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Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal
This match is a blast from the past and historically significant. Federer and Nadal have only played twice since Roger switched racquets. Nadal won a straight set semifinal encounter at Rod Laver Arena in a 2014 Australian Open semifinal. Federer won a 3 set final at Basel in 2015. Obviously, the Australian Open semifinal match is more applicable given the surface is more or less identical to the one being used in this final. Yet, it was Roger’s first month with a new racquet.
Why I keep bringing up Roger’s new racquet is that if these two play an average point, Rafa’s lefty, heavy topspin game matches up well with Roger’s game. That generally allows Rafa to relax a bit knowing he can play his regular game and have an advantage. Federer tends to press a bit because he knows a regularly constructed point favors Rafa. Roger’s best chance at victory is to serve big and get a lot of free points. That type of match means “ordinary” points are less frequent and Roger’s need to employ extraordinary tactics during points is also less frequent. Also, predictable service holds may put some scoreboard pressure on Rafa.
I think Roger’s more forward looking tennis that he began adopting under Stefan Edberg, his new racquet that allows for bigger serving and easier volleying, and his generally positive attitude since his layoff all give him a better than normal chance versus Rafa. Nadal also seems to be ceding a lot of court positioning in his 6 wins. This could favor Roger.
Still, Pete Sampras went into the 2002 US Open final knowing exactly what he had to do to beat Andre Agassi. Rafa will enter this match with a similar match-up based confidence. Roger is 0-3 versus Rafa in Melbourne. Rafa has won 9 sets in these encounters, and Roger has won 3. I think this gives a clue to the result.
My Prediction: Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5