Nadal hopes his numbers add up as he chases Rafa Slam

January 15, 2011

TENNIS-OPEN/Fourteen days, seven matches, 21 winning sets and at least 126 winning games – that is all that is separating Rafael Nadal from pulling off the “Rafa Slam”.

It all looks simple enough in numbers but reality is that, and as many calculator-bashing accountants will acknowledge, it takes a lot of work to make sure all the numbers add up correctly.

It has been more than four decades since any man could boast holding all four grand slam titles at the same time and Nadal – the holder of the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open crowns — knows the next fortnight at the Australian Open is likely to be his one and only chance of winning four in a row.

“Maybe I only have this opportunity once in my career,” Nadal said over and over again on Saturday as he was asked the same question during a series of interviews on the eve of season’s first major.

Asked about his chances of achieving a feat that has even eluded his great rival Roger Federer, he replied: “I think it is almost impossible.

“Tennis is a very competitive sport and there is not a lot of difference between players.

“A lot of matches are decided between a few balls, so for that reason it is very difficult to have one player winning everything.”

Federer came within two sets of completing the “Roger Slam” at the French Open in 2006 and 2007 but those two sets seemed as far away as the Mia Space Station once his opponent, who else but Nadal, had found his target on the grinding clay. The Swiss was unceremoniously flattened into the red dust in both finals.

So what does it take to win four in a row in the men’s game?

Unfortunately for the Spaniard, there is no easy answer.

Only two men could have shared their secrets with Nadal but professional tennis circa 2011 is very different to the type of game played in 1938 and the 1960s when the late Don Budge and Australian great Rod Laver captured the calendar slam.

Budge and Laver triumphed when three of the four majors were played on grass and only a handful of players made the effort to play all four majors due to the logistics and the time it took to travel from one continent to another.

So if Nadal does lift the Norman Brookes Cup on Jan 30, he really will have gone where no man has gone before him.

PHOTO: Rafael Nadal serves during a training session at the Australian Open. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

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