How Rafael Nadal Will Defeat Novak Djokovic at the 2012 Australian Open

Eric HalperinContributor IJanuary 28, 2012

How Rafael Nadal Will Defeat Novak Djokovic at the 2012 Australian Open

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    Tennis lovers are in for a treat as the 2012 Australian Open Finals pits No. 1 ranked Novak Djokovic against No. 2 Rafael Nadal.

    In order for this match to be a real treat, Nadal will need to execute a different game plan.  He has lost to Djokovic in their last six meetings.

    Nadal can beat Djokovic.  His overall record is 16-13 against Djokovic.  This record is a bit misleading because Djokovic has owned Nadal in the last year (Djokovic has also owned everyone else in the field hence the No. 1 ranking).

    Here’s what Nadal must do if he expects to defeat Djokovic.

Short Term Memory

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    It appears that Djokovic's dominance has gotten inside Rafa's head.

    After losing at Wimbledon, Nadal admitted,

    "I started the match without thinking (about the previous losses).  But when you arrive to 5-4 (in the first set), these moments probably affect (you) a little bit.  That's what happened, and that's why … The most important thing is play well in the important moments."

    Nadal must erase any and all fears that he has when it comes to playing Djokovic.  

    This year's Australian Open is the perfect opportunity for Rafa to suppress prior losses and begin anew his record against the Serbian. 

Plan for Novak Djokovic

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    At first this seems like a silly suggestion.  But here's why it is important: Nadal almost always wins by hitting to his opponents backhand.

    Djokovic is not like the other players in the field.  He has a strong backhand.  Nadal has not changed his tactics for Djokovic.

    Instead of playing him like everyone else, Nadal must switch it up and take chances with Djokovic's forehand.

    Make no mistake, Djokovic's forehand is deadly.  However, in Nadal's current losing streak to Djokovic he stubbornly insists on treating Djokovic's backhand like everyone else's.

    Change it up, Rafa!

Service Is Key

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    Djokovic's first serve winning percentage at last year's U.S. Open was 65%, his second serve 44%.

    Nadal wants the Serbian's second serve.  Djokovic has improved everything about his game, but he had a tendency to double fault on his second serve.  Nadal needs to capitalize on this.

    When serving, Nadal needs to remember that Djokovic prefers to return the serve straight back at him forcing him out of the way and into a difficult shot.

    Don't let Djokovic dictate the serve.

Baseline? I Don't Need No Stinking Baseline

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    Djokovic dominates from the baseline.  Nadal has to keep the Serb from setting up camp along it.

    He needs to attack Djokovic with a steady diet of drop shots, dinkers and a lot of slices.

    While Djokovic has the speed to chase down these shots, he is also recovering from a nearly five-hour game against Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.

    Making Djokovic run and not get settled will help Nadal wear him down and give himself the best chance of winning.

Patience Grasshopper

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    Nadal needs to make a few adjustments to his game when he faces Novak. Here is the rundown:

    Play the game confidently knowing he will win.

    Don't focus on the backhand.  Mix it up with shots to Djokovic's forehand down the line.

    In breaking the serve, grab the opportunity that is Djokovic's second serve.  Nadal also needs to be alert of Djokovic's return game.

    Keep, keep, keep Djokovic running; don't let him get comfortable on the baseline.  Work on the drop shots, the dinks and the short-angles.  Push Djokovic's endurance after the long semifinal match.

    All of these things are easier said than done because Djokovic is extremely talented.  But Nadal is just as talented.  If he can dictate the course of the match he can win.