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Rafael Nadal: Aussie Finals Win Will Provide Signal of Things to Come in 2012

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 29, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates winning his semifinal match against Roger Federer of Switzerland during day eleven of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal will deliver a win with his back against an imaginary tennis wall. For Nadal, it is now or never, if he is to stop Novak Djokovic's dominance over him. The two clearly represent the pinnacle of Men's Tennis, but Djoker has dominated Rafa as of late in their head to head meetings.

Nadal has lost six consecutive matches to Djokovic, the last two coming in the finals at the US Open and Wimbledon. Nadal battled injuries throughout 2011, but he is finally healthy, and that will be a major reason for his victory

Rafa holds a slight edge in their career series at 16-13, but anyone who has followed Djokovic's career knows he is a different player now than he was in 2009. That was the last year Nadal had consistent success against the Serbian.

Nadal looked to be on his way to a lengthy era of dominance as he seems to own Roger Federer (18-9) head to head. Federer's long-standing era as the king of Men's Tennis has slowly descended, and much of that is due to Nadal's ability to beat him consistently. This was furthered evidenced in the semifinals when Nadal dispatched of Fed in four sets.

Nadal took over the No. 1 ranking in 2008, relinquished it 2009, but regained it to close out the 2010 season. The 2011 tennis season would belong to the Djoker.

Djokovic had a 43-match win streak, he went 70-6 and won every Grand Slam, except the French Open, which Nadal won. Djokovic took over the world's top ranking in July of 2011, and it was the first time anyone except Federer or Nadal had held the top spot since 2004.

Nadal is a very proud player, and he wants the top spot back, and he is at his best in the Grand Slams. One factor in Nadal's favor is that he had an easier semifinal match than Djokovic. While Nadal only had to work four sets to advance, Djokovic won a five set thriller against Andy Murray.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:   Rafael Nadal of Spain congratulates  Novak Djokovic of Serbia after Djokovic won the Men's Final on Day Fifteen of the 2011 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 12, 2011 in the Flushing ne
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

This would suggest that fatigue could be a factor, as this should be another marathon; but Djokovic is a machine right now. If Nadal is to curtail his dominance over the sport and him specifically, he must defeat him tomorrow.

The two greats are going into territory where one player is gaining a decided mental advantage over the other. Nadal owns that over Federer, and Djokovic is getting to that place over Nadal. Rafa will deliver a tide-turning performance in Melbourne and carve out a much more competitive 2012 rivalry with Djokovic.  

Nadal is not quite ready to pass the torch, and a win on Sunday in Melbourne will remind us of just that. 

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