MELBOURNE, Australia — All eyes will be on the Rod Laver Arena on Sunday as Novak Djokovic battles for the Australian Open title in the men’s singles (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App).
The two experienced an opposite path to the final at Melbourne Park. Jokovic, an eight-time Australian Open champion, reached the final two weeks ago. But after an exit in the third round from American Taylor Fritz, it was doubtful he would be able to continue his run to the 18th major title.
Since then, Djokovic has defeated Milos Raonic, Alexander Zverev and Aslan Karatsev with aplomb, and fears of a mysterious injury have faded.
Meanwhile, Medvedev continues his exciting career on the court, dominating everyone on his opponent’s line. The Russian has won 20 matches, including 11 against top-10 players. Medvedev is looking for his first major title and if he wins it this weekend in Melbourne, he will move up to second in the world rankings.
What are the keys to the finals? ESPN analysts Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert and Darren Cahill look at the match.
Misunderstanding. Film not specified.Novak Djokovic has experience on his side, but Daniel Medvedev has a final slam on his resume. AP Photo/Hamish Blair
McEnroe: I love the way Djokovic tried to turn things around and put pressure on Medvedev by saying that [Medvedev] is the player to win. Medvedev could only play one final, but it was a great match and he showed tremendous determination, courage and stamina to take it to five sets. Most of his tactics were also “on the court.” If Medvedev loses this match, I don’t think because he lacks experience in the final or because he has stage fright, but because Djokovic deprived him of the match.
Djokovic is 8-0 in Melbourne and Rafa is 13-0 in Paris. On those two courts combined, 21-0. So yes, experience is definitely important! The fact that he has never won a match in five sets is an important point for Medvedev. He was down 0-6 but won here at the beginning of his match against Filip Krajinovic. I think it was a big psychological moment for him when he won that match in five sets, and that is something he could have counted on in the final if he had come far.
Cahill: Experience plays a big role and I think Medvedev made that very clear after the final against Rafael Nadal at the US Open two years ago. It’s not that he made the wrong moves, it’s just that he lacked the experience at that time to be there. He lost two sets and played two great sets to come back before Nadal took it back and won. But now that he’s already in this position, he can look back and gain some more experience and not be afraid to quit when he gets the chance. That will help him. On the other hand, Novak has been there several times. For him, it’s second nature. For someone like Medvedev, it is not and he will have to step up.
How can Djokovic stop the strongest in tennis?
McEnroe: Djokovic has been fantastic in the last two matches and will continue to play his game, the same game he won eight titles with in Australia. He won’t worry too much about what Medvedev did to Tsitsipas, that was too inconsistent. Djokovic will not be so inconsistent, especially on this surface. Tactically, Djokovic is brilliant. He knows how to control the pace of the game, when to attack and when to play safe. The speed of the court also helps him get the most out of his serve. He knows what to do to get the job done.
Gilbert: It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Djokovic changes his tactics, because he lost three of the four matches he played against him. The only thing that’s hard to do against Medvedev, who runs like the wind, is that he’s hard to penetrate. I wouldn’t be surprised if Djokovic uses some more pieces and plays some more balls in the middle to get Medvedev to attack. By the way, Novak serves incredibly well. He had more aces than any other slam in this tournament. He can certainly earn a few free points on serve and attack on serve plus one, but I expect him to vary his pace.
Cahill: Novak goes to every tournament knowing that his tennis is better than anyone else’s, especially on the hardcourt courts here in Australia. He has nothing else to do and won’t be bothered by what he saw Friday night when Medvedev beat Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas fought hard with the ball around his kneecaps, and that was because of the way Medvedev hit his backhand – like a laser dart that has a bit of an undershoot as it goes through the net. It was a nightmare for Tsitsipas to dig the ball out with one hand, but that didn’t bother Novak, who has a double backhand and can handle the shot much more comfortably. Novak has the best performance of the match, so the games on Medvedev’s serve will not be so easy in the final. Novak will try to limit the number of unforced errors and test Medvedev’s legs to see if he can handle the physical load.
How will Medvedev overthrow the king?
Error. Movie non specified.Daniel Medvedev has won three of his last four matches against Novak Djokovic. AP Photo/Andy Brownbill
McEnroe: Medvedev has a very good combination of offense and defense and it will be crucial to find the balance in the final. His weakness probably lies on the court, as his volleyball game leaves a lot to be desired. If he is to succeed against Djokovic, he will need to score at the net, as the first game may be a problem for him. Medvedev’s first serve is also an important weapon, and we know that Djokovic is the best server in the game. It will be interesting to watch the dynamics during the match to see who is willing to take more risks.
Gilbert: Medvedev just knows how to handle Novak. He can go to the side, use his backhand and compete in these long rallies. It’s a recipe he likes and he will use it in the final. He also has to try to earn free points with his serve, which he did in the ATP final in London. If he can handle both, he definitely has a chance.
That’s the big question. The court is played faster than usual and Medvedev could earn some free points with his first serve. He needs to keep up the pace and be very aggressive on his second serve. Medvedev needs to get off to a good start, because Novak is a great leader and we saw at the 2019 Australian Open that the longer the match went on, the harder it was for Medvedev. Of course he is playing better now, but is he good enough to beat Novak?
Who will win and why?
Djokovic is the favorite, and rightfully so, but I think it’s time for Medvedev, and he plays the kind of game that can really confuse Djokovic. Medvedev is the closest to Djokovic in the sense that he can defend, manipulate his opponent and change the pace. That can even go to Djokovic’s head. I don’t know if this means a change in defense, but I’ll take Medvedev in four very tight sets.
Gilbert: Both guys will be well rested after the routine victories in the semifinals and hopefully we’ll get a classic in five sets. But I’m going for Djokovic in four sets because he’s 8-0 in the final of the Australian Open and he knows how to handle the occasion.
It will be like a women’s gambit match, a chess match between two very smart tennis players. I expect it to be physically incredible, and it will be in Novak’s favor. Even if all the sets are played in one hour and 45 minutes to two hours, the advantage will go to Novak after that. I’ll take Novak in four sets.
Frequently asked questions
Who won the men’s final at the 2021 Australian Open?
Novak Djokovic further cemented his reputation as one of the greatest tennis players of all time and the greatest champion of the Australian Open by winning his ninth career title in Melbourne with a 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 final.
Who beat Novak Djokovic in the singles final at the 2020 Australian Open?
The men’s final of the 2020 Australian Open: Novak Djokovic defeats Dominic Thiem 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to win the Australian Open title. The match ended in a decisive 5th set after a strong comeback by the Serb.
Who will play the men’s final at the Australian Open?
Australian Open Men’s final: Novak Djokovic v. Daniil Medvedev in figures. Novak Djokovic and Daniel Medvedev (No. 1 in the world) and Daniel Medvedev (No. 4 in the world) meet in the final of the Australian Open on ESPN at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
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