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Rafa Slam is the buzz Down Under

sports Updated: Jan 15, 2011 23:14 IST

Agencies
Highlight Story

Even Roger Federer says he's excited to see if No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal can achieve the greatly hyped "Rafa Slam."

Nadal's quest to win his fourth consecutive Grand Slam at the Australian Open has shifted the spotlight from Federer, the once unstoppable Swiss who is defending champion but currently second place in his long rivalry with the muscled Spaniard. As the new season begins, it is Nadal's turn to chase history. The 24-year-old is bidding to become the first man in 42 years to win four straight Grand Slam tournaments, since Rod Laver achieved it in 1969.

"It's a very exciting Australian Open, to see if Rafa can do it," Federer soberly told a pre-tournament news conference. "If I get a chance, I hope I can stop him, obviously."

Nadal, on his part, been asked so many times about how it would feel to win a "Rafa Slam," he doesn't want to discuss it anymore. "I think is better if we continue with another question because for me, seriously, I can't answer this question," he said, adding that he was focused on winning the tournament and not making or breaking records.

War before the war
Fresh from a confidence-boosting win at the Qatar Open last week, Federer is vying for his fifth Australian Open title and his 17th Grand Slam singles victory. "My focus is purely on the Australian Open right now, and then I'll go for the rest after that," said Federer, who faces Lukas Lacko in the first round.

He shrugged off a question about whether all the attention on Nadal has stoked his desire to reclaim the top ranking. "Look, I think it's unbelievable what Rafa's been able to do. That in some ways makes him the favourite for this tournament," Federer said.

But Nadal strongly disagrees.

"No, for sure, No!" Nadal said when informed Federer had labelled him "the favourite."

"I for sure am feeling less favourite than him - and not more favourite than Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, these kind of players?" Nadal replied, referring to No. 3 Novak Djokovic, No. 4 Robin Soderling and No. 5 Andy Murray.

Confident starter
Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki Saturday insisted she deserves her top seeding at the Australian Open, despite becoming world number one without ever winning a Grand Slam title.

Wozniacki, the third woman to reach number one without a major trophy, said she has "nothing to prove" in Melbourne and did not feel any extra pressure.

"I don't feel I need to prove anything to anybody," she said. "You don't become number one winning small tournaments or doing bad results.

"You know, I'm a good player, I've done great results. I won six tournaments last year. I don't have to prove anything."

Sania advances
Sania Mirza overcame a fighting Vitalia Diatchenko in a tough three-setter to storm into the third and final round of women's singles qualifying event here today.

The 24th seed Indian scored a 6-4 6-7(9) 6-3 in one hour 46 minutes in the second round.

The 145th ranked Sania will next face Canada's Stephanie Dubois.