Nadal is a one-time Australian Open champion (2009), and he reached the final in 2012 before missing the tourney in 2013 with a stomach virus. Needless to say, he's excited to be back.
"A lot of years I didn't have a chance to play in this tournament that I really love so much with the perfect condition," Nadal said, via Melissa Isaacson of ESPN.com, "so is very special I have the chance to be in the final here again."
The 13-time Grand Slam champion comes into the upcoming final match against Wawrinka fresh off a straight-sets victory over Roger Federer. The match everyone waited for on bated breath turned out to be completely lopsided in favor of the Spanish master, while Federer's brilliant run came crashing to a halt.
After getting swept by Nadal, Federer reflected on the contrast between the victor and any other player on tour right now, as noted by Rafael Nadal Fans:
Federer didn't stand a chance, despite the fact that he'd lost just a single before Nadal's dominance proved too much to handle.
You can expect more of the same when Wawrinka attempts to win his first Grand Slam against Nadal in the men's final at Melbourne. And if history is any guide, Wawrinka, a player known for taking top players to the limit, won't put up much of a fight.
The two finalists have met 12 times before—twice at majors—with Nadal earning a perfect 12-0 record, including two straight-sets wins in the Grand Slam events. They've battled twice in event finals, with Nadal winning both of those matches in straight sets, as well.
In fact, Wawrinka hasn't yet won a single set against Nadal, though he did force five tiebreakers, all of which Nadal won. At this point, it seems the biggest potential threat to Nadal winning his 14th Grand Slam title could be a big blister on his left hand.
But that shouldn't be a problem, based on what we saw against Federer, according to Richard Pagliaro of Tennis.com:
The fact that Nadal, who won only 39 percent of his second-serve points against Kei Nishikori in the fourth round, captured 73 percent of his second-serve points against Federer despite the sizable blister on his racquet hand tells you he’s locked in location on serve. Even if he’s suffering stinging pain in his palm, Nadal has this match in his hands.
Of course, Wawrinka would disagree that he has no chance in the match.
"I'm playing my best tennis here," Wawkinka told reporters, as relayed by Leo Schlink of the Herald Sun. "Physically I'm ready. I had two days off, so that's perfect for me before final. Going to try everything. Before (failing) to beat Djokovic was the same. I was losing 13, 14 times before that (quarter-final win). The fact that I'm always trying and I always think that I can change all the statistic, that's positive."
Positive thinking can only get him so far, however.
Nadal is playing at a different level than anyone else on the planet, as Federer pointed out. He won two of the three Grand Slams he participated in last year, and he's on his way to winning his first of the 2014 campaign.
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