Federer, Nadal each have something to prove in Australian Open final

January 31st, 2009 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Roger FedererMelbourne, Jan 31 (DPA) Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will play for history in Sunday’s men’s final at the Australian Open as the Swiss attempts to cement a record-levelling 14th Grand Slam singles title.”This is an unbelievable opportunity for me, not being number one anymore, trying to beat Number One in the world and getting the 14th Grand Slam,” Federer said.

But Nadal might bear the fitness burden after struggling for more than five hours before finally beating Fernando Verdasco in an elite-quality semi-final, which ended early Saturday.

The Spanish world number one could lift his first career Grand Slam trophy on hard court and his sixth overall to go with four at Roland Garros and his Wimbledon epic last summer over Federer on grass.

“I was a little bit unlucky,” Nadal said after his narrow win. “I don’t know how I’m gonna be for the final.

“I’ll try my best for sure to recover my body and my physical performance, but after one match like this - at 5:14 the longest ever played at the event - the next days you feel much heavier.”

Federer said that one less day of rest would make little difference for a top contender like the Spaniard:

“OK, he’s had a day less, but you have to be fit and recover - I think he will. His matches usually take longer than other matches because he takes his time out on the court. I don’t think he will be really affected Sunday.”

It was a light workout and an extra day of rest for Federer, who comes in trailing Nadal 6-12 overall and with Nadal winning the last four they played in 2008, including Paris and Wimbledon.

The Swiss thrashed Andy Roddick in the semi-final, then was able to put his feet up for a day devoted solely to training and a final polish.

“The stage is set for a great match,” Federer said. “I hope we can live up to this like we did in Wimbledon.

“I think it’s going to be a close match. He’s playing well, and he showed it throughout the tournament. Yesterday, his match was fantastic, so I’m looking forward to a great match and then hopefully equalling Pete’s record.”

The top pair in the game are meeting for the seventh time at a Grand Slam, last clashing in the five-set 2008 Wimbledon final, which ended in near-darkness.

“It is amazing to play another final of a Grand Slam,” said Nadal, 21-4 in Melbourne to the 47-6 of the Swiss, from whom he seized the number one ranking last August.

“It’s special to play against Federer in any match, but the first one for me in Australia is even more so,” he added. “For sure, Roger will be in much better performance physically than me for the final, but at the same time, I’ll try to be recover and play my best.”

Nadal will remain number one win or lose and Federer will be second. Nadal would become the first Spanish player to ever win Melbourne after five others failed.

Three-time champion Federer could become the fifth man in history to win four or more Australian Open titles after the six of Roy Emerson and four apiece for Andre Agassi, Ken Rosewall and Jack Crawford.

He owns a 13-4 record in Grand Slam finals, all four losses coming to Nadal in Paris and Wimbledon.

The Swiss is bidding for a 58th career title.

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