Rafael Nadal will begin his quest for a 14th Grand Slam when he takes on local star Bernard Tomic in the first round of the Australian Open.
The Spanish star heads into the tournament as the number 1 seed and world number 1 not to mention favourite to claim a second open title.
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Nadal missed last year’s tournament through injury but won the competition in 2009 and played his part in the 2012 final when he lost to rival Novak Djokovic in the longest ever Grand Slam Final.
The 27 year old had a magnificent 2013 winning 75 of his 83 matches and claiming 10 titles including two grand slams, the French Open and the US open and he has started the 2014 season in similar fashion beating Lukas Rosol, Tobias Kamke, Erneste Gulbis, Peter Gojowczyk and Gael Monfils to lift the Qatar ExxonMobil Open crown.
Up against him is 21 year old German born Australian Tomic whose previous best in a grand slam came in the 2012 tournament when he made it to the fourth round.
The world number 52 has a bit a love hate relationship with the Australian public, following a string of controversies off the court, but he hopes to win them over by slaying the Spaniard, a prospect Tomic maintains is possible.
”I have to sort of, you know, stay patient and not lose my head too early, not go for broke and think you have to go for everything, because you really don’t” said Tomic
Adding, ‘‘He’s going to be very intimidating to play. You just have to stay with him. I mean, he is human. He does [make] mistakes, obviously not as much as the other players, but I’ve got to play very, very good tennis to have any chance.”
The pair have met before in the 2011 Australian Open when Nadal won in straight sets, although despite his ranking and previous success he expects a much tougher match this time round
“He has a big talent. He has a good serve. He’s able to play with very good control from the baseline. He has a very good talent on where you going to hit the ball. He’s a good player to start the tournament. To be through in that first round is because I’m ready to compete well “said Nadal.