Australian Open: 10 Reasons Why Rafael Nadal Won't Win His Fourth Straight Major

Zee KhanContributor IJanuary 25, 2011

Australian Open: 10 Reasons Why Rafael Nadal Won't Win His Fourth Straight Major

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    Rafael Nadal entered the 2011 Australian Open winner of the previous three SlamsAl Bello/Getty Images

    Rafael Nadal is closing in on his chance to make history in the men's game. Should Nadal come through the draw and win his second Australian Open title, he would be the first player since the great Rod Laver to hold all four Slam trophies at once.

    It has been a long, yet exciting 42 years since Laver won his calendar year Grand Slam, and not many players since then have come close to accomplishing that feat.

    Roger Federer twice held three Slams, however, he missed his chance on both occasions at the French Open.

    Should Nadal go on and win on Sunday, he would undoubtedly cement his place in the history of tennis. Nadal's 2010 season will go down as one of the greatest seasons on record by a men's player; but adding the "Rafa Slam" would certainly put an exclamation point on his resume.

    Winning the title however, will prove to be a very difficult challenge. Here are the Top 10 reason's why Rafael Nadal won't win his fourth consecutive major.

Weak Draw

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    Bernard Tomic pushed Nadal, however he still lost in straight sets.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    It is no secret, entering the second week of the Australian Open, that Rafael Nadal has had a relatively easy time on court. He has played extremely efficient tennis to this point.

    Nevertheless, most people are wondering if he has been truly tested leading into the second week. He has not yet played a match where he has been challenged. There are two ways to approach that argument:

    - First, he has played so well that the previous four opponents simply didn't stand a chance.

    - Second, his opponents simply are not at the level where they would pose a threat to the top four or five players.

    My thoughts are that the latter holds true. Nadal has not faced competition yet to truly analyse where his game currently stands.

    Most players like to have been at the very least pushed by this point in the tournament, so as to set a tone for the second week. Nadal's first real test will be in the Semi-Finals. A player should be playing his top form at that point, and Nadal has not needed to take his game to that level. 

    The question becomes, can he just flip that switch, and take his game to the next level after playing relatively low level matches?

Health

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Rafael Nadal came into the 2011 Australian Open still feeling the effects of an illness, which he battled through in Doha.

    He was not in top form through the first week, and was still feeling the effects of that bug. He has been sweating more then usual, and has lost a fair amount of weight as his body struggles to cope.

    Nadal claimed that he was finally free of the sickness following his match against Marin Cilic, however, he has not yet played an extensive match.

    Should he advance through to the Semi-Finals and Finals, chances are he will be on court for a longer period of time. That will be when the lingering effects of his illness will be felt the most.

    Will he still have enough in the tank, over the duration of a tough four or five set match?

Serve

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    Nadal's serve was key to winning his first US Open title.Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

    Many people attributed Rafael Nadal's success at the 2010 U.S. Open Championships to his improved serve. Nadal only lost one set en route to his first U.S. Open title, and was not broken until the Final.

    Nadal was consistently serving at or near 130 mph in New York. During the first week in Melbourne, Nadal has struggled to match those speeds. He has averaged below 125 mph. Against the lesser ranked players he has been able to dictate play, and has never really been challenged on his serve. 

    Against the top players, especially Murray who is known for his ability to return, he will need to consistently go for a lot more on his first serve.

    It is still yet to be determined if his slower service speeds are because of his lack of energy due to illness, or because he has not really been pushed. Nadal has also played a majority of his matches at night, which can factor into heavier, slower conditions.

    If he is to come through to win this title, his serve will need to be at or near the level it was at in New York.

Pressure

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    The media is sure to remind Nadal of the importance of winning this titleClive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Rafael Nadal has mastered the art of deflecting the pressures that go with being the world's top player.

    He has stated that he should not be considered the favorite to win this title, and that he should be placed along side the rest of the field, not named Federer. 

    Nadal has also stated that he is not thinking about winning his fourth consecutive Slam; but instead just the match at hand.

    It is inconceivable to think that a player of his level, and his current form is not considered at the very least a co-favorite, whether he wants to admit it or not. 

    In the days leading up to the Semi-Finals and Finals, the media is sure to remind Nadal of the significance of winning this title.

    Nadal has an uncanny ability to play each point without consideration of the score. However, as he progresses to the later stages of week two, the pressures will build.

    Will he be able to shrug those questions aside, and focus on the task at hand?

Andy Murray

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    Andy Murray is looking to return to the finals, but would have to go through Nadal.Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

    Last year at this same tournament, Andy Murray watched as Rafael Nadal had to retire from their Quarter-Final match. Since then Nadal has not lost at a Slam event.

    Murray has played Nadal very close over the years, and has the type of game that could trouble Nadal on the hard courts.

    Should they meet in their expected Semi-Final match up, it will be Nadal's first true test. Murray has been playing brilliant tennis headed into the second week, and was a finalist here in 2010. His ability to return serve, and force a player into uncomfortable tennis, makes him a very dangerous opponent.

    Murray is still looking for his first Slam title, and knows that this is where his chances are probably best. The court in Australia is slower than at Wimbledon, and the US Open; and he is able to take control of points.

    Nadal must serve well, and play a mistake free match if he is to move past Murray. 

Novak Djokovic

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Novak Djokovic has been playing the type of tennis that helped him to capture this same title in 2008. He has found his service game, which had troubled him over the last two years. 

    Should Nadal and Djokovic meet on Sunday it would be a rematch of the 2010 U.S. Open Final, which Nadal won in a memorable four set match. Djokovic again would have to come through Federer in order for this match up to come to light, and that in itself is a tall order. 

    However, Djokovic is a different player at this tournament, compared to the U.S. Open. He has won this title before, and therefore knows how to win on the grandest stage.

    Djokovic will surely be intent on imposing his revenge on Nadal, and will not go out without a serious fight.

Rod Laver

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    Rod Laver is the last player to win four consecutive Slams.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Rod Laver fired an early shot at Rafael Nadal's quest to hold all four Slams.

    I don't think he was necessarily trying to take away from Nadal's success, but he did try and diminish the value. Laver noted that even if Nadal managed to win his fourth consecutive major, it would not be considered a true Calender Slam.

    Nadal respects the history of tennis to a great degree. Laver coming out and saying the what he did, could not have sat well with Nadal. It was discouraging, and seemed out of character for Laver.

    Granted, Laver is the last man to accomplish the great feat, but he didn't need to come out and try to discredit Nadal's pursuit.

    Nobody told Laver that his accomplishment was only won on two surfaces, grass and clay, but that doesn't diminish what Laver accomplished.

    Still having Laver say anything at all can't sit well for Nadal.

Timing

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    Nadal took part in two exhibition matches in December for CharityJasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Nadal has played a fair amount of tennis since his win at the U.S Open. His off-season was shorter than normal because of exhibition matches, as well as additional appearances during the Asian Indoor season.

    Nadal has been very smart regarding his schedule, however, he has played more towards the end of last year then in the past.

    This is also tribute to his knees being in better condition following his U.S Open win. Nevertheless, it might have been better for him to play less between the World Tour Finals, and the Australian Open.

    He is coming into the Australian Open having played two Exhibition Matches in December, another in Abu Dhabi, and then the Doha Masters event.

    Will his schedule cost him?

History

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    Rod Laver is the last man to hold all four Slams at once, in 1969.Getty Images/Getty Images

    There is a very good reason why a men's tennis player has not won four consecutive Slams in 42 years... It is a very difficult accomplishment.

    Nadal's quest for the "Rafa Slam" will not get any easier. He will most likely need to beat two of the top four players to do this, and all of them are very capable.

    History suggests that he will come short. Had he been seeking this record at the French Open, it would be near certainty that he would come through. However, he has a much harder time on the hard courts, and his three main rivals, are equal to Nadal on this surface.

    All three remaining players will make sure they do their best to stop history from being made on their watch.

Roger Federer

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    Federer is te defending champion at Melbourne ParkQuinn Rooney/Getty Images

    Roger Federer has his sights set on defending this title. If he is able to get through to Sunday, you can bet he will try to add to his own history.

    Federer had the chance to hold all four Slams simultaneously, on two different occasions. Both times he fell short at the French.

    He would like nothing more then to end Nadal's run here, and in doing so, pay retribution for the 2009 Final Nadal stole from him.

    Federer has been playing unbelievable tennis since Wimbledon, going 44-4 with five titles.

    His attacking style has paid off, and he won their last match in London. Despite that being a three set format, Federer certainly took some confidence from that match.

    I feel Federer, should he advance, poses Nadal the greatest threat to his "Rafa Slam".

    Should Nadal have a chance to make history, it would only be fitting that it would be Federer standing opposite Nadal; trying to make his own.