Renowned tennis coach Paul Annacone admits that he won’t bet on Rafa Nadal to win the 2021 Australian Open should he face Novak Djokovic at any stage of the tournament.
Defending champion Djokovic is aiming for his ninth title in Melbourne, meanwhile only one of Nadal's 20 Grand Slam titles has come at the Australian Open.
But Annacone, who is a former coach of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, believes this isn't a case of Nadal not being good enough, simply that his biggest rivals have always been better on the hard surface.
Speaking to the Tennis Channel, Annacone said: “I think very simply, Rafa is just a little bit worse on hard court than Novak in particular and Roger [Federer] as well on a faster hard court.
“But everyone else I’d put him ahead of. If he plays Novak at the end of the tournament, I’m not betting on him. But if he plays anyone else I’ll bet on him.
"I think the biggest thing for Nadal is to get through the first week relatively comfortably.”
Annacone's co-pundit and three-time Grand Slam winner Lindsey Davenport backed him up saying: “I wonder though how important are the conditions in Australia, that surface has changed a lot over the last 10 or 12 years.
“Some years it’s really fast, other years it is a little slower. It just seems like when he gets to the end of the tournament and he has to face Novak Djokovic his body is held up.
"Novak’s a better hard-court player in those conditions for whatever reason and it’s been tough for Rafa to solve that.”
For more exclusive content from Tennisbuzz, including news, features, trivia, promotions and more, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter below or via our home page.
Why not test your tennis knowledge by tackling one of our fiendish quizzes too?