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Wawrinka looking forward to mission impossible

Twelve months after he missed the Australian Open because of injury, Rafael Nadal goes into today's final against Stanislas Wawrinka as the overwhelming favourite to win Grand Slam title No 14.

Victory over the Swiss would make him only the second man to win all four Grand Slam titles at least twice and complete an incredible year.

After seven months out with a serious knee injury, the Spaniard won 10 titles in 2013, including two more Grand Slams, in Paris and New York. And Nadal is determined to put the seal on his near-perfect year by adding a second Australian Open title, which would put him alongside Pete Sampras on the all-time list. "I've had some very emotional moments this year, especially because this is the Grand Slam that I have really had most problems in my career," Nadal said.

"In 2006, I didn't have the chance to play because of the injury to my feet, in 2010 I retired against Andy [Murray] because of a problem in the knee and in 2011, I didn't want to retire but I had a strained muscle in my leg in the third game of the match, and last year I didn't have a chance to play here.

"A lot of years I didn't have a chance to play in this tournament that I really love so much, with perfect conditions, so it is very special to have the chance to be in the final here again."

Nadal hit the heights in his straight-sets mauling of Roger Federer in the semi-finals, having struggled to get past Grigor Dim- itrov of Bulgaria the round before. Nadal simply wore down Federer with a relentless barrage of heavy hitting and equally stout defence.

Having won all 12 of his matches with Wawrinka - not even dropping a set - it is tempting to start engraving Nadal's name on the trophy, but the world No 1 is far cannier than that, terrified of letting any complacency creep into his game.

"When you play a Grand Slam final, that's a different kind of match than any I played against him in the past," Nadal said. "He's playing better than ever. He's a player that is ready to win against everybody today.

"I am really focused and know that I need to play like I did [against Federer]; if not I will not have a chance to win the final. I don't think if I play normal, I am going to win. I need to play my best."

Wawrinka spent part of his day off visiting the James Bond exhibition in Melbourne but perhaps Mission Impossible would have been more appropriate, given his record against Nadal.

But the Swiss is a new man, happy off the court and believing, perhaps for the first time, that he truly belongs at the highest level, as he showed in knocking out the defending champion, Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Even though he might have been better advised not to, Wawrinka watched the Nadal-Federer match but despite the world No 1's form, said he was still looking forward to his first Grand Slam final.

"I'm happy to play Rafa," he said. "He's a really good friend. We practice a lot together. He's an amazing champion so it's going to be a great final for sure, to play him.

"I played him so many times, lost so many times, but am going to try again. I know what I have to do. I know that I have to play aggressive, serve really well and try to always push him. We'll see how I can do that."

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