Rafael Nadal unfazed by advantage call ahead of Australian Open final
RAFAEL Nadal has dismissed claims from the coach of Novak Djokovic that he has been gifted an unfair advantage heading into tonight's Australian Open final by having an extra day's rest.
While Djokovic was slugging it out with Andy Murray in Friday night’s semi-final lasting just shy of five hours on Friday night, the Spaniard was relaxing in his hotel room given his progression through to the final a night earlier.
It prompted Djokovic's coach, Marian Vajda, to question the scheduling of the semi-finals but Nadal pointed to his own victory in Melbourne in 2009 as a reason why fatigue will matter little in the final.
Nadal was stretched to the limit in a five-set semi final against compatriot Fernando Verdasco in 2009 but still ran over the top of Roger Federer, who played on the Thursday, in another epic.
"That's what it is. (In) 2009 I played longer than him in the semi finals. I played more than five hours at very high intensity, too," he said.
"I had only one day and Federer had two. I was recovered for the final, so I think you can say it's unfair, yes, but not crazy unfair."
He said the Australian Open's scheduling of matches was preferable to the US Open, where the two men's semi-finals and women's decider are played on Super Saturday.
"(What is ) really unfair is the US Open when you don't have day off between the semi-finals and final," he said.
"If the match of yesterday happened in the US Open and the other semi-final is in straight sets, you are in big trouble for the finals. (But) having one day off, I believe you are not in big trouble."
Djokovic, for his part, planned to spend most of yesterday sleeping following a battle that stretched past midnight but is confident of producing his best against Nadal.
"I think that's going to be crucial, you know, for me to recover and to be able to perform my best, because Rafa is fit," he said.
"He's been playing well. He had an extra day. He definitely wants to win this title.
"But I have been in similar situations, let's say, before where I had the long matches and I'm supposed to play, like, for example, a couple years back with Roger I had a very long match and then the next day I was supposed to play finals."
The mental battle between both players looms as one of the more intriguing factors in the final. Djokovic, of course, has looked exhausted at different stages during his past two wins over Murray and David Ferrer yet somehow found a way through while Nadal enters the match knowing he lost all six finals he played against the Serb last year.
Nadal scoffed at suggestions Djokovic, who is battling an allergy problem he claims has hindered his breathing, is impaired by the problem.
"It's funny. I saw the match yesterday on the TV ... when he was in the fifth set moving fantastically well and they show images from two hours fifty before and seems like he was destroyed," he said.
"Two hours fifty later he was in perfect condition, so is difficult to imagine that he has these problems."
Djokovic said he was not the only player who has struggled with the issue in Melbourne this year.
"I've been trying to do everything possible to clear that out," he said.
"But, you know, we are all surrounded with the flowers. It's really difficult to take that away. But still, you know, I mean, no excuses."
Nonetheless, Djokovic's dominance last year has prompted a change for Nadal, who has added extra weight to his racket in a bid to increase the power on his ground strokes.
"I am trying to play a little bit more aggressive and hit more winners," he said.
"I didn't practice a lot with that so I need time to play with this aggressive plan during all the match. Probably I need a few more months and tournaments but I am happy how I am doing.
"I need to play a little bit better, in my opinion, to have chances, but I am happy about how I am doing. I think I'm in the right way to compete against the top players of the world. I did it here winning against the No. 6, against the No. 3."
Djokovic, who will defend a grand slam title for the first time of his career if successful, has no doubt Nadal is at the peak of his form given his effort to defeat Federer.
"It was an incredible effort from Rafa to come back," he said.
"(He hit) some incredible passing shots. That's why he's a champion. That's why he's one of the best players to ever play this game. He's never giving up. He has a fighting spirit. He has very few weaknesses."