Novak Djokovic can move to 17 grand slams if he beats Dominic Thiem in the Australian Open Final on Sunday. The Serbian’s eighth Australian Open would also move him back to the No.1 spot after Rafael Nadal lost in the quarter finals earlier in the week. Djokovic had dominated the head to head initially going 5-0 to begin with but Thiem has produced some stellar performances on clay as well as winning at the ATP Finals last year to make it a respectable 6-4 in Djokovic’s favour.
Djokovic recovered from a slow start to see off Roger Federer in straight sets, 7-6 6-4 6-3. Federer was struggling with a groin injury but the second seed avoided getting distracted, putting in a professional performance to ease through in the end. He hit 11 aces in the win and didn’t face a break point in the last two sets after some sloppy service games in the opener. “It wasn’t the right mindset at the beginning, because I was watching him and how he was moving early on, rather than executing my own shots. I managed to dig my way back and win the first set, which was obviously mentally important.” he said afterwards. The win saw him move to 8-0 in Australian Open semi final, an unbeaten record only bettered at any slam by Rafael Nadal and the French Open.
Thiem has been a different animal on hard courts over the past 12 months and his spot in the final has been well earned. Following a stunning win over Rafael Nadal, he backed that up with a 3-6 6-4 7-6 7-6 win against Alexander Zverev in the semi finals. That makes him 5-0 in tiebreaks over his last two matches, showing fearless play against two of the best players on the tour. Thiem has made considerable improvements on hard courts and credits his Indian Wells title last year with giving him the belief on the surface. “I really developed my game I think in the right direction. I got more aggressive on hard courts, started to serve smarter and to return better. That also gave me a lot of confidence for this new year and for Australia because I told myself, ‘If I can be in the finals in London, the [Nitto] ATP Finals, why not as well in a hard-court Slam?’ Since then I know that I’m also playing very well on the faster surfaces.” he said.
The Australian Open was dominated by Djokovic in the past decade with six titles for the Serbian between 2010 and 2019. “He always plays his best tennis in Australia since many, many years. So I’m expecting that as well in the final. All I can do is do my best, play great tennis again, and of course take a look at the past matches we had… try to repeat the good stuff that I did there.” Thiem said. The Austrian definitely has a live chance in this match and should be fully of confidence but whether he can keep it up for hours against Djokovic remains to be seen. When fully fit, the second seed has proven near unstoppable in Melbourne and will likely break down the Austrian’s groundsrokes over time.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in four sets