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Men's Australian Open final preview

By Chris Pike
26 January 2014 04:49PM EST

ORDINARILY having a rampant world No. 1 Spaniard Rafael Nadal taking on a Grand Slam final debutant might seem a foregone conclusion, but Stanislas Wawrinka is full of confidence and talent.

 By beating Novak Djokovic on the way to the final while Roger Federer bundled out Andy Murray and then in turn Nadal knocked out Federer, the order of recent years has been disturbed with a Grand Slam final not to be played between one of the combination of Nadal-Djokovic-Murray-Federer.

The last time that somebody outside of those four won a Grand Slam title was way back in 2009 when Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro was victorious at the US Open so Wawrinka will be looking to do something he has never done before, but also that nobody else has done in five years.

However, standing in Wawrinka's way is a world No. 1 Nadal who has previously won 13 Grand Slam titles and has been in dominant form right throughout this fortnight as the attempts to win the Australian Open for a second time.

Nadal and Wawrinka have played one another on 12 occasions previously with the Spaniard winning all 12 of those head-to-head battles.

Four of those matches were in 2013 with Wawrinka's best performance against Nadal coming in the last meeting at the season-ending World Tour Finals in London where the Spaniard won 7-5, 8-6 in two tie-break sets.

The pair's first ever meeting was in the third round of the 2007 Australian Open in what was their only Grand Slam clash up until last year at Roland Garros where Nadal won again in straight sets in the quarter finals.

Of concern for Wawrinka is that he has never been able to win a set off Nadal in 12 meetings with his best being able to force six tie-break sets, but he is now a vastly different player than in most of those matches and is in career-best form right now.

Nadal has beaten Bernard Tomic, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Gael Monfils, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer on his way to the Australian Open final.

The 27-year-old has dropped just the one set all the way through the tournament and that was t he first set in the quarter finals against 22-year-old Bulgarian Dimitrov.

Nadal can now equal Pete Sampras on 14 Grand Slam titles with victory but the Spaniard isn’t taking Wawrinka lightly.

"I saw him play against Novak. I saw him play against Berdych. He's playing great. I know him. He's a good friend, great guy. So happy for him that he's in the final. He deserve it. He's playing better and better every year," Nadal said.

"He's serving unbelievable. He's hitting the ball very strong from the baseline. Very, very quick. Is very difficult to play against him. I know will be a very, very tough match. If I am not able to play my best, I think I will not have chances because he's coming to this match with a lot of victories and playing great."

Nadal is also confident that he won't be bothered by his blistered left-hand and judging by his performance against Federer in the semi finals, he won't be.

"We made the tape a little bit smaller. That help me. Is true that making the tape smaller, I assume a little bit more risk that the tape can go. I don't know how many times I can change the tape during the match, because to change the tape I need the trainer. I need to wait at the end of the set, or if is an emergency that happen that the tape gone in that point," Nadal said.

"So I need the trainer in that moment. If that happen again, I don't know how the rules are, but is a little bit more risky. But the blister is good. Is not bad. Looks better every day. We are doing the right things. Blister today is not a problem any more for normal life. Is not painful.

"Problem is to play tennis. The only problem is the position of the blister, the place. Because if is in another place, I will no have problem because I don't feel pain today. Problem is to cover that blister in the position where that is."

Meanwhile, Wawrinka has continued his run of career-best form that began in 2013 and coincided with former world No. 2 Magnus Norman coming on board as his coach.

Wawrinka made stirring runs at both the Australian Open and US Open in 2013 only being stopped in five sets by Djokovic on both occasions as he made the first Grand Slam semi-final of his career in New York.

The 28-year-old has now become the No. 1 player from Switzerland for the first time by making the final replacing his good friend Federer.

Along the way to the Australian Open final, he has beaten Andrey Golubev, Alejandro Falla, Tommy Robredo, Djokovic and Tomas Berdych with the only sets he has dropped coming up against three-time defending champion Djokovic and world No. 7 Berdych.

Wawrinka would have loved his first Grand Slam final to be against compatriot Federer, but that wasn’t to be and now he is looking forward to the challenge of trying to beat Nadal for the first time ever on the biggest stage possible.

"For sure it will have been amazing to Roger in the final, to have an all Swiss final," Wawrinka said.

"But watch the match. I'm happy to play Rafa, you know. He's a really good friend. We practice a lot together. He's amazing champion. So it's going to be a great final for sure to play him.

"I think he's playing for sure some of his best tennis. Especially when you have to play night session here it's a little bit slower. He can really play his game and try to play aggressive. Yeah, I play him so many times, lost so many times, but going to try again. I know what I have to do: I know that I have to play aggressive, serve really well, and trying to always push him."

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