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Rafael Nadal dominated the sport in 2013 but the Spaniard hasn’t always enjoyed a huge amount of success down under. He won the Australian Open back in 2009, defeating Roger Federer in a thrilling five set final but since then his chances have often been blighted by injury.
Nadal came extremely close to winning a second title in Melbourne two years ago, when he lost to Novak Djokovic in one of the greatest matches of all time, an absolute classic which lasted over six hours and quite possibly pushed his fragile knee joints to their limit. Djokovic will once again be Nadal’s biggest challenger, having won this title for the past three years.
The Australian Open is dubbed the ‘Friendly Slam’ and the Serb has certainly made himself at home in Melbourne during the course of his career. He’s now won it four times, and three years in a row. when he’s in action on Rod Laver Arena under the roof, Djokovic is almost impossible to stop, such is the metronomic consistency of his ball striking.
However he’s the first person to warn against complacency and he knows that the Australian Open is one of the most unpredictable tournaments.
“From my personal experience, I like playing here because it’s after probably five, six, seven weeks of break with no official tournament,” Djokovic commented. “ So you get time to recover, regroup, recharge your batteries mentally, physically, try to get ready for the new season with four, five weeks of good practice. You come here fresh. You’re motivated and inspired to play some good tennis.”
“In my case, has been working well. This is my most successful Grand Slam. But this Grand Slam is also known for a lot of surprises, players who have been reaching the final stages who are not expected to, especially in the last six, seven years. We’ll see. We’ll see. The Australian Open always brings something interesting.”
Djokovic also says that he doesn’t think about the pressure of being defending champion heading into the tournament.
“I feel this is a point where everybody starts from the same line, so I don’t really put myself in a position to have more pressure than the others have, to be honest,” he explained.
“I’ve been faced with this particular kind of pressure, defending the title in major events, a few times. So I know how it feels like, what I need to do. As I said, I’m trying to keep it very simple, take it day to day, see how far I can go.”
Andy Murray will be looking to try and win the Australian Open for the first time in his career. Murray has been the tournament’s nearly man over the past few years, losing in the final on three occasions. Djokovic has thwarted him twice, most recently in the 2013 final. Murray started extremely strongly but ran out of steam towards the end and he’ll be hoping to finally solve the Australian Open puzzle in 2014.