Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev will meet on Sunday in a blockbuster final at the 2021 Australian Open.
Phew, what a tournament for Djokovic! Nole seemed down and out when he strained his oblique muscle in the third round against Fritz, but after (barely) getting through that match, he slowly regained his rhythm and health. Nole put on a decent display in a 4 set win against Raonic (helped by the favorable matchup as well), played better in another 4 set win against Zverev, and looked his usual excellent self in the semis against Karatsev. Djokovic appears to be healthy coming into this match and he is playing some great tennis – no surprise here.
Medvedev obliterated Tsitsipas in the semifinals to get his 20th consecutive win on tour (!!), 12 of them against top 10 players! That is insane! The Russian’s form is absolutely terrifying and aside from losing two sets in the third round against Krajinovic, he won all his matches in straight. Demolishing Rublev and Tsitsipas was particularly impressive.
Djokovic leads the H2H 4-3 (3-2 on hard), but Medvedev is one of the few players on tour who has the style to trouble him. Daniil can force Novak to be more aggressive than usual, which is a bit out of his comfort zone – not by much, but in a game of small margins, it matters. Medvedev won the previous meeting two months ago, 6-3 6-3 at the World Tour finals.
I am going to back Medvedev here. I want to say that this is in no way some kind of “it’s time for the new generation” belief. No, I’m old and experienced enough to know how people have been losing since 2010 with this thinking against Roger, then Rafa, and soon it will happen against Nole. You generally don’t bet against these guys, not in Grand Slam finals.
Thing is, I think Medvedev is strong enough to enter this group, much like Murray was, and he is already doing it. I rate the Russian very highly. He has all the makings of a champion, particularly psychologically. I’ve been saying it since 2019.
Tens of wonderkids were dubbed to do it, but for me, for sure Medvedev is the one player which can finally stop the Rafa – Nole – Roger domination. Has it ALL.
His attitude in Cincinnati convinced me, and this week at #usopen, just wow! It`s like I`m seeing young Djokovic again
— Rostick Betdistrict (@betdistrict) September 3, 2019
Listen, Medvedev is playing lights out tennis, but I am not going to focus too much on that. I mean, playing lights out tennis is a minimum requirement if you want to beat Novak in an Australian Open final. And how many players seemed unstoppable in the last decade, before meeting Rafa / Roger / Nole in the advanced rounds of Grand Slams and suddenly didn’t look that good anymore? So playing fantastic is not a decisive argument, it’s just a basis on which to build with other arguments.
And, it must be said, despite his magnificent streak and incredible level of play, Daniil did show a moment of vulnerability in the semifinal against Tsitsipas. He was cruising, leading with a break in the third set, when suddenly Tsitsipas got a break point – and took it. And then almost went a break up! Medvedev showed his mental strength to recover and win the third set, but that moment showed there is no such thing as perfect tennis. In fact, I think if those 15 minutes didn’t happen, he would be a favorite in this final. Point is, we need more arguments for Medvedev than just his level of play.
And maybe the biggest one, for me, is Novak’s health. He looked better and better since suffering his injury in the third round, and in the semifinal against Karatsev there were no more signs of trouble. He is expected to be fine here. But will he be at 100%? And if he is, will he stay healthy if it goes the distance (grueling rallies are a guarantee), as it could well happpen? It’s fair to doubt that. After all, Nole didn’t show his absolute best tennis so far – maybe against Karatsev, but that was not a real challenge for the Djoker.
Novak absolutely needs to be at 100% to beat this version of Medvedev. He is facing a red hot opponent against whom he doesn’t have a favorable matchup. And an opponent who already proved has the mental capacity to compete with the big boys on the big stages. Remember, the Russian tied Nadal from 0-2 down in the 2019 US Open final, even though he lost in the end. Now he has more experience.
Medvedev has no fear and we can expect him to continue playing the same way. He will make Djokovic work and will ask him questions, as he often did in their meetings, forcing him to get out of his comfort zone and be a little more aggressive. If Novak is even 2% off his game, there will be trouble for the Serbian. The margins will be slim.
It’s hard to go against Novak in an Australian Open final (won 8 out of 8!), but Medvedev is the player with the best chance to end this streak, and the circumstances work in his favor. Prediction: Novak Djokovic – Daniil Medvedev 4-6 4-6 7-5 6-7.