Rafael Nadal: Breaking Down His Entire 2011 Australian Open Draw

Matt RudnitskyCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2011

Rafael Nadal: Breaking Down His Entire 2011 Australian Open Draw

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16:  Rafael Nadal of Spain stretches during a practice session ahead of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)
    Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

    Rafael Nadal opens at the 2011 Australian Open this year, looking to complete his Grand Slam.

    Former-Grand Slam winner Rod Laver noted that Nadal's accomplishment, while impressive, wouldn't technically be a Grand Slam, since it didn't occur in one calendar year.

    Rafa couldn't care less, but he'll have to get past Roger Federer (or Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray or one of the tour's other top players) to get it.

    It won't be easy, and here's a breakdown of Rafa's path to the final, starting in round one. And obviously his opponents are to be determined, but I'll give them based on my predictions.

First Round: Nadal Vs. Marcos Daniel

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09:  Rafael Nadal (R) of Spain shakes hands after victory in his second round match against Marcos Daniel of Brazilon Day 3 of the the AEGON Championships at Queen's Club on June 9, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskil
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The 13-year veteran journeyman isn't a bad player, ranked No. 93 in the world.

    But he'll be overmatched against Rafa.

    Prediction: Nadal: 6-3, 6-4, 6-3

Second Round: Nadal Vs. Daniel Gimeno-Traver

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    AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 10:  Santiago Giraldo of Colombia celebrates during his match against Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain on day one of the Heineken Open at ASB Tennis Centre on January 10, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Sandra Mu/Get
    Sandra Mu/Getty Images

    Another veteran journeyman, ranked No. 60.

    They've never played before, but Rafa shouldn't have much trouble here.

    Prediction: Nadal: 6-4. 7-5, 6-2

Third Round: Nadal Vs. No. 31 Feliciano Lopez

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    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10:  Feliciano Lopez of Spain plays a forehand in his/her match against Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during day two of the 2011 Medibank International at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre on January 10, 2011 in Sydney, Au
    Robert Gray/Getty Images

    Lopez is the No. 31 seed, and has had (relative) success against Nadal. He's a good player who is capable of getting hot.

    He has a 2-6 record against his fellow countryman, including a win last year at the Queen's Club warm-up tournament for Wimbledon.

    But in a major, I can't see Rafa losing here, or even dropping a set.

    Prediction: Nadal: 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-4

Round of 16: Nadal Vs. No. 15 Marin Cilic

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    PARIS - NOVEMBER 11: Marin Cilic of Croatia in action against Andy Murray of Great Britain  during Day Five of the ATP Masters Series Paris at the Palais Omnisports on November 11, 2010 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Now things start to get interesting.

    Nadal has a tough matchup against the hard-hitting, mercurial Croatian, who is capable of beating anyone on a good day.

    Cilic actually is 1-0 lifetime against Nadal, with a routine 6-1, 6-3 win in Beijing in 2009.  And Cilic is a much better player in 2011.

    I think Cilic can take a set off of Nadal, but he isn't consistent enough to win the match.

    Prediction: Nadal: 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5

Quarterfinals: Nadal Vs. No. 27 David Nalbandian

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    AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 15:  David Nalbandian of Argentina plays a forehand during the Men's Final match against David Ferrer of Spain on day six of the Heineken Open at ASB Tennis Centre on January 15, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Ha
    Hannah Johnston/Getty Images

    The Argentine is nowhere near a lock to make the quarters, but he's more talented than the No. 10 seed Mikhail Youzhny and if he plays up to his potential, this matchup will happen.

    Nalbandian is another uber-talented, but mercurial player, and you never know how he'll play.

    He's 2-2 lifetime against Nadal, and is definitely capable of pulling off the upset.

    But is he tough enough mentally to put a whole match together against a competitor like Nadal on a big stage like this?

    I doubt it.

    Prediction: Nadal: 6-4, 6-4, 6-2

Semifinals: Nadal Vs. No. 5 Andy Murray

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Andy Murray of Great Britain looks on during a practice session ahead of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    A guy like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is more than capable of getting here, but I'm not betting against Murray.

    Murray is 4-9 against Nadal, but did beat him in the US Open in 2008 and in last year's Australian Open quarterfinals. But in their last matchup in a major, Nadal won easily at Wimbledon.

    Their pretty even on this surface, but again, Nadal is just too tough mentally.

    Prediction: Nadal: 7-5, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5

Finals: Nadal Vs. No. 1 Federer

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16:  Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer enjoy the day during the 'Rally For Relief' charity exhibition match ahead of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Ju
    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Were you expecting anyone else?

    Nadal leads the series 14-8.

    And even though Nadal has owned Federer in majors lately, Roger always comes to play.

    But again, Rafa is just too good, and essentially doesn't have a weakness. Federer doesn't have much of one, but he can occasionally struggle with his backhand and hasn't been as dominant as he's aged.

    I have to go with Nadal here, but as always, it won't be easy.

    Prediction: Nadal: 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3

Who Has the Best Chance to Beat Nadal (outside of Federer)?

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 15:  Andy Murray of Great Britain looks on during a practice session ahead of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 15, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    If Nadal loses before the finals, it will likely come to Murray. Murray has choked in majors, but he's good enough to finally put it together and win it all in Australia.

    I don't see it happening, but it wouldn't be a huge shocker.

Dark Horse Player to Beat Nadal

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 14:  Robin Soderling of Switzerland hits a backhand shot during a practice session ahead of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Lucas Dawson/Getty Images)
    Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

    Outside of my projected opponents, Robin Soderling is the likeliest to take out Nadal.

    But I don't see him getting past Nalbandian, in a battle of two talented hard-hitters.

    If he does, though, he could give Nadal some trouble. He beat Rafa at Roland Garros in 2009.

What Do You Think?

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 16:  Rafael Nadal of Spaincelebrates a point during the 'Rally For Relief' charity exhibition match ahead of the 2011 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 16, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Ge
    Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

    What do you think?

    Can Rafa complete the (kind of) Grand Slam?

    If not, who will beat him? Federer?

    Voice your opinion in the comments.

    Matt Rudnitsky is a student at the University of Michigan and a Featured Columnist/writing intern at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mattrud