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Australian Open Semifinals lopsided, but the Result is a Blockbuster final Between Djokovic and Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev rides a 20-match winning streak into the Australian Open final vs. defending champion Novak Djokovic. EPA-EFE/JAMES ROSS

By Ricky Dimon

For a Grand Slam final that isn’t Big 3 vs. Big 3, Sunday is as big as it gets.

It will be Novak Djokovic–going for his ninth Australian Open title and 18th slam title overall–against Daniil Medvedev–going for his first such triumph. And it will be, quite simply, by far the current two best players in the world.

There were a few hiccups along the way at Melbourne Park–a significant one for Djokovic and a minor one for Medvedev–but neither man had any trouble in his respective semifinal. Djokovic ended the improbable run of qualifier Aslan Karatsev with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 rout on Thursday night, and Medvedev followed suit 24 hours later by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.

Both players have reason to like their chances in the championship match.

Melbourne is Djokovic’s personal playground; he is 8-0 lifetime in Aussie Open finals. All systems are go for No. 9, too, following an abdominal injury scare earlier in the tournament. The top-seeded Serb needed five sets to get past Taylor Fritz in the third round after sustaining the injury in their third set, but he has since looked much better. Djokovic dropped only one set in each match against Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev before crushing Karatsev in the semis.

“I didn’t think that I [would] play without pain tonight,” he said on Thursday. “And I did play without pain, which is something that definitely surprised me in a positive way…. I’m just very pleased with the performance. It came at the right time–before (the) last match in a Grand Slam; couldn’t be a better timing for me to play my best tennis.

Novak Djokovic reacts after charging into his ninth Australian Open final. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

“I’m also happy that I have two days off now. Still recovery is the priority. Played enough tennis. I’m feeling great on the court.”

Nobody has been feeling better on the court than Medvedev over the past five months. Dating back to last fall, the fourth-ranked Russian is riding a 20-match winning streak that includes an unbelievable 12-0 record against top-10 opponents. He has won the Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals while also leading Russia to the ATP Cup trophy.

Medvedev has also played one five-setter in Melbourne, but his third-rounder against Filip Krajinovic never seemed in serious doubt despite a mid-match mental vacation. The 25-year-old, who proceeded to sweep the fifth 6-0, has otherwise not lost a single set.

He was in especially ruthless form against Tsitsipas, out-acing the Greek 17 to three and finishing with more than twice as many winners (46) as unforced errors (21).

One of those 46 winners was perhaps the shot of the tournament. And it was one that gave him a break late in the third set.

“I think I played better (against Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals), but (tonight) was definitely a great match, still,” Medvedev said in his post-match press conference. “I’m not saying it was a bad match at all. But it was a great match to win in straight sets, especially with a tough third one. (It) is a great achievement–second Grand Slam final. Only positives to take from this match.”

His first such final was an absolute thriller, a five-set loss to Rafael Nadal at the 2019 U.S. Open. His second one–also against a Big 3 all-time great–projects to be just as good.

“I think [Djokovic] is the favorite, because on eight occasions that he was here in the semis he won the tournament,” Medvedev noted. Me, I don’t know how you call it in English–(I’m) not an outsider, but I’m the challenger. The guy that (can) challenge the guy who was eight times in the final and won eight times. And I’m happy about it.”

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.