Souped-up Rafael Nadal faces ultimate test in confident Novak Djokovic

Souped-up Rafael Nadal faces ultimate test in confident Novak Djokovic

Perhaps the volleys are a little stronger, after the spell in the middle of this decade when Boris Becker pushed him forward to the net. Essentially, though, he relies on purer mechanics from the back of the court than anybody else. Technique, willpower, speed and elasticity: there is no weakness to get stuck into.

To return to the ever-insightful Wilander, he was reluctant to call the outcome. “I’ve gone to finals with Rafa and Novak knowing who was going to win,” said the three-time Australian Open champion. 

“When Rafa was dominating there was no chance for Novak physically. And when Novak was dominating, tactically and technically there was no chance for Rafa.

“But we haven’t seen this match before, maybe ever,” Wilander added. 

“Rafa is playing way more aggressively and Novak is playing as well as he ever has. I think it’s going to come down to who dares to risk it more on the bigger points.”

It is almost unfair that we continue to expect great theatre from these men. Tennis’s biggest stars have spoilt us for years, and yet they continue to evolve, to make every face-off subtly different from the last.

Respect is due to the greats of history. But in this most traditional of pursuits, a sport that has used the same rules and format for more than a hundred years, we should appreciate the giants of the game while we can. In tennis, these are the best of times.

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