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When Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer contested a classic Australian Open final in 2009, it appeared their rivalry was just about to take off. It was their seventh Grand Slam final meeting in 19 matches and the level of their play was so far above their rivals that many more clashes in slams seemed inevitable.

In fact their seven subsequent meetings have featured only one slam final battle, a French Open date last year that ended in the usual Nadal victory. Nadal's injury problems, Federer's gradual bowing to the effects of age and Novak Djokovic's unexpected improvement has combined to make their rivalry almost a thing of the past. Those looking at the Betfair Australian Open 2012 odds should remember this.

Djokovic has ensured that for the foreseeable future their slam meetings will come at the semi final stage and such a meeting in Melbourne next month truly would be a match befitting a final. Federer's stunning 6-3 6-0 victory over his old adversary at the Tour Finals in November proved him the man in form as the season ended and was a landmark result in their rivalry. The mens tennis betting reflect show the balance of power has slipped.

Nadal might lead the head-to-head record 17-9, but few of their meetings have been so one-sided. We should expect Federer to be the more confident player after that hammering, especially as he seems to be handling his place out of the limelight that Djokovic inhabits better than the Spaniard.

Nadal looked lost for ideas in his six straight losses against the Serb this year and this air of resignation returned against Federer in London. We might see Nadal start 2012 with different tactics, shelving the attritional approach that worked so well until Djokovic found a way to outlast him in rallies. If both men do attack from the outset, the next instalment of their rivalry could be as good as some of their classic matches.
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