Mats Wilander thinks Rafael Nadal is on a ‘mission for No. 21’ at the Australian Open, while Tim Henman claims Daniil Medvedev’s age gives him the upper hand.
The pair meet on Sunday as they fight it out for the 2022 edition as the season cranks into gear with its first Grand Slam event.
Nadal has 20 Grand Slams to his name, while current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic - who exited Australia in controversial circumstances - and Roger Federer are tied on the same number. Sunday’s match gives the Spaniard the chance to take the lead.
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Speaking to Eurosport ahead of the final, the seven-time Grand Slam winner suggested Nadal has the edge.
“The first reason I think is serving,” Wilander said. “He’s serving smart, he has a pretty high percentage, I think the faster courts and the lower bounce in the evening will be difficult for Medvedev to be standing that far back and for Rafa not to understand how to use this advantage.
“I think the other players haven’t done this. I think he knows when to serve and volley and when to hit the right serve at the right time.”
Wilander continued: “Medvedev serves better but I think somehow that’s going to be evened up. [Nadal’s] on a mission for No. 21 and I can't imagine Rafa thought he was going to get there first.
“He is going to do something that Novak should have done, beat Medvedev in the final and Rafa comes in, and he could be riding out with 21 majors.”
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Henman however pointed out that Medvedev has a 10-year age gap on the 35-year-old Nadal, and after a fortnight’s exertions, that puts the Russian at an advantage.
“I think firstly at the end of a two-week event, given Rafa’s lack of matchplay, I think the physical side of things, with Medvedev so much younger, I think that’s an advantage.
“I think with Rafa’s match against [Denis] Shapovalov, he had stomach cramps and lost about four kilos in weight. It’s been very tough for him physically.
“I think the physicality of their game styles plays into Medvedev’s hands. Medvedev will be more capable of producing great tennis and great movement if it goes into a very long match.”
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The former British No. 1 also thinks that discounting any question of fitness, the world No. 2 is simply the better player on hard courts.
Henman said: “Medvedev is the second best hard-court player. He’s the US Open champion. Rafa can play well on any surface but I think these hard-court conditions play into Medvedev’s hands, which is why I give him the slight edge tomorrow.”
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