There is much riding on Rafael Nadal winning this slam down under in 2011. He won the Australian Open Championship in 2009.
But winning this one would give Nadal a record in tennis that Roger Federer does not already own and one he cannot claim to equal.
By winning this year’s championship, Nadal would hold all four majors at one time. He would be the only man to accomplish this feat since Rod Laver did it in 1969.
It would be Nadal’s “Rafa-Slam,” much as Serena Williams completed her “Serena Slam” in 2002-2003––holding all four major championships at one time.
It would also start Nadal down the road to winning a calendar year slam––the last one occurring during the first full year of competition in the Open Era in 1969 by Aussie Laver.
Nadal has played in six previous Australian Open Championships, the first in 2004 when the Majorcan advanced to the third round losing to Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets.
In 2005, Nadal made it to the fourth round, losing again to Aussie Hewitt but this time in a very competitive five-set match.
Injured in 2006, Nadal did not return to Melbourne until 2007. There he advanced to the quarterfinals where the Majorcan lost to Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets.
In 2008 Nadal made his greatest advance into the Australian Open, making the semifinals where he met and was defeated by unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The Frenchman was enjoying a very hot winning streak down under eventually making the finals where he lost to Djokovic.
Finally, in 2009, Nadal made it to the finals where he found his arch nemesis, Roger Federer, waiting.
In another epic contest, Nadal won in five sets, capturing his first Australian Open Championship and his first slam victory on hard courts.
By taking this title, Nadal opened the door wider exposing the breadth of the Majorcan’s game. He was now a slam winner on all surfaces.
At age 24, Nadal has already built a huge edge over his contemporaries on the tennis court.
Whether he continues to advance on Federer’s records will become clearer as the tennis year progresses in 2011.
A vital step will be realized should Nadal win this year in Melbourne. But that promise to exert much pressure on the Majorcan.
There is no doubt that Nadal will be unrelenting in pursuing this goal. He will not beat himself in this quest.
Somebody will have to wrest the championship away from him by outplaying Nadal in every aspect of the game.