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Saturday 28 January 2017 21:49 PM GMT
Tennis legends predict Federer v Nadal final
Tennis legends like Rod Laver and Martina Navratilova give their opinions on the Federer v Nadal Australian Open final. READ MORE

When Roger Federer takes on Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open final on Sunday, it will be the 35th time that the two men with the two highest Grand Slam title tallies have met. Nadal, at 30, five years younger than Federer, leads 23-11 and 6-2 in Grand Slam finals. 

It’s the first time they have met in a slam final since the 2011 French Open. It’s Federer’s first Grand Slam final since the 2015 US Open and Nadal’s first since the French Open of 2014. A win for Federer would give him 18 Grand Slams; if Nadal wins he will have 15.

Federer has had an extra day’s rest but Nadal has the head to head advantage? So who’s going to win? Some of the legends of the game shared their thoughts with reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

Martina Navratilova
I’d say it’s a 50-50 proposition. A lot of it depends how Rafa will feel after this very physical match against (Grigor) Dimitrov, much more physical than Roger had and Roger had an extra day to rest, which at this age, you’re very grateful for.

Rafa is younger than Roger but he plays a more physical game. Also the courts are faster, which is why Roger’s been playing so well and so easily, because he doesn’t have to think about it.

You can serve and volley, you can mix it up and be more aggressive. I’d give a slight edge to Roger because it’s a faster court and because Rafa played such a tough match. But if he’s physically 100 percent, I’d say it’s 50-50. 

Pat Rafter
I’d like to see Federer change a few things up in his game if he wants to beat Rafa. He needs to be slightly more aggressive. It all depends how these guys pull up. Sometimes having a two-day break is not great either, you sort of lose your momentum.

They could be both shattered. I’m pretty sure Roger hasn’t pulled up that well, not that I know, but Roger’s got to be sore, and Rafa, I hope he’s sore after last night. It’s a real toss of the coin, I don’t know.

John Newcombe
It’s incredible, after six months away, how Roger is playing this well. But it’s going to be a big ask because Roger’s game suits Rafa and if they get into baseline rallies, he probably loses 80 percent of them after it goes around 10 shots.

I think he’s got to serve-volley maybe 30 percent on his first serve, he’s got to use a lot of slice backhands, he’s got to keep changing up what he does.

I think Rafa thinks he can beat Roger – he never says he’s a better player than Roger – but he feels that his game matches up very well to Roger. That’s going to be a hard thing to overcome.

I give a slight edge to Rafa but if Roger’s physically OK it would be very silly to count him out. 

Lindsay Davenport

You look at the head to head and it’s Rafa and you look at the record in three out of five sets and it’s Rafa.

This court is so fast, Rod Laver is playing the fastest anyone can remember in years, Roger has the extra day’s rest – I think all of that is going to play into it.

Yes, Rafa came back in 2009, but he was so much younger then, it is harder to recover now. I’d give a slight edge to Roger just because of the other circumstances.

Rod Laver
They know each other’s game so well – you look at Nadal’s forehand whipped into Roger’s backhand. I know Roger said, I’ve got to do something, this was four or five years ago, so he got a larger-headed racket with a little bit more power in it and weight so now when this heavy topspin comes in, he won’t have to slice it as much.

Yes, it’s a good shot, slicing it, but it allows Nadal to get around it and be aggressive with that forehand a little more.

I think you’ll see Roger being pretty aggressive and now it’s a matter of does he get too involved with trying to win the points too quickly? If he serves well, maybe Roger has an edge, but I can’t go much further than that.

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