With world No. 1 Rafael Nadal fully expected to knock off fellow Spaniard David Ferrer later tonight in Melbourne, arguably the best four players in the game will advance to the final four at the 2011 Australian Open with history at stake. Nadal is looking to become only the third player in the history of men's tennis to win four grand slams in a row, and would therefore capture the so-called "Rafa Slam."
Nadal is 9-2 in his career in major finals, with both losses coming against Roger Federer at Wimbeldon earlier in his career (the last in 2007). He has won the last six, including three against Federer and one against Novak Djokovic, who will be matched up in one semifinal opposite of Nadal.
Nadal's semifinal matchup will be against Andy Murray, the last man to defeat him in a grand slam match (Nadal retired from their quarterfinal match last year in Melbourne). Murray's favorite surface is hardcourt and it gives him the best chance to defeat the Spanish superstar. He also defeated Nadal at the 2009 U.S. Open. Murray is having a very strong 2011 Australian Open run heading into the semis, having dropped just one set.
The winner of the Federer-Djokovic encounter may be in a similar position as the last major played—trying to stop Nadal from entering the history books. At the 2010 U.S. Open, Djokovic was unable to stop Rafa from capturing his career grand slam. Neither player has had much success against Nadal of late, especially on the grand slam stage.
All four players left in the draw have a legitimate chance at taking home the trophy. Over the last three years of Australian Open play, the four have combined for all three titles and all but one of the final berths.
Nadal is still the favorite until proved otherwise, due to his tremendous play since the 2010 Australian Open. When you look at his past history of dominating when he reaches the finals and his results against Federer and Djokovic, Murray has got to be the one to help turn the tide in men's tennis and stop Nadal's amazing run in grand slam play.