There are some hurdles in life, which no matter how harder you try, just seem to stop you from achieving your goals. If winning the French Open was such an enormous hurdle for the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, winning the Australian Open for the 2nd time in his career has been Rafael Nadal’s futile pursuit for quite a while now.
While the Spaniard tasted success at the Melbourne Park on his very first instance of reaching the final when he defeated his nemesis Federer in five scintillating sets back in 2009, the journey thereafter at the Rod Laver Arena has been full of agony, painful losses, and near misses. Even though Nadal managed to find a place in the finals on four more occasions in this decade, Melbourne hasn’t been his happy hunting ground as he has fallen short each time he tried to lay his hands on that coveted Norman Brookes trophy.
In both the 2012 and 2017 finals against Djokovic and Federer respectively, in spite of being in ascendance with the break of serve in the deciding set, the Spaniard faltered to relinquish control. Nadal, who approached Australian Open in 2017, 2018 and 2019 after a long injury lay-off in each of these years, however finds himself in the pink of his health and in sublime form in 2020. He is roaring to go down under.
With hard court title wins at the Rogers Cup and the US Open alongside a spectacular showdown at the Davis Cup where he guided his nation to the title triumph. The Spaniard couldn’t have asked for anything more in 2019 and would find himself in a positive state of mind as he aims to bring about a change in fortunes at the first Grand Slam of 2020.
Post Wimbledon 2019, Nadal has just suffered a solitary defeat against Alexander Zverev in the round-robin clash at the year-ending Nitto ATP Finals and his wins over Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas at Abu Dhabi at the back end of the year certainly places him as a strong favourite to win his 2nd Australian Open crown in 2020.
While Federer and Djokovic have shown glimpses of jaded-ness especially in the second half of the year, the World No.1 has found a way to keep going strong and has shown perseverance and character to bail himself out of the precarious situations to emerge victorious on number of occasions at the later stages of 2019.
Having won his 19th Major title at the US Open in 2019, Nadal is just one shy of Federer’s tally of 20 Grand Slam titles and at the upcoming Australian Open, he has a great chance to finally catch up with his arch-rival. While Federer and Djokovic too are strong contenders to triumph in Melbourne in the upcoming event, the Spaniard will be well aware of the stern tests the likes of young guns Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas can pose and this is what makes the Australian Open 2020 an interesting Grand Slam to look forward to.
Moreover, there is more at stake for Rafael Nadal at the upcoming Australian Open. If he wins the title, not only will he be on par with the Swiss maestro, but he will also become only the third man in the history of tennis after Rod Laver and Roy Emerson to win each of the four majors at least twice.
The way the US Open and Nitto ATP Finals 2019 have unfolded, one can say that the young generation seems to be ready to take the leap and one can expect them to win a Grand Slam sometime in 2020. But, as of now, given the fact that he is fit and having had a remarkable end to 2019, Nadal seems to be the hot favourite.
Can he tame his long time foes and the upbeat young stars to create history at the Australian Open 2020? Well, the captivating first Grand Slam of the decade awaits us with answers.Published 30 Dec 2019, 12:15 IST