The pain of defeat is etched on Rafael Nadal’s face. AP Photo/Kin Cheung
The pain of defeat is etched on Rafael Nadal’s face. AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Big Australian Open call on Nadal

IT was the most one-sided loss Rafael Nadal has suffered in a grand slam to Novak Djokovic yet Nadal's former coach, his uncle Toni, maintains the gap between the two players is not that big.

The 6-3 6-2 6-3 rout took just over two hours to complete as Djokovic delivered a performance for the ages - that also served as a warning to the tennis world - as he chases four grand slam titles in a row when he arrives at Roland Garros in May.

The Serbian world No.1 even described the final performance as "a truly perfect match".

While giving credit to Djokovic, Toni Nadal insisted the perceived growing gap between Novak and Nadal and Roger Federer is not that big.

"I think the result of the final gave the feeling of a wider distance than, in fact, there is," Toni Nadal wrote on his website.

"Djokovic touched perfection and Rafael was less successful than in the rest of the tournament."

The reason he was less successful, Toni Nadal wrote, was the aggressive game plan he had enacted successfully against the rest of the men's field did not phase Djokovic.

Novak Djokovic celebrates his win in the final. Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty
Novak Djokovic celebrates his win in the final. Jonathan DiMaggio/Getty

Nor did Djokovic allow Nadal to impose his will as the world No.1 struck the harder blows first on almost every point - a trend Toni Nadal picked up on as he tipped his hat to the seven-time Australian Open champion.

"No objection can be made to Novak Djokovic's game in the final. Rather, I congratulate him on a level of tennis that is hard to beat," he added.

"From the beginning we saw an opponent ready to attack and play at a high speed.

"On many occasions, a good attack from my nephew served as food for a winning return of the Serbian.

"I do not know if there is a possible tactic against such an inspired opponent."

What was evident during the Sunday night final was Nadal - for one of the few times in his illustrious career - was at a complete loss to do anything to combat Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal stretches to make a return during the final. Picture: Getty Images
Rafael Nadal stretches to make a return during the final. Picture: Getty Images

The aggressive game plan he had used all tournament failed him, and when he tried to use more net clearance and spin Djokovic had an answer for that too - step in and club the ball hard.

But perhaps the best response would have been to go away from the new Carlos Moya-inspired game plan.

Shortening points and being more aggressive had suited Nadal throughout the tournament but against Djokovic maybe it should have been to grind and lengthen the points whenever possible, by hitting down the centre.

"Maybe I would have agreed to play more for the centre and try longer exchanges," Toni Nadal added, before continuing to question whether that would have been enough to change the result.

Whether Djokovic has now gone to another level and can maintain it throughout the season remains to be seen but so does whether Nadal can bounce back from what was a trouncing on one of the largest stages possible.

His uncle seems to think it is. Maybe Djokovic had the best day of his career on Sunday or maybe there is more to come. Only further match-ups throughout the year will tell.

News Corp Australia

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