Novak Djokovic targets a record-extending eighth Australian Open title and a return to World No. 1 when he faces Dominic Thiem in the final on Sunday night.
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As much as I want a competitive final on Sunday night to close the 2020 Australian Open, I don’t think we’re going to see one – which speaks volumes to the level Djokovic is operating at, because Thiem has been extremely impressive in reaching his first hardcourt slam final over the last fortnight.
Furthermore, Thiem has beaten Djokovic in four of their last five meetings and has won three hardcourt titles over the last 12 months, while he also finished runner-up at the ATP Finals in November – beating the Serbian along the way.
But Djokovic is a different beast at Melbourne Park – and I also believe the 16-time major champion was far from his best in three of those four losses to Thiem, while it’s also important to note that the bulk of those matches were contested on clay.
Nobody has had more success at the Australian Open than Djokovic and the Serbian is looking as dominant as ever, coming into the final on the back of a 12-match winning streak dating back to the start of the ATP Cup. The names he’s beaten along the way: Daniil Medvedev, Rafael Nadal, Milos Raonic and Roger Federer. The combined sets he’s dropped against that quartet: one – against Medvedev in the ATP Cup in Sydney.
With his beefed up serve and return/defensive game as strong as its ever been, it’s basically impossible to bet against Djokovic – and I think he’ll be getting this done in straight sets.
Thiem has found himself in energy-sapping encounters in his last two matches just to make it to the final, spending a combined seven hours and 52 minutes on court against Nadal and Alexander Zverev. The Austrian has also been struggling with a virus throughout the tournament and was referencing his stomach at stages during his win over Zverev.
The World No. 5 has the firepower and weapons to do some damage, but I fear if he doesn’t win the first set, he could fall away both physically and mentally. Djokovic will know this and realise the significance of getting off to a good start – if he wins the opener, the chances of Thiem winning three of the next four sets is almost impossible.
The scary thing is Djokovic has another level to go to, like he did last year when he crushed Nadal in straight sets in the final – whereas I think we’ve seen the best Thiem has to offer, which is still ridiculously good, but probably not good enough for facing the seven-time champion.
Like Thiem said after beating Zverev, he’s been unlucky to run into the ‘Kings’ of the French Open and Australian Open in his three slam finals to date. Like I mentioned earlier, if Djokovic wins the first set, this could turn into a very one-sided victory for the Serbian.
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