2021 Australian Open: Preview of The Finals

Daniil Medvedev continued his domination of Stefanos Tsitsipas after a comprehensive straight sets win to register his 20th consecutive win and entered his second career grand slam final and now faces the ultimate challenge as he hopes to dethrone the eight time champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia who ended the Cinderella run of the Russian Qualifier Aslan Karatsev in the first semi-final.

The fourth seeded Medvedev, a runner up to Rafael Nadal at the 2019 U.S. Open final, has now beaten 12 top Ten opponents and will be bidding to join fellow Russians Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the 1999 champion, and Marat Safin, the 2005 champion. He is only the sixth active player after Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro to have a 20 match winning streak on tour. He won the Paris Indoor and the World Tour Final in London last November, and led Russia to a maiden ATP Cup win in Melbourne just before the Australian Open.

Medvedev got the all important break of serve in the fifth game of the first set and then broke twice in the second set. He got an early break in the opening game of the third set but Tsitsipas who had rallied from the brink of defeat trailing by two sets to the Spaniard Rafael Nadal fought back to break serve in the sixth game and raised hopes of a dramatic turnaround as he held break point chance to go 5-3 up in the third set. Medvedev held serve and survived a mini crisis at 0-30 down in the tenth game, but from there on raised his level to reel the next three games for a 6-4,6-2,7-5 win on the Rod Laver Arena. He hit 46 winners, won 49 out of 56 first serve points and had only 21 unforced errors improving his career head to head against the Greek opponent to 6-1.

In the first semi-final on Thursday the 114th ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev fought gamely against the defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic, who will now be aiming for his 18th career grand slam title on Sunday in what will be his 28th grand slam final. Djokovic got the all important break in the eighth game of the opening set and then broke twice in the second set but the Russian got one break back forcing Djokovic to serve out the second set for the second time in asking. The top seeded again got the early lead in the third set but Karatsev broke back to 2-2 only for Djokovic to win the last four games in his 6-3,6-4,6-2 win. Djokovic is now assured of breaking Roger Federer’s record of being the World number one for 311 weeks, (starting the week of March 8) as he is guaranteed to finish number one after Rafael Nadal’s exit at the hands of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

For the record Djokovic had 17 aces and 30 winners in his 6-3,6-4,6-2 win. The Serb has lost sets to Frances Tiafoe, Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev and was taken to five sets by the American Taylor Fritz in the third round now enjoys an extra day off before the final on Sunday. Karatsev, playing in only his 19th match on the ATP Tour is assured of breaking into the top 50 after after becoming the first player in Open Era to reach the semi final on grand slam debut. The Russian had good wins over the eight seeded Diego Schwartzman, 20th seeded Felix Auger-Alliasime against whom he came from two sets down, and the 20th seeded Grigor Dimitrov.

In the ladies section of the draw, the third seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan produced near flawless performance in her 6-3,6-4 win over the 10th seeded Serena Williams and now goes in as the firm favourite against the American Jennifer Brady who took out the gallant Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4,3-6,6-4 in the second semi final.

Osaka, winner of the Australian Open in 2019, also claimed the U.S. Open titles in 2018 and 2020, got off to a slow start as she dropped serve in the opening game of the match, but then never allowed Williams back in the match in her bid to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles. Brady, seeded 25th finally closed out her match on her fifth match point against Muchova to set up a rematch of the U.S. Open semi-final against Osaka which she lost in three sets.

Prediction -Women’s Singles

Osaka takes a 2-1 lead against the American into the final but like their last meeting at the U.S. Open will find the going tough. She is a perfect 3-0 in grand slam finals and should be able to secure her fourth title in two tight sets, maybe three.

Prediction – Men’s Final

Men’s Singles :- Djokovic leads Medvedev 4-3 in career meetings, but the Russian had won last three of his four meetings against the Serb including a 6-3,6-3 demolition job in the round robin stage at the World Tour Final in London in November 2020. Djokovic is a perfect 8-0 in finals at Melbourne but the Russian, riding a 20 match winning streak, has the experience of a grand slam final in which he lost to Rafael Nadal in five sets at the 2019 U.S. Open after trailing by two sets. I would pick him to win in four or five tough sets against the world number one.

– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@gmail.com]

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