Little wonder why Laver, Rosewall and Roche all favour Federer to take the “coin toss” encounter and match Pete Sampras’s all-time major tally.
While Newcombe disagrees, the trio believe Nadal’s five-and-a-quarter-hour semi-final triumph over fellow Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco – the longest Australian Open match in history finishing at 1.07am on Saturday – has given Federer a decisive edge.
“It’s going to be a great match to see these two guys battle on a surface that I haven’t seen them play much over the years,” Sampras said in an interview with The Associated Press.
By contrast, even in the best of times, Nadal plays a violent, physically demanding game. Then consider that he is coming off a five-hour semifinal classic against Fernando Verdasco that didn’t end until the wee hours of Saturday morning. It’s entirely possible he’ll have little in the proverbial tank and come out flat (in which case Federer owes Verdasco a case of wine). But apart from his youth, Nadal tends to rejuvenate quickly and his personal trainer, Rafael Maymo, specializes in recovery treatments.
“On hard courts he’s going to have a problem to dominate,” said Mats Wilander, one of three players to have won majors on all three surfaces, in an interview. “Guys can dominate him.”