Fedex opens bid to halt Rafa Slam

Melbourne, Jan. 16: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have history against them as they strive to win the season's opening major at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

World number one Nadal is bidding to become the first man in 42 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously.

Nadal became only the seventh man in history — and the youngest at 24 in the Open era — to claim a career Grand Slam of the four major tournaments when he conquered Novak Djokovic in New York last September.

Nadal is reluctant to dwell on his chances of pulling off a ‘Rafa Slam’ over the next fortnight, especially as he is up against the all-time Grand Slam leader Federer.

Federer, supplanted by Nadal at the top of the rankings last June, is chasing his 17th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and has the weight of odds against him.

There have been only nine successful title defences at the Australian Open in the Open era (post-1968), the least of all four major tournaments.

In the women’s singles event, Belgium’s Kim Clijsters is the hot favourite to add the Australian Open to her US Open crown after five-time champion Serena Williams’ injury withdrawal opened the door to new contenders. Clijsters arrives in good form and will be desperate to atone for last year’s shock defeat to Nadia Petrova in the third round. Meanwhile, Henin’s comeback from retirement was derailed in June when she damaged ligaments in her right elbow in a fall and is now playing through her pain .

The glittering field features no fewer than seven Slam winners with Clijsters, Henin, Sharapova and Venus Williams joined by Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic and French Open champion Francesca Schiavone.

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