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Will bet on Rafael Nadal to win Australian Open if he doesn't have to play Novak Djokovic in the final: Paul Annacone

Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Australian Open
Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Australian Open
Modified 09 Jan 2021, 16:08 IST

Paul Annacone and Lindsay Davenport recently spoke about Rafael Nadal’s chances at the upcoming Australian Open. The Spaniard has a chance to break Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slams at the first Major of the year, and Annacone believes that Nadal can get the job done if he faces anyone other than Novak Djokovic in the final.

Paul Annacone and Lindsay Davenport both have pleasant memories of the Australian Open from their playing days. Annacone, a former coach of Roger Federer's, won the men’s double event in 1985, while Davenport won the women’s singles title in 2000.

Davenport of course has also been a World No. 1, with many more outstanding accomplishments in both singles and doubles to her name.

During a recent talk show on Tennis Channel, Annacone revealed that he ranks only Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer higher than Rafael Nadal on hardcourt. According to the American, Nadal is the favorite to win the title this year after the Serb.

"I think very simply, Rafa is just a little bit worse on hardcourt than Novak in particular and Roger as well on a faster hardcourt," Annacone said. "But everyone else I’d put him ahead of. If he plays Novak at the end of the tournament, I’m not betting on him. But if he plays anyone else I’ll bet on him. I think the biggest thing for Nadal is to get through the first week relatively comfortably." 
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the top favorites for the Australian Open according to Annacone
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the top favorites for the Australian Open according to Annacone

Roger Federer is, of course, not taking part in this year’s Australian Open. That undoubtedly boosts Nadal’s chances, but it is interesting to note that Annacone rates Rafael Nadal higher than Dominic Thiem on hardcourt.

The 57-year-old then explained why he thinks Rafael Nadal has won only one Australian Open title (2009) in his career. Annacone has given this matter a fair bit of thought in the past, and he believes that match practice - or the lack of it - is a big issue for Nadal at the start of the year.

According to the American, Rafael Nadal thrives with matches under his belt - which he normally has plenty of before the US Open. On the other hand, the Australian Open usually comes after a long break for the Spaniard.

"This is one of those questions right, that why hasn’t he won more there?" Annacone continued. "Four US Open, it's hardcourt down in Australia as well. And I’ve thought a lot about it, I think there’s a really fine line he needs between the right amount of matches and not too many matches. So when he starts the year in Australia, he’s coming off a long break, he gets a couple of matches, maybe the ATP Cup, here and there but by the time US Open comes around, he’s got a little bit of break after Wimbledon. He’s played three Majors already, so that works well for him."

It's been tough for Rafael Nadal to solve the Novak Djokovic puzzle in Australian conditions: Lindsay Davenport

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Lindsay Davenport believes that the conditions in Australia could have a say in how well Rafael Nadal fares at the opening Slam of the year.

According to the former champion, Rafael Nadal usually becomes a spent force by the time he reaches the final in Melbourne. As such, a superior hardcourt player like Novak Djokovic has little to no difficulty in beating him.

"I wonder though how important are the conditions in Australia, that surface has changed a lot over the last 10 or 12 years," Davenport said. "Some years it's really fast, other years it is a little slower. It just seems like when he gets to the end of the tournament and he has to face Novak Djokovic his body is held up. Novak’s a better hardcourt player in those conditions for whatever reason and it's been tough for Rafa to solve that." 
Published 09 Jan 2021, 16:08 IST
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