Expect another epic when Big Two clash


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The Independent Online

If Novak Djokovic is wondering whether he can recover in time for tomorrow's final against Rafael Nadal, he needs only to look back to the example his opponent set here three years ago. In 2009, Nadal took more than five hours to beat Fernando Verdasco in his Friday night semi-final yet went on to beat Roger Federer two days later – in a final that lasted more than four and a quarter hours – to win the Australian Open for the first time.

There was a time when Djokovic's strength and stamina were frequently called into question, but the 24-year-old Serb proved once again with his five-set victory over Andy Murray that he can now go the distance as well as anyone. Given that Nadal is another marathon man, a long night can be expected.

Djokovic and Nadal will be meeting in their third Grand Slam final in succession. The Serb won in four sets at both Wimbledon and the US Open during a remarkable year in which he replaced the Spaniard at the top of the world rankings and won three Grand Slam titles, as well as seven other tournaments. Djokovic's only defeat in a Grand Slam event since the start of last year was against Federer in the French Open semi-finals.

Until last year, Djokovic had won only seven of his 23 meetings with Nadal, but in 2011 he beat the French Open champion six times in a row, all in finals. The Serb will be chasing his fifth Grand Slam victory and his third here, while Nadal is seeking his 11th Grand Slam title and his second Australian Open. Both men have phenomenal recent records at the highest level, Nadal having reached seven of the last eight Grand Slam finals and Djokovic five of the last six.