Nadal, Djokovic Renew Biggest Tennis Rivalry in Aussie Open Final

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Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met in the 2012 Australian Open final with Djokovic winning in five sets in five hours 53 minutes

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will renew their long-standing rivalry in an Australian Open final where both can create new records.

Djokovic is aiming for a record seventh men’s Melbourne title, while Nadal can become the first man in the Open era to win all the Grand Slams at least twice.

Today’s match will be an ATP record-extending 53rd meeting between them.

“It is the biggest rivalry we’ve seen in tennis history,” Australian former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash said.

The top two seeds meet at Melbourne Park for the first time since their epic five-set final in 2012, which Djokovic won with almost six hours on the clock.

The pair have produced some of the greatest matches, meeting in seven Grand Slam finals, five Grand Slam semi-finals and ne Olympic semi-final.

Djokovic, 31, leads their head-to-head 27-25, with eight victories in their past 10 matches – including their memorable 2018 Wimbledon semi-final five-setter which stretched over two days.

“I’ve played so many matches against him, epic matches on this court,” said the Serb. “I’m sure we’re going to have a good final.”

Spaniard Nadal, 32, said he was happy to have shared “very special moments” on court with Djokovic.

“We push each other to the limit of our tennis level,” he added. “Sunday (today) is going to be another episode.”

Djokovic set up the tantalising final with a comprehensive semi-final win over French 28th seed Lucas Pouille, which he described as one of his best performances in Melbourne.

Spain’s Nadal, meanwhile, has not dropped a set in his six matches here.

Whoever wins will move closer to Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 Grand Slam victories, although Australian great Rod Laver believes Djokovic is best placed to overhaul the Swiss.

Djokovic has won 14 majors after his Wimbledon and US Open victories last year, while Nadal has 17 after claiming the 2018 French Open.

“When you look at his age and form in winning the last two, I’d say Djokovic has the best chance of eclipsing Federer,” said 11-time Grand Slam singles champion Laver, 80.

Djokovic says beating Nadal at Wimbledon last year “mentally turned things around the most” for him.

Ranked outside the world’s top 20 earlier that year after elbow surgery, Djokovic beat Kevin Anderson in the final for his first Grand Slam title since the 2016 French Open.

He followed that by winning the US Open in September and reclaiming the world number one spot in November.

Nadal is playing in his first tournament since the US Open after injury problems and has been surprised by his level of performance in Melbourne.

“I am happy that I am competing that well that early. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “I felt myself playing well in practice before the tournament. Then you have to compete, see if you can make that happen in the competition.

“I am very happy to have that feeling again. Of course, it is a little bit surprising that it happens that early.”

Six-time champion Djokovic is tied with Australian great Roy Emerson and Federer in terms of all-time victories in Melbourne.