stroking style of play, but I do expect him to switch it up a little more than he has in the past.

Nadal Won't Cry When He Wins

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    This is quite unpredictable, but he's won 10 Grand Slams and he's not playing Roger, so I don't see it happening.

    Here is my final score prediction:

    Nadal def. Djokovic 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-3

Djokovic Will Win 2012 French Open

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    This may seem like it doesn't belong here, but I think it has a lot to do with the Australian Open Final.

    If Nadal does pull off the win, I don't think there's any way Djokovic doesn't win the French Open, even if he meets Nadal in the final.  The last time Djokovic lost two straight matches to the same opponent was November of 2010, to Roger Federer.

    Djokovic already has the motivation that he has never won the French Open. Losing to Nadal on Sunday would add that much more determination.