Nadal chases 14th Slam win in Aussie final
MELBOURNE - World number one Rafael Nadal will be chasing his 14th major title when he takes on Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open final later on Sunday.
Nadal will start his 19th Grand Slam final as hot favourite against first-timer Wawrinka, the fast-improving eighth seed who is set to replace Roger Federer as the Swiss number one.
The Spaniard will be bidding to tie Pete Sampras's career haul of 14 major titles and go joint second behind Federer's all-time record of 17. The final starts at 7:30 pm (0830 GMT).
Victory would make Nadal only the third man, after Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver, to have won each of the four Grand Slam titles twice.
And Nadal, at 27 years and 237 days, would also become the youngest man to win 14 Grand Slams, eclipsing Federer's corresponding feat at Roland Garros in 2009 by 66 days.
The top seed has yet to drop a set in 12 encounters with Wawrinka, who knocked over three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic and world number seven Tomas Berdych to reach the final.
Nadal again mastered his long-time rival Federer in the semi-finals to reach his third Australian final, after winning in 2009 and going down in a six-hour epic against Djokovic in 2012.
But the Spaniard won't be taking Wawrinka lightly in the final, saying that their past matches mean little in the context of a high-pressure major final.
"For me, if you play in a Grand Slam final that's a different kind of match than I played against him in the past," he said.
"He's playing better than ever. He's a player that is ready to win against everybody. If I don't play my best tennis, I am sure that he will win three sets against me."
But Nadal added: "I am moving quick. I am able to come back from difficult situations with great shots and am able to keep producing power on the shot from very difficult positions."
Wawrinka is playing the best tennis of his life, good enough to shock Djokovic and take him past close friend Federer in the new world rankings out next week.
While Wawrinka faces a tough task to grab his first ever win over Nadal in a Grand Slam final, the Swiss is confident of his ability under Swedish coach Magnus Norman.
Also in Wawrinka's favour is that Norman was the coach of Robin Soderling when the Swede upset Nadal at the 2009 French Open, the eight-time winner's last defeat at his favourite Grand Slam.
"I'm playing my best tennis here, I'm physically ready. I'm going to try everything. Before I beat Djokovic it was the same -- I had lost 14 times to him before that," said the 28-year-old.
"I'm always trying and I always think that I can change all the statistics, that's a positive."
The final has been a long time coming for Wawrinka, who has reached his first title match in his 36th Grand Slam. Nadal has a win-loss record of 13-5 in major finals.
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