For the past year, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic has steamrolled the competition, winning three Grand Slam tournaments last season and is now on the verge of another one. Should No. 2 Rafael Nadal outlast him in the Australian Open final, though, it would be good for men's tennis.
Part of me understands that dominant runs in tennis can be something for the fans to behold. We've already seen it with the likes of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras and fans will always remember their remarkable carving up of the competition.
I can't help but feel that tennis, like any sport, is better when parity is involved. Rather than going into a Grand Slam knowing Djokovic is going to win, I would like there to be several options. The women's game is a perfect example. While there may not be a dominant player, the tournaments are always exciting because there is an unknown factor involved.
That is precisely what I would like to see in men's tennis. There are four players who are a cut above the rest in Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray. We may not see anybody other than those four win a major for quite some time, but, at the very least, I would like to see parity among them.
One way for that to happen is for Nadal to beat Djokovic in a hard-court final. Djoker pretty much owns hard courts right now and it seems like a foregone conclusion that he's going to win every hard-court tournament. A Nadal Aussie Open win would definitely plant a seed of doubt, however.
I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that Nadal will win either. Djokovic put everything he had into his five-set win over Murray, while Nadal only had to go four sets against Federer and has an extra day of rest. Because of that, Rafa would seem to have the advantage.
Nadal could very well beat Djokovic in the finals and then Djokovic could proceed to win the other three majors because he's simply that talented. Djokovic hasn't faced a ton of adversity during his run as No. 1, though, so I think losing to Nadal will suddenly make things that much more competitive.
Outside of the French Open, I find myself expecting Djokovic to win every big tournament. The best thing that could possibly happen, though, is the top-four guys constantly trading wins against each other. That starts with the Australian Open Final.
If Djokovic wins, we'll likely see more of the same in 2012 with Djokovic running the show. If Rafa wins, though, I think it will give all of the other players confidence moving forward.
Somebody has to step up and stop Djokovic and I think Nadal is just the person to do it.
Men's Final: Djokovic vs. Nadal
Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 a.m. ET on ESPN2