After two weeks of craziness at the Australian Open, only a fool would expect anything less than more drama on the final day of action.
Day 14 features the finals for mixed doubles between Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor against Sania Mirza and Horia Tecau. Of course, this is just a build-up for the main event featuring Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka.
Each of these matches is certain to be tightly contested, but there will be a clear winner by the end of the day and a new Australian Open champion in each draw.
Here is a look at what to expect on the final day of play at Melbourne.
Where: Rod Laver Court, Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
When (local): Sunday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m.
When (U.S.): Sunday, Jan. 26 at 12 a.m. ET
Watch: ESPN, Tennis Channel
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
|2014 Australian Open - Day 14 Schedule|
|Time (local)||Time (ET)||Round||Matchup||TV|
|4 p.m.||12 a.m.||Mixed Doubles Final||Kristina Mladenovic & Daniel Nestor vs. Sania Mirza & Horia Tecau||Tennis Channel|
|7:30 p.m.||3:30 a.m.||Men's Final||Rafael Nadal vs. Stanislas Wawrinka||ESPN|
Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor vs. No. 6 Sania Mirza and Horia Tecau
Like virtually every other draw at the Australian Open, the top seeds went down early in mixed doubles. In fact, Sania Mirza and Horia Tecau were the only seeded pair even to reach the semifinals after only three reached the quarterfinals.
However, the team has escaped quite a few close calls and was almost eliminated in the first round before earning a close, come-from-behind victory.
Meanwhile, Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor have been truly dominant, winning every set of the tournament without going to a tiebreak once. Nestor has the experience and has been playing very well in men's doubles lately with Nenad Zimonjic. This pairing reached the semifinals at Melbourne before going down.
Now that he will finally get some extra rest, he should fare well with his French teammate. The 20-year-old Mladenovic is very active around the court and complements her partner well.
This group has seemed like a match made in heaven and their strong play should continue with one more win in the final.
Prediction: Mladenovic/Nestor win 6-4, 6-3
No. 1 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka
This is the match everyone wants to see, pairing the current most dominant player in the world with a constantly improving contender.
However, the past results show that Rafael Nadal has a huge advantage in this rivalry, as noted by Christopher Clarey of the New York Times:
Still, Nadal is fully aware that this will not help in his upcoming match. In fact, he seemed quite scared of Stanislas Wawrinka in discussing the final, via Josh Meiseles of ATPWorldTour.com:
He's playing better than ever. Is not a question of winning one or two. Is a question that he's a player that is ready to win against everybody today. If I don't play my best tennis, I am sure that he will win three sets against me.
The problem for Wawrinka is that Nadal has been playing his best tennis. He is already 11-0 this season and is already on his way to top last year's mark of 10 tournament titles.
Against Roger Federer in the semifinals, the Spaniard was nearly flawless in his execution, getting to every ball and keeping rallies alive while opponents can only manage to lose on their own with errors. Of course, he also showed that he can get winners as well, even with his backhand:
Wawrinka has managed at least 50 winners in each of his last four matches, but he has also seen plenty of errors with his aggressive play. The problem is that many of the shots that were successful in other matches will not be enough against Nadal.
The 13-time major champion will use Wawrinka's aggressiveness against him and be able to survive with yet another title, making him the second player ever to win each Grand Slam event at least twice.
Prediction: Nadal wins 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2
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