One year ago, Fernando Verdasco was a mere source of untapped potential. Tipped as being the next best thing in Spain from a young age, 'Nando' had never quite been able to step up to the plate and deliver.
However, there appeared to be a significant change in the Spaniard mentally. He clinched the Davis Cup for Spain at the end of 2008, coming back from two sets to one down against Jose Acasuso. Confident in his ability and physically primed after a gruelling off-season, Verdasco came to Australia with high hopes.
After a runner-up finish in Brisbane to Stepanek, the fifteenth seed slid his way through the draw. He avenged his loss in the Brisbane final against the Czech with a 6-4, 6-0, 6-0 rout. Next up, the form horse Andy Murray.
The Scot had already won a tournament in Doha as well as the exhibition in Abu Dhabi, notching up wins over Nadal, Federer and Roddick. All of that was swept aside by Verdasco in a performance of power and precision.
With an astounding 74 percent of first serves finding their mark, it was the Spaniard who secured a place in the quarter-finals. A further win over Tsonga before his epic duel with Rafa cemented Verdasco's position on the long list of Australian Open surprise packages.
One year on and Verdasco has once again come to Australia with a renewed sense of belief. He again aided Spain secure the Davis Cup, albeit in doubles, and collected wins over Gonzalez, Djokovic and Tsonga on his way to the title at the exhibition tournament at Kooyong (Federer's springboard to the title in Melbourne several times).
With a matchup against the "man in form," Nikolay Davydenko, on the horizon, Fernando will have another chance to conjure up some Australian magic. The Russian was superb in claiming the title in Doha, with second successive wins over Federer and Nadal.
The question surrounding Davydenko is not one of ability, but mentality. Although he has been successful over Federer and Nadal, Grand Slams are different animals. Andy Murray has been on the receiving end of such problems, despite great success at tournaments with a best of three set format.
Nikolay has been relaxed thus far, but remains untested by anyone of great caliber. Now will be the test of his chances at securing the title.
Verdasco has an ominous 1-6 record against the Russian. Last year he came into his fourth round encounter with Murray on the back of a 0-5 record. If he is to emulate his 2009 heroics, the Spaniard will have to take command of the baseline.
Davydenko is a master at hitting the ball on the rise and is not troubled by vicious top spin, as is evidenced by his record against another left-handed Spaniard.
Even though the Russian has improved his front court game, if Verdasco can use sharp angles, as he is so capable of doing, along with a deeper high ball, he may be able to draw Davydenko off his baseline territory and get him into awkward positions.
Regardless of who wins, two of the sharpest and most capable shot-makers in the draw will most certainly provide a tremendous match.