2012 Australian Open Final Odds, Free Picks, Tips and Predictions – Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic: The hottest rivalry in the tennis world will add another chapter Sunday, when Novak Djokovic faces Rafael Nadal in the finals of the Australian Open. The two players are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world rankings, and they are meeting in the finals of a Grand Slam event for the third consecutive time. Both players are fast, aggressive and emotional, and a fast-paced, intense match should be on tap. The hard, fast surface of the court will only add to the excitement and back-and-forth action.

Both players survived lengthy semifinal matches to reach Sunday’s championship match. Djokovic needed a late push to defeat fourth-seeded Andy Murray, while Nadal rallied from an opening set loss to knock off third-seeded Roger Federer. Fatigue could certainly be a factor, and since neither Djokovic nor Nadal has been 100 percent healthy for the tournament, it could come down to a last-man-standing type of finish for two players that both pride themselves on conditioning.

For their careers, Nadal holds a 16-13 edge on Djokovic. However, recent history is definitely on the “Joker’s” side. Djokovic has won six straight meetings with Nadal, including victories in the finals of the last two major tournaments. Djokovic has also won three of the last four Grand Slam events, dating back to his win in last year’s Australian Open. Djokovic has established himself as the premier hard court player in tennis today, and a victory Sunday would give him three titles in the Australian Open and five major championships in total. He certainly has to be the more confident player entering the match.

Of course, Nadal isn’t exactly going to be intimidated. He is tied for fifth all-time with 10 career Grand Slam titles. However, six of those have come via the French Open, and Wimbledon is the only other major tournament that he has won more than once. From a legacy standpoint, a victory Sunday would mean more for Nadal, cementing his status as an all-around great, rather than just a clay court master. Windows of greatness come and go quickly in tennis, and while Djokovic appears to just be entering his prime, Nadal will likely be fired up to capitalize on Sunday’s opportunity.

In many ways, the rivalry between Djokovic and Nadal has been eerily similar to the rivalry between Nadal and Federer. Federer spent his time on top, dominating all comers, including Nadal. However, Nadal eventually got over the hump, turning the tables and dominating Federer. Djokovic appears to be performing a similar role reversal with Nadal. He showed signs of surpassing Nadal at the end of the 2010 season, and he dominated Nadal last year. A victory Sunday would give Djokovic three straight against Nadal on the biggest stages in tennis. If that happens, it is safe to say the Djokovic Era has officially arrived.

While many finals offer a contrast in styles, that isn’t the case between these two players. With both Nadal and Djokovic playing fast and aggressive, it is tough not to side with Djokovic. He has owned him for the better part of a year, and more importantly, he is the only player that has been able to shake the confidence of Nadal. The body language and demeanor of Nadal doesn’t exude his normal confidence when Djokovic is standing across the court. Again, it is strikingly similar to the way Federer looks when taking on Nadal. It is possible that Nadal will get back over the hump and knock off Djokovic at some point. It just isn’t likely to happen in Djokovic’s best tournament when he is playing at the highest level of his career.

Prediction: Novak Djokovic Wins in 5 Sets



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