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Finally Melbourne Is The Happy Slam For Rafa

Melbourne, Australia

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is chasing his second Australian Open crown.

One year ago, Rafael Nadal could not have imagined the success the next 12 months would bring. Weeks away from a return to action after seven months on the sidelines with a knee injury, the Spaniard was forced to sit out the Australian Open, watching at home as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray extended their growing rivalry in the final.

But finally, Melbourne is the 'Happy Slam' for Nadal.

On Sunday, he will look to win his 14th major title, tying him in second place with Pete Sampras on the all-time leaders list. It would add to his Grand Slam titles won last season at Roland Garros (d. Ferrer) and the US Open (d. Djokovic) and bring him a second Australian Open crown at a venue where he has endured his fair share of heartache in the past decade.

Nadal won the Australian Open in 2009, beating Roger Federer in the final. Should he beat Stanislas Wawrinka on Sunday night, he would be the third man in history (Rod Laver, Roy Emerson) to win every Grand Slam singles title at least twice.

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“I’ve had very emotional moments on Rod Laver Arena in the past and [there have been] very emotional moments this year especially because it is the Grand Slam that I really had more problems with in my career,” said Nadal after beating Federer in Friday night’s semi-finals.

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“In 2006 I didn't have the chance to play [because of] the injury to my foot at the end of 2005 in Madrid. In 2010 it was against Andy [Murray] that I had to retire because of a problem in the knee. In 2011 I didn't want to retire but I had a strain on the muscle in my leg in the third game of the match. Last year I didn't have a chance to play here. 

“A lot of years I didn't have a chance to play in this tournament that I really love so much with the perfect conditions. So it is very special to have the chance to be in the final here again.”

MOST ALL-TIME GRAND SLAM FINAL APPEARANCES
Rank Player No. of Finals
1 Roger Federer 24
2 Ivan Lendl 19
Rafael Nadal 19
4 Pete Sampras 18
5 Rod Laver 17
6 Bjorn Borg 16
Ken Rosewall 16
8 Andre Agassi 15
Jimmy Connors 15
Roy Emerson 15
11 Bill Tilden 14
12 Jack Crawford 12
Novak Djokovic 12

The 27-year-old Nadal earned his spot in his 19th Grand Slam final, tying with Ivan Lendl in second place in the all-time list, after beating Federer for the 23rd time in 33 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. Nadal has not lost to Federer in a major since the 2007 Wimbledon final. But despite his strong record against the Swiss, it is always with caution and the utmost respect that Nadal takes the court against the 17-time Grand Slam champion.

“I go on court knowing that it is a really tough match and if I am not playing my best, I will not have the chance to win,” said Nadal. “Every time I go on court I know what I have to do, but I don't know if I will be able to do it or if he will give me the chance to play the way that I want to play. It is not a bad thing have doubts before the match.

“I played a lot of times against him, and a lot of times I played great against him. So probably that's why I had this success against him. But you never know when that will stop. Today I am happy that I am able to win against him again. 

“When I go on court against Roger, I go on court knowing that I am playing against a player that is unbelievable. I take every match like a different story. Sure, it helps the matches that I won against him in the past to make me feel confident in the way that I have to play, but that doesn't mean that I will have the chance to do it again.”

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