By Alessandro Mastroluca & Ros Satar

  • Novak Djokovic [2] v Dominic Thiem [5]
  • Djokovic leads H2H 6-4
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Novak Djokovic bids to became the first player in the Open era to win a Grand Slam in three different decade. Dominic Thiem could be the first new major champion since 2014

 

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Novak Djokovic is looking to become the first man in the Open Era to win Grand Slam titles in three different decades. In the final, he will meet Dominic Thiem, aiming to become the first new Grand Slam men’s singles champion since Marin Cilic won his only major title to date at the 2014 US Open. Winning the title Thiem, assured to come back into the Top 4, will also become the 150th different Grand Slam men’s singles champion in history.

 

Novak Djokovic’s Path to the Final

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  • R1: Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6(5) 6-2 2-6 6-1
  • R2: Tatsuma Ito [WC] 6-1 6-4 6-2
  • R3: Yoshihito Nishioka 6-3 6-2 6-2
  • R4: Diego Schwartzman [14] 6-3 6-4 6-4
  • QF: Milos Raonic [32] 6-4 6-3 7-6(1)
  • SF: Roger Federer [3] 7-6(1) 6-4 6-3

Djokovic  is bidding to win his 8th Australian Open title and extend his all-time record for most men’s singles titles here. The Serbian aims to close the gap on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the top of the all-time list for most Grand Slam men’s singles titles. Djokovic aims to claim his 17th major title and the 78th Tour-level singles crown, moving ahead of John McEnroe in the 5th place on the Open Era list for most Tour-level triumphs.

Winning the title, Djokovic will extend to 13 straight tournaments the streak of Grand Slams won by the so-called ‘Big 3’ (consisting of Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal). The last player aged younger than 30 to win a major title was Andy Murray (aged 29 years 56 days) at 2016 Wimbledon.

Throughout the week, he showed notable progress on serve and that helped him to dictate play and shorten the points. It could become a crucial factor against the Austrian, who was able to out-muscle Nadal and Alexander Zverev in two consecutive battles.

 

Dominic Thiem’s Path to the final

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  • R1: Adrian Mannarino 6-3 7-5 6-2
  • R2: Alex Bolt [WC] 6-2 5-7 6-7(5) 6-1 6-2
  • R3: Taylor Fritz [29] 6-2 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4
  • R4: Gael Monfils [10] 6-2 6-4 6-4
  • QF: Rafael Nadal [1] 7-6(3) 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(6)
  • SF: Alexander Zverev [7] 3-6 6-4 7-6(3) 7-6(4)

Thiem will face Djokovic for the eleventh time, the first in a title-match. He won four of the last five meetings after his first victory at Roland Garros in June 2017. He also claimed their most-recent match on a hard court, in the round-robin stage at the ATP Finals last year.

Bidding to record his third Grand Slam match-win against the Serbian and become the third man to beat him at the Grand Slams on three or more occasions, the Austrian has already demonstrated enough stamina and character beating Nadal at his own game in the quarter-finals.

Having defeated No. 29 seed Taylor Fritz in the third round, No. 10 seed Gael Monfils in the round of 16, before beating Nadal and Zverev, Thiem aims to overcome five seeded players at a Grand Slam for the first time.

 

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The Britwatch Debate – Writers Ros Satar & Alessandro Mastroluca go head to head

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Alessandro Mastoluca: Three reasons why Dominic Thiem could win his first major title

He has a physical game

Thiem won three of his five titles in 2019 on hard court, including his first ATP Masters 1000 victory at Indian Wells. In Melbourne, he confirmed his improvements on this surface playing a physical game, winning all five tie-breaks against Nadal and Zverev. The Austrian, aiming to become the second player to beat both Djokovic and Nadal at the same major, after Stan Wawrinka here in 2014, he will need to step into the court and counter the Serbian’s dominance in the shorter rallies.

 

He looks ready to fight

One year ago, Thiem lost in the second round at Melbourne Park. At that point, he was known as an effective clay-court specialist. His maiden Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells, on a slow hard-court, made him believe in his chances on this surface. He won 62.3% of points lasting nine or more shots throughout the tournament but, at the same time, he clinched 23 of 27 net points during the semi-final against his friend Zverev. He seems to know how to absorb Djokovic’s pace and drill winners from behind the baseline, as Stan Wawrinka in his best version was able to do. And the Serbian can suffer against this kind of opponents.

 

Massu has an impact

Nicolas Massu has evidently changed Thiem’s approach on hard-courts. He looks more assured, his shots flows freely even after three or four hours. Extremely well trained, the Austrian has what it takes to become the next World No.1 in the future. Evidently, working with the Chilean something clicked in his game. He returns with his feet near the baseline, looks ready and eager to step in and take the initiative. His energetic style and his belief in the power of his legs made the difference. The importance of Massu in his psychological approach, however, can’t be underestimated.

 

 

Ros Satar: Three reasons why Djokovic will own Melbourne Park once more

Rod Laver Area is his wheelhouse

From winning his first Grand Slam title, and then virtually making it his home court, there is something about Australia that gels with Djokovic. He is supremely comfortable and enjoys solid support here from settled Serbians and it really does lift him.

It will feel like a home arena, for the man who has looked in supreme form this tournament.

 

He is still Mr Elastic

The years might be clocking on and these young whippersnappers might be coming up but Djokovic’s ability to reach balls others will only watch bounce out of their reach is what will break down Thiem’s game. His return game continues to be one of the best, if not the best on tour, and this is where he will make his mark.

 

He is coming for that all-time Slam record

OK so when Nadal snuck up on his 19th Slam title, just one away from Federer, Djokovic’s 16 titles may seem a long way off, but he is still very much in the mix and a win here puts him on a great track in 2020. Especially if we consider that Wimbledon’s Centre Court has proved to be every much a place of comfort as it has been for Federer.

In truth that is where the record chase will be at its most dangerous, but grabbing No. 17 here will keep the World No. 2 very much in the conversation, not to mention setting the bar very high for the younger chasing pack.

 

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