Rafael Nadal Has Every Chance Of Defending Australian Open Crown

Alan NicoleaContributor IJanuary 3, 2010

Rafael Nadal's coronation at the Capitala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi should signal a warning to all those disregarding the Spaniard as a genuine threat in this year's Australian Open.

Nadal defeated 2009 French Open finalist Robin Soderling 7-6, 7-5 in the final to capture his first tournament victory in the new season.

Whilst it was not a complete performance from the world's No. 2 player, Nadal did enough to dispose of a player who is arguably experiencing career-best form following his terrific French Open and ATP Tour Finals run last year.

In two tight sets, Nadal showcased the necessary grit to put himself in a winning position after being a break down in the second set.

The six-time Grand Slam champion however struggled to finish Soderling off, with the Spaniard needing four match points to secure the win.

Indeed, Nadal will need to be far more clinical against rivals Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro if he is to defend last year's Australian Open triumph.

With over two weeks to go before the first Grand Slam kicks off, Nadal has more than enough time to work on the areas of his game which need fine-tuning.

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The Spaniard will now participate at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha in a bid to be in peak fitness for his Australian Open defence.

With both Federer and Nikolay Davydenko participating in the tournament, Nadal's performance in Doha should offer a clearer picture as to whether or not his presence in the Australian Open will be felt in the latter stages.

After a sombre ending to 2009, Nadal will be desperate to re-establish himself as a key force in the ATP top ten.

The 23-year-old cast a forlorn figure at the season ending ATP Tour Finals in London, losing all of his round robin matches against Soderling, Djokovic and Davydenko respectively.

Nadal eventually found solace in the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic, leading Spain to a crushing 5-0 victory to secure the nation's fourth title.

In spite of his Australian Open and Davis Cup success, Nadal will see 2009 as a year he would rather forget, thanks to his fourth round loss at the French Open and his withdrawal from Wimbledon.

Nadal's form during the latter stages of last season in particular has many pundits believing his Australian Open defence lies in tatters.

However, a new season tends to bring renewed hope and confidence, and judging from Nadal's start to 2010, it seems the Spaniard is once again primed for a genuine assault on the first Grand Slam the year has to offer.