Australian Open 2016 Final Preview: Can Murray Break Through at Last?

As promised, I am back with a preview of the men’s final. I see Serena Williams lost to Angelique Kerber in the women’s final which just goes to show you how unpredictable tennis is. Did I just mention women’s tennis? Wow, that must be a first!

In all seriousness, I don’t follow women’s tennis but I think most people more-or-less had Williams as a lock for the title. She is basically like a Djokovic of the men’s side. It’s funny how everyone expected her to win the calender slam last year but then she lost in the US Open semis which meant Djokovic had a better year in the slams than her and overall.

Anyway, my point was that in tennis you just never know. I think many people basically have the Djoker as a lock for the title as well, but it is not a certainty at all. And not in the least because Murray has beaten Djokovic twice in slam finals before.

Of course, Djokovic is a better player now than he was in 2012-13, but it’s not like Murray goes into this slam final with Djokovic having never tasted victory before. That said, it doesn’t help his cause that he has only won one match against Djokovic since that last slam final victory at Wimbledon in 2013.

That victory came in the Canada Masters final last year. Sure it is best of three but it proved once again that Murray should not be underestimated. I just think the Plexicushion suits the Djoker’s game to a T and he feels very much at home in Melbourne.

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There is also more history up for grabs this year for Djokovic after he broke the record for most Australian Open titles in the open era last year. This time, he is after Roy Emerson’s amateur era record of six titles.

It certainly helps when there is one slam where you feel you are almost guaranteed to pick up a title each year if you are looking to rack up plenty of slams. Federer had Wimbledon and Nadal had the French Open.

If Djokovic can keep winning the Australian Open for a few more years and perhaps Wimbledon too where he seems awfully comfortable these days then he just needs to pick up the French and the US Open a few more times and he’d be well on his way to GOAThood.

But I am now getting way ahead of myself. Just winning the title tomorrow is a big enough challenge. Always first things first. If Djokovic loses tomorrow then all of a sudden he loses momentum. If there is one place he is expected to win the title it is in Melbourne and that creates its own pressure.

As far as the match goes, you better believe Murray will have a very specific game plan to try and unsettle Djokovic. From what I hear, his second serve has improved. It will be important for him to stay aggressive on his second serve and aggressive overall. But maybe most importantly he must not give any ‘business to his box‘ as Brad Gilbert puts it.

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Is Murray/Mauresmo a match for Djokovic/Becker?

If he starts doing that it will give Djokovic a mental boost and things will go south fast for him. Murray is very prone to yell obscenities at his box and from what I can remember the only coach who succeeded in making Murray relent from doing so was Lendl.

It should be no surprise then that he won his two slams while Lendl was coaching him. I stand corrected but I think Lendl is the one who ended that partnership which I thought back then already was a big blow to Murray.

But we will see what his behaviour is like in the final. Maybe he can somehow control himself. As for Djokovic, he will surely feel very confident after his beatdown of Federer in the first two sets especially. Just an extraordinary display of baseline mastery.

Federer didn’t know what hit him, and if Djokovic comes out playing like that again Muray will be in for a world of hurt. That would be difficult to do though and Murray provides a different challenge than Federer altogether.

It will be harder to end points against Murray, which means Djokovic will need to be more patient. It won’t be the spectacular tennis of the Djokerer semi-final, but it is nonetheless going to be an interesting game of chess from the baseline. I just saw this tweet from Brad Gilbert:

That pretty much sums it up. If Murray is to win the match it is basically imperative that he wins the first set. If he loses the first set the odds are heavily stacked against him and not only because of the stats.

After a five-setter with Raonic in the semis and one fewer day of rest, it becomes even more important for him to win the first set. So expect Djokovic to come out strong and really try to get that first set under the belt.

Who will win the 2016 Australian Open?

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  • Pre-Final Pressers

  • The Djoker

That accuracy   =D>

The is in your court.

Australian Open Day 12: Murray Survives Injured Raonic

Hi, folks. The second semi-final turned out to be a five-set affair with Murray surviving an injured Raonic 4-6, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2. I think Raonic got injured again toward the end of the fourth set at which point his movements seemed to be severely impaired.

That’s a real shame because he obviously works very hard to improve and this is now the second time in a short space of time that he has injury problems. Just as he is fully recovered and takes his game to a new level he gets injured again.

That must be extremely frustrating and I wish him a quick recovery. He had a real shot at winning this and judging from the scoreline he was winning before he got injured. That’s a shame in terms of the final matchup as well.

Murray is a worthy final opponent but the Djokoray rivalry is not a classic one because their playing styles are so similar. And we have seen these two meet in the Australian Open final three times before already. Djokovic won in four sets in 2013 and 2015 and in straights in 2011.

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They have also met in the semis in 2012 when Murray came the closest pushing Djokovic to five sets. So if Murray is gonna pull it off it will have to be a first but now he also had one fewer rest day than Djokovic and played a marathon against Raonic.

So it does look an awful lot like Djokovic will win a 6th Australian Open but nothing is ever certain in this sport. I will see what the deal is tomorrow and try to make a preview post. It is, after all, a slam final.

  • More on the Djokerer Rivalry

I already said the Djokerer semi-final was the real final to me. As usual, they put up a great show and it would have been more fitting if they met in the final but that’s how it goes. Murray had a very solid season last year and deserved the number two ranking.

Do you think Federer prefers to keep meeting Djokovic in slam semis in the future or in the finals? I don’t think it matters much for either player. They just want to win. But for the fans, it’s probably better if they meet in the final.

One wonders how long Federer can keep making the latter rounds of slams and challenge Djokovic. It’s extraordinary that he is doing it at 34. The problem for him is that there doesn’t seem to be any progress as far as defeating Djokovic goes.

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He keeps losing to Djokovic in four sets in slams and there is a big difference between losing in four sets to Djokovic and beating him. If it goes to five sets Djokovic is still easily the favorite. I do admire how Federer keeps coming back, though.

He has always been the eternal optimist and he will just keep coming back at him even if it means losing the next ten slam meetings. Of course, that won’t look very good in the head-to-head but other than that he doesn’t have much to lose.

All I know is Djokovic is not going anywhere. He is one determined individual and he won’t quit until he achieves what he set out to achieve.

  • Highlights

The is in your court.

Australian Open Day 11: Djokovic Pulls Ahead in the Head-to-Head With Federer After Masterclass

First of all, I’m sorry to the balanced Fedfans for another slam loss to Djokovic for Federer but you have an awful lot to be proud of Federer for.

By making the semis in Melbourne again this year and losing to Djokovic in four sets, he proved once again that he is still playing peak level tennis.

Not even in 2008 or 2011 could he win a set off Djokovic on Plexicushion.

  • Djokovic Rips Through First Two Sets with God-Like Tennis

That said, Djokovic’s level in the first two sets was so high that a drop in level was almost inevitable. Djokovic’s level already showed signs at the end of the second set of dropping.

He had two set points to breadstick Federer in the second set as well after doing so in the first set. On the first set point, Federer played the perfect attacking point and there was nothing Djokovic could do.

But on the second set point, Djokovic had a look at a second serve which came straight into his forehand but he drilled it into the net. Had he made that and won the second set 6-1 as well it would have been truly astonishing.

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But Federer held serve and Djokovic proceeded to hold serve to love himself to take a 6-1, 6-2 lead. The level of Djokovic in the first two sets was beyond belief. It was the same level he showed in the Doha final against Nadal and it resulted in the same scoreline.

One of the points of the match came at 3-1 in the second set and 15-0 on Federer serve. There was an extended baseline rally before Federer ripped a big inside out forehand. Djokovic somehow reached it and threw up an unbelievable defensive lob which sent Federer back to the baseline.

Another extended baseline rally ensued after which Djokovic hit an inside-out backhand winner. A soul-crushing point for Federer which allowed Djokovic to break again and go up 4-1.

Federer was simply a spectator. He had no say in the match whatsoever while he watched Djokovic picking him apart.

  • Federer Fights Back in the Third 

At the start of the third set Federer, at least, avoided another bakery product as he held serve to go up 2-1.

Then at 2-2 and 30-30 on Federer’s serve Djokovic hit one of the shots of the match when he chased down a very good pickup from Federer at the net and hit an angled crosscourt winner.

Breakpoint. He then had another look at a second serve, made a good return, but Federer hit a good stretch volley and Djokovic failed to pass him. It was only a half chance but still a chance for Djokovic and Federer went on to hold serve.

Having failed to take his half chance in that game, Djokovic proceeded to drop serve in the next game as Federer took a 4-2 lead. That sixth game was a monster game which went to several deuces and included one of the many points of the match where Federer chased down a drop volley from Djokovic that seemed out of reach and hit it for a crosscourt angled winner.

That shot right there was proof of Federer’s speed and how much his loss of footspeed has been exaggerated. That point and the one in the fourth set where he chased down the lob over his head and the volley from Djokovic to hit a backhand winner up the line tells me that Federer’s footwork and fitness have hardly declined at all.

Still don’t believe me? How about a quote from the man himself? His fans can keep on exaggerating his decline but I haven’t bought it for some time now and both the evidence and Federer’s own words contradict it repeatedly.

Back to the match, and Djokovic’s level had dropped and all of a sudden Federer was making a match of it. He started missing some returns and first serves which allowed Federer to breathe.

Not that he made it easy for Federer. With Federer serving for the third set at 5-3, there was still a marathon game which Federer did very well to win in the end. By now the crowd was losing their minds as you’d expect and the pressure was mounting on Djokovic.

  • Djokovic Inevitably Wins the Fourth Set

At the beginning of the fourth set and Djokovic serving Federer hit a lucky net cord which put him up 15-0. He then won the next point as well which put Djokovic under even more pressure at 0-30. This was a big chance for Federer to get the early break in the fourth set and really unleash the crowd.

But he failed to take advantage of his luck as Djokovic secured serve. Fast forward to 4-3 in favor of Djokovic after both players continued to hold serve. On the opening point of Federer’s service game, Djokovic hit anther one of the shots of the match when he hit a pass off balance with a continental grip on the forehand side.

Ominous signs for Federer. At 0-15, there was another great point which ended in Djokovic hitting a terrific backhand crosscourt pass. Now he had a real chance at 30-0. Federer won the next point at 15-30 after which there was another extraordinary point.

Djokovic missed two opportunities to finish the point at the net after which Federer made a brilliant backhand pass up the line. The crowd went nuts. I thought that might be a turning point in the match because Djokovic had no business losing that point.

But on the next point luck evened out as it was Djokovic’s turn to get a lucky net cord on a passing shot which set up break point. And when Djokovic gets lucky he makes it work for him as he crushed a second serve return to the feet of Federer which he couldn’t handle.

He had gotten the big break and went on to hold serve to love and turn the head-to-head in his favor 23-22 for the first time. After what I thought could be the turning point in the match Djokovic goes on to reel off the next six points to clinch the victory.

Like clockwork.

  • Final Thoughts

I’m not gonna lie. As a Djokovic fan, this is another very satisfying victory over the establishment. But again I just want to give credit to Federer and to the balanced Fedfans. You have stuck with your man and he has made you proud once again.

I thought after all the tough losses to Djokovic last year he could slump this year but he shook it off and came back strong and made the semis in Melbourne for an amazing 12th time. He has also made two finals and one semi in his last three slams.

Like I said, he has declined very little if at all and it is only Djokovic who prevents him from winning slams. Just extraordinary. Of course, the fact that Nadal is struggling is not hurting Federer but at age 34 what he is doing is unbelievable.

As for Djokovic, what more can you say? I had a feeling he may bring his level in the Doha final to the court today after two not-so-perfect matches, but I am superstitious and didn’t want to jinx.

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The way he came out and took control in the first two sets was together with the Doha final the highest level of tennis I have ever seen. Simply unplayable. Djokovic also matches up well against Federer.

The pace of Federer’s shots and offensive brand of tennis is certainly much more conducive to his game than the tennis disease that is Giles Simon. Djokovic’s movement, returns, backhand, and mental strength are the keys to his game.

Those are the areas in which he makes life very difficult for Federer. He neutralizes Federer’s biggest weapon, his serve, with his returns and he exploits Federer’s one-handed backhand with his own masterful backhand.

With his unbelievable movement and defense, he also makes Federer play the extra ball and neutralizes the best offensive game in the history of tennis. And last, but most importantly he is a mental monster who thrives under pressure.

  • The Rivalry

One wonders what the future of this great rivalry has in store. With this victory, Djokovic not only took the lead for the first time in the head-to-head but he leads the head-to-head in slams 9-6 and 3-1 in slam finals.

Since the beginning of 2015, he leads the head-to-head 6-3, having won all three slam meetings, the World Tour Finals final, the Rome final, and the Indian Wells final.

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Federer has won the Dubai final, the Cincinnati final, and the round-robin match at the World Tour Finals. It’s getting one-sided. Will Federer defeat Djokovic again and who can pose a serious threat to Djokovic in the coming years?

He looks utterly unstoppable but this is tennis and things change fast. He still has to win the final and although I said the winner of today’s match is 99% sure to win the title you just never know.

  • Semi-Final 2 Preview

This post has gotten too long so I won’t say much here other than the fact that Raonic and Murray are tied up 3-3 in the head-to-head and that I actually look forward quite a bit to this match. It’s a good matchup and Raonic will be looking to make his first slam final.

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I actually think he can do it. He already has that one Wimbledon semi-final in the bag so he won’t be overawed by the occasion. He has looked great since the start of the year and looks more driven and determined than ever.

Should be another cracker!

Who wins Semi-Final 2?

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  • Highlights

  • Hot Shot

  • Match Stats

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The is in your court.