Face to face the two best players in the world on hard at the moment. This final will offer the much-awaited showdown, which will lead to an almost natural outcome, namely a 9th title for Djokovic in Melbourne, or an unprecedented winner, the first Grand Slam title in the career of Daniil Medvedev. In any case, this final seems to mark clearly the break of the hegemony of the Big 4 and the emergence of the new generation more and more pressing on its elders. The final of the 2020 edition had already marked a form of the first break in the domination of the Big 4 on the tennis planet. Dominic Thiem, 26 years old at the time of the final last year, was one of the finalists in the first Grand Slam of the season. A rare occurrence in the decade as only Marin Cilic, finalist in 2018, and Stan Wawrinka, winner in 2014, had achieved this "feat". Otherwise, since 2009, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray had booked all the seats in the final. In the continuity of 2020, the 2021 vintage reserved a similar scenario. Perhaps further undermining the historical record. Nadal hit his back before the tournament started. Djokovic with his wheezy abs, jostled by Tiafoe and Fritz in particular.
Medvedev, the 20th of maturity
Since his defeat in Vienna against Kevin Anderson, the Russian has not lost any more. A series of 20 consecutive victories punctuated by a title at the Masters 1000 in Paris and the Masters in London. Conceding only 7 sets in this series. Medvedev is clearly at the top of his game right now. He knows how to build on his strong points and manage his weaker moments even more. His two reference matches against Rublev and Tsitsipas are proof of this. Two players relying on the power of their shots but who hit a wall. Unable for the length of a match to overtake Gilles Cervara's pupil. Today, Daniil Medvedev seems to be the only one able to beat Djokovic on a fast surface. Or at least to resist him and push him into his entrenchments. But the Russian rider has shown some very rare weaknesses during the last fortnight. A real block against Krajinovic which he was able to rectify in the 5th set. Then an almost similar moment against Tsitsipas in the middle of the 3rd set. Twice where the machine got a bit jammed. But with the ability each time to rectify things in order to win. This kind of air hole will be to be avoided against Djokovic.
Djokovic, the taste of 100
13 years after his first title in Melbourne, the Serb once again showed his skills as world number 1 in the final of the Australian Open. In search of a 9th title in Melbourne, he has the significant advantage of never having lost a final on the Rod Laver Arena. Each final, each context is obviously different. But Djoko is at home in this arena. "I feel like I'm in my living room sometimes", he joked on the court after his victory against Tiafoe in the second round. An almost harmless sentence, also made to make the audience smile and try to rally to his cause the Australian fans who are not always fans of the character. On the occasion of this speech, the Serb also distilled a very personal little indication about the surface this year. Confirming his extreme speed. Which is rather good because Djokovic has worked a lot on his quality of service with Goran Ivanisevic, especially his first ball in a year and a half. "He has made it a decisive weapon today", said Justine Hénin when she commented on the Serb at the beginning of the tournament. Two weeks later, here he is at the top of the tournament's aces ranking. 100 in total! And overall well distributed over all his matches during the fortnight. He even slammed 2 more than Zverev (23 against 21) in their quarter-final confrontation. This is an important fact because the quality of service will be crucial in this final. But the Serb will find himself up against a high quality turner (28.40% of breaks on hard over the last year), a slightly better profile than Zverev (26.10%) but above all well above Fritz (23.5%) or Tiafoe (21.5%). Djokovic's abdominal injury is already far behind. The Serb has played his best match of the fortnight against Karatsev. The fate of this match seems to be in the Serb's racket who, when he plays at his best level, seems unbeatable, especially on this Rod Laver Arena. Will the Russian become the first Russian to succeed Marat Safin who won the title at Melbourne Park in 2005? Certainly, he has just beaten every active member of the top 10 in the last three months, but this time the match will be played in three winning sets. And so far, the Russian has failed hard to beat the world's top 5 (three defeats in three games against Djokovic, Thiem and Nadal). Has he really crossed a milestone or is the step still too high?
The moves to be attempted
Beyond the simple result, this final remains exciting in terms of the prognosis and the odds to be attempted. The surface is certainly very fast, but the two finalists are undoubtedly the two best turnovers of the circuit so far. Daniil Medvedev has only conceded 20 aces since the beginning of the tournament (of which only 6 against Pospisil for example). On his side, Novak Djokovic has been strangely much more relaxed with 103 aces conceded in total. But he played against players like Zverev, Raonic, Fritz and Tiafoe. There may be a move to play on an under 27,5 aces in the match or under 11,5 aces Djokovic. The Serb exploded his aces average during the tournament but with his quality of placement, long segments and eye, Medvedev is able to reduce the Serb's aces. He was seen against Tsitsipas moving back far behind his line. He ended up disgusting the Greek who then confessed at a press conference that he had not found the key to prevent Medvedev from returning. As far as the odds for the winner of the match are concerned, the bookmakers agreed on an almost perfect and logical tie. Leaving a very slight favourite status for Djokovic. Medvedev is in the shape of his life. Djokovic will rely on his experience and his past on the Rod Laver Arena. All the more so as the Serb doesn't seem to be in any physical discomfort anymore. If we have to play on a winner in this final, we might as well choose the winner with at least 4 sets in the match. The odds are immediately above 2.50. Given the level of play of both players, it is hard to imagine a victory for one of them in three sets.
Daniil Medvedev: " I like the fact that I don't have a lot of pressure because he has never lost in the 8 finals he has played here. He is the one who has all the pressure to get closer to Roger and Rafa in the race for the Grands Chelems. I just hope that I will show my best tennis during this final. As we have seen, I am capable of beating some of the big names if I play well. He has more experience but more things to lose than me. » Novak Djokovic: "I feel better and better in the tournament, physically and mentally. My serve is present in the crucial moments. I am happy to reach a peak at the right time. Medvedev is playing at a very high level. He is the guy who has been playing at the highest level for the last three or four months. He is on a big winning streak. He already played a Grand Slam final at the US Open two years ago. But I feel good on the ball, I feel good, I've had enough matches and training. Now it's a matter of gathering all the energy for the most important match of this tournament. »
Eye of Rodolphe Gilbert: I remember very well their duel here in Melbourne in 2019. Medvedev had tied the game during the first two sets and then finally broke down physically. Djokovic had been roughed up but at the time Medvedev was not yet Medvedev. He has been leading in the confrontations since then. This is the final of the two best players in the world at the moment. Medvedev seems untouchable. He exudes a serenity and solidity that is impressive. Djokovic has not been at his best at every moment but he has been able to raise his level of play when he had to, and to play with a round back when he was on the ropes. He was in great difficulty at times, on the verge of abandoning even against Fritz and then finally, after two matches, he has never served so well in his career. It's a crazy thing the number of winning points he has earned from his service. He was very solid against Karatsev. I'm still convinced that even Djokovic isn't very comfortable with the idea of playing Medvedev. He must also be wondering how to play him. I don't think Djokovic is happy to play the Russian. For the whole fortnight, Medvedev is above it. There were almost no flaws in his playing until the final. And this has been the case since Bercy. But in order to analyse this final, one must of course go beyond this fortnight. We can't put the favourite Russian in this match, not even 50/50. The Serb is the number one in the world, he has won this tournament 8 times, he has never lost in the final. He plays for a 9th crown and an 18th Slam. And the pre-match of this final reminds me of the 2019 final where Rafa was presented as the favourite after an impressive run while Djokovic was far from his best level. And then on the day of the final, Djokovic had crushed Nadal, almost to the surprise of everyone, because the Spaniard seemed to have reached his full potential during the fortnight. Djokovic is able to raise his level for this final. I'm expecting a lot of intensity, a lot of exchanges, a big fight, minimum 4 sets. The Serb will approach this final with a lot of confidence, a lot of references. He is the best hard court player in the world for 10 years who has been playing against the best hard court player in the world for three months. I wouldn't have put the odds at 50/50 and give so much weight to the form of the moment. There are other criteria to take into account and a lot of uncertainty about how Medvedev will manage the event. Maybe Djokovic will get through it but before imagining such a scenario, how can we discard the mental dimension of such a final and not consider Djokovic as the legitimate favourite for this final with all he has achieved over the last 10 years and this ongoing series of 35 consecutive hard court victories on hard court (ruling out this disqualification at the US Open)? I would have put Djokovic as the favourite of this match with a score around 1.70/1.75. Tactically, Djokovic knows that he has to draw Medvedev to the net. The Serb obviously has all the technical skills to do it. The variation of Djokovic's shots will also be very interesting and in particular the short and slightly soft balls in return that prevent the server from taking control of the exchange. In order to win, Medvedev will have to take a maximum of risks in his strikes to corner the Serb and conclude the points fairly quickly as he was able to do against Tsitsipas. But the quality of the Serb's movement is unique in the world. I know that Medvedev has just beaten Djokovic three times in four matches but this time it's a Grand Slam final at Melbourne Park... The situation is different, especially concerning Djokovic who only has the Grand Slams in the lead. Medvedev now seems to be the only player who can beat Djokovic. If he doesn't succeed, we shouldn't see the Serb with such high odds for a while...
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