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Rafanole back in action

 Can Nick Kyrgios – tennis’ bad boy and the recent Hopman Cup hero – break through at the Australian Open?

Can Nick Kyrgios – tennis’ bad boy and the recent Hopman Cup hero – break through at the Australian Open?

Kicked footballs may have gone awry this past weekend, but at Doha it was business as usual as Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-2 to take the lead in their Rafanole rivalry 24 to 23.

This has always been the best rivalry in tennis – a battle of passionate baseline gladiators – but I fear at the moment it’s a long way from their marathon Australian Open slugfest of 2012. Here’s hoping Rafanole can return to form for this year’s Open, Jan. 18-31.

Meanwhile, an ailing Roger Federer lost to Milos Raonic in Brisbane, Stan Wawrinka was triumphant in India and saucy Aussie Nick Kyrgios – whom Andy Murray has challenged to break into the top 15 – secured the Hopman Cup for Australia in Perth.

So the stage, as they say, is set. Will Nole prevail again at the Open, often referred to as Noleland? Can Rafa up his game to be the Rafa of old? Will Feddy recover? Will Stan the Man take down Nole, or will one of the young guns – the wild and woolly Nick perhaps? – finally break through?

Only one thing is certain: We can’t wait.