So far, in this year's Australian Open, everything is going according to schedule. The top four ranked players on the ATP schedule are all cruising through their early-round matches. With the exception of Roger Federer (who has yet to play his fourth-round match), the other top-ranked players are all through to the quarterfinals.
One player who has looked especially good is Rafael Nadal. After four matches, he's yet to lose a set or even be pushed into a tiebreak. This despite Nadal suffering an injury to his knee the day before the Open began. While sitting in a chair in his hotel room, Nadal felt a sharp pain in his knee when he went to stand. So far, despite having the knee heavily taped for protective purposes, Nadal hasn't shown any lingering effects from injury.
It certainly looks like Nadal will make the semifinals, where he would most likely play Roger Federer. However, it's his likely finals opponent that I'm most eager to see him play against. Novak Djokovic completely dominated the Spaniard in 2011, winning all seven of their matches. To add insult to injury, every one of their contests were in the Finals of either Grand Slams or ATP Masters tournaments. As a result, Nadal only won three titles in 2011, his lowest title total in a season since 2004.
Certainly, Djokovic has been on Nadal's mind, and he's looked to tweak his game in order to find an edge against the Serbian. Toward that goal, Nadal has added three grams of weight to the top end of his racquet. While this may not seem like much of a change, every little bit in tennis counts. Nadal believes that the extra weight will give him more power, which will help him against Djokovic (who, frankly, is the only guy on Your who has the agility, speed, and power to consistently beat Nadal) when he finally faces him.
It's been difficult to tell how the racquet is affecting his play so far this season, other than to say that it doesn't appear to be adversely affecting it. I would honestly expect the racquet to have the biggest effect in his (probable) upcoming match against Federer. However, even if Nadal's change to his racquet doesn't make much of a physical difference, it could make all the mental difference for him in the world. That, honestly, would be the real reason why he would eventually beat Djokovic.
Julie is an avid tennis fan who thinks tennis is in a golden age right now. She is greatly looking forward to the rest of the 2012 season.