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Michael Taylor 30th Jan 2009 - 17:13

Federer aided by lopsided semi-finals schedule

It may be a new year but it's the same old story as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer get another chance to showcase everything that is great about tennis - in the Australian Open final.

Ok, so it is no surprise these two men have battled their way through to yet another grand slam final and, despite all the pre-tournament talk of Andy Murray being the man to beat, few would have bet against a repeat of last year's French Open and Wimbledon finals.

The big questions that need answering now are; can Federer bounce back against his nemesis? And, what level of performance can Nadal produce following his five hour semi-final marathon against Fernando Verdasco?

Nadal cannot have failed to be shocked by his fellow Spaniard's showing in Friday's semi-final, as the man who conquered Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga nearly added the world number one's name to his growing résumé.

The five set thriller was undoubtedly the match of the tournament and nobody would have enjoyed it more than Federer, who had already booked his final appearance a day earlier with a resounding win over Andy Roddick.

The Fed-Express, barring a tricky five-setter against Tomas Berdych, has being living life comfortably in Melbourne and must have been delighted to see Nadal struggle to exert his authority over a big outsider.

Rafa's massive forehand was at times overshadowed by Verdasco, while unforced errors, rather than Nadal winners, were ultimately proved the downfall of the talented 14th seed. And, if you throw into the equation the tiredness factor that comes with playing on just a single day of rest after a gruelling match, the signs look bright for Federer.

With all this is mind, the 4/6 about a Federer win has to be the best bet (although 5/6 about Federer overcoming a -2.5 games handicap reaps bigger returns) while Nadal just didn't do enough in his semi to warrant backing him at 6/5.

Of course all of this is based on tournament form, and if you went on what is down on paper then you would have a very different outcome in mind.

On paper, Nadal has a huge advantage, with four consecutive victories while Federer went winless against his main competitor throughout 2008 - albeit Feds did comfortably win the last hard court meeting between the two back in 2007.

However, I think the head-to-head record book can be thrown out of the window on this occasion and the 3/1, in particular, about Federer winning 3-1 could prove great value.

The only issue about this is whether the lack competitive matches (except Berdych) will hinder Federer's chances and this will remain unseen until the big match on the Rod Laver Arena starts.

However, I'm sure if you asked the Swiss superstar what he'd prefer, a clean and easy route to the final or a tough string of qualifiers culminating with the longest match in Australian Open history, I think we know what his answer would be!

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