Rafael Nadal finding it ‘tough’ to ‘solve’ the Novak Djokovic puzzle on Australian Open hard courts

Rafael Nadal in action

Rafael Nadal is yet to crack the Novak Djokovic riddle on the Australian Open hard courts, according to former WTA world No 1 Lindsay Davenport.

The duo met in the 2019 Australian Open final, but Djokovic destroyed his fierce rival 6–3, 6–2, 6–3 in just over two hours while their only other encounter in Melbourne Park was the 2012 final when Djokovic won a five-setter in five hours and 53 minutes.

The overall hard-court statistics are also overwhelmingly in favour of the Serb as he leads the head-to-head count 20-7.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal backed to continue their dominance of men’s tennis in 2021

Defending champion Djokovic will be gunning for a ninth title in Melbourne in February and many believe Nadal will again be his biggest challenger, but Davenport feels the Spaniard is yet to come up with a game plan to beat the world No 1 in Australia.

“I wonder though how important are the conditions in Australia, that surface has changed a lot over the last 10 or 12 years,” the three-time Grand Slam winner told Tennis Channel.

“Some years it’s really fast, other years it is a little slower. It just seems like when he gets to the end of the tournament and he has to face Novak Djokovic his body is held up. Novak’s a better hard-court player in those conditions for whatever reason and it’s been tough for Rafa to solve that.”

Renowned tennis coach Paul Annacone also admits that he won’t bet on Nadal to win the 2021 Australian Open should the 20-time Grand Slam winner face Djokovic at any stage.

“I think very simply, Rafa is just a little bit worse on hard court than Novak in particular and Roger [Federer] as well on a faster hard court,” he said. “But everyone else I’d put him ahead of. If he plays Novak at the end of the tournament, I’m not betting on him. But if he plays anyone else I’ll bet on him. I think the biggest thing for Nadal is to get through the first week relatively comfortably.”

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