Sunday, 29 January 2017

Roger v Rafa - who wins ?

The Men's Singles Final at the 2017 Australian Open sees a replay of the 2009 final between Switzerland's 17th seed Roger Federer and Spain's 9th seed Rafa Nadal.  The unexpected but highly popular showdown will be the 35th meeting between the two, with Rafa currently ahead 23-11.  It will be the 12th meeting at Grand Slam level, with Rafa leading at the moment 9-2 (6-2 in finals).  Rafa has beaten Roger each of the three times they have met in a match at the Australian Open, the last being the 2014 semi final.

For all of that, the prospects for both coming into the 2017 title match have to be rated fairly even.  Past records are based on past capacities and there can be no denying that both are playing at levels below their record breaking best.  Innate talent and determination still allow them to deliver output consistently above that of most of the current crop, especially when confronted with the special pressures and demands of a Grand Slam tournament.

Based on what I've seen throughout the tournament,  Nadal has had to deal with the fiercest opposition, both in terms of quality and numbers.  He dealt with the big serving of Alexander Zverev in a high standard contest, then later dispatched a real contender in another big server Milos Raonic, proving again that his return of serve still poses concerns to rivals.  And the most in form player of the summer, Grigor Dimitrov, gave Nadal a five set preview of some of what to expect in the final.  Nadal had resources to draw on to quell Dimitrov in a terrific match.

Federer was always beating Nishikori, but teased him into a fifth set, and the real quarter final against Murray never eventuated.  Berdych and Mischa Zverev were mismatches.
The win against Wawrinka was his best, but he wouldn't want to let Nadal back if two sets up.  The key to the win over Stan was the fight, because it appeared that Wawrinka had the momentum and the shot making to go on and take the match.
Rafa should win based on form, but that doesn't always work, and either way the win will create more history.

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