Australian Open Men’s Final: Novak Djokovic vs. Daniil Medvedev (TV: ESPN)
Sunday, February 21st 3:30 AM ET (ESPN) Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia
Match odds: Novak Djokovic -115 Daniil Medvedev -105
This year’s Australian Open has been full of intrigue, high level play and a myriad of surprises. No one could’ve predicted that Russian qualifier, Aslan Karatsev would reach the Semi-Finals and beat the likes of Diego Schwartzman, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov before ultimately losing to Novak Djokovic in 3 sets. It was an unbelievable run for Karatsev in his first Main Draw appearance in a Major. Karatsev has easy power, a great inside out forehand and is a good mover which should allow him to have continued success in future tournaments.
One aspect that has marred the play have been injuries, specifically abdominal injuries that have forced some top players to lose or not be able to continue playing. Matteo Berrettini was forced to withdraw from his Round of 16 match against Stefanos Tsitsipas because of an abdominal injury. Djokovic hurt his abdominal against Taylor Fritz, but has recovered and looks in top form going into the Final against Daniil Medvedev. Grigor Dimitrov aggravated his back during his Quarter-Final match against Aslan Karatsev which severely limited his abilities. Pablo Carreno-Busta retired during his match against Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem did not look right after playing a 5 set epic against Nick Kyrgios. Thiem lost his next match to Dimitrov in straight sets after giving everything physically against Kyrgios. Top players like Thiem, Dimitrov, Berrettini, Carreno-Busta and Djokovic being compromised by injuries has hurt the tournament.
Due of COVID-19, Australia imposed a quarantine on all players entering the country which didn’t allow the competitors to conduct their normal training routines. Because of the lack of adequate preparation in the lead up to the tournament, many players weren’t ready for the rigors of 5 set tennis and this lead to a fair number of injuries. Injuries haven’t effected the women as much because they play 3 set tennis which is less physically taxing.
Congratulations to Naomi Osaka for winning this year’s Australian Open and her 4th Major Title as her star continues to grow. With a power game and a great serve, Osaka is just beginning a very promising career. Osaka can control most points with precision placement and putting pressure on opponents by moving them around the court until they make an error or she comes up with a winner. Jennifer Brady did great in reaching the Final, but Osaka once again proved that she is the queen of the hardcourt.
The tennis world is still getting the Men’s Final that many predicted going into the Australian Open, despite difficulties with injuries and proper preparation. There is no other player that is playing better tennis than Daniil Medvedev and that includes Novak Djokovic. Medvedev, ranked 4th on the ATP Tour easily took care of two top 8 players in Andrey Rublev (8th) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (6th) in straight sets in his last 2 matches to reach the Final showing how high his level of play is at. Medvedev is 25 and 6’6, playing in his second Major Final previously losing a 5 set epic to Rafael Nadal in the 2019 US Open Final. Medvedev has no clear weakness other than his net game and has a terrific backhand and a great serve with 74 aces in 6 Australian Open matches.
Djokovic, the World Number 1 should look to draw Medvedev off the baseline and into the net to avoid long baseline rallies. The racket of Medvedev has full control and allows him to dictate points with great court coverage and mobility for such a tall player. Medvedev has a fluid swing and can contort his long limbs in order to make tough shots on the move. Medvedev is tough to break because of his amazing serving and is difficult to win easy games against on serve because his defensive instincts force his opponents into mistakes. Medvedev plays a lot of points down the middle of the court and can lull his opponents into a false sense of security before hitting a backhand down the line.
Djokovic is 33 and 6’2 and is the best returner in the game and will need to play mostly error free tennis to have a chance against Medvedev who just makes the game look so easy. Djokovic looked great in his last match against Karatsev and will need to be in a similar form for the Final and hit to the forehand side of Medvedev which is slightly weaker than his backhand. Djokovic is also serving well with 100 aces in 6 Australian Open matches and will need to win free points on his serve. However, Medvedev stands very far beyond the baseline on service returns making him one of the toughest players to ace and his long limbs and ability to adjust to the flight of the ball allow him to return serves that most players can’t.
This should be a great match with Djokovic looking to win his 18th Major Title and 9th Australian Open Title. Djokovic is the defending champion from last year and will compete with mental fortitude, excellent flexibility and agility in an attempt to topple Medvedev. Medvedev is on a 20 match winning streak on the ATP Tour and last lost in October of 2020. Medvedev beat Djokovic in 2 sets the last time they played at the ATP World Tour Finals in London en route to winning the tournament. Medvedev is in a great rhythm with his tennis game and seems to have figured out some of the pitfalls that have caused him to lose matches in the past. Djokovic has a 4-3 record against Medvedev going into the Australian Open Final. Expect Medvedev to win his first Major Title because of his unreal form and overcome Djokovic in the Final.