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2019 Australian Open: Men's final preview

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Roar Guru
25th January, 2019
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The stage is set for what promises to be a climactic end to this year’s Australian Open, with the world’s top two players, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, to duke it out for history in tomorrow night’s men’s final.

It will be a rematch of the classic 2012 final, which Djokovic won in five sets over the course of just under six hours – with the match not ending until just after 1:30am local time.

That match will forever go down in tennis history as being one of the greatest matches ever played, as both men, ranked first and second in the world respectively (as will be the case again in 2019), put on a fantastic display that was commended by tennis experts worldwide.

Mow, seven years on, the two men will be at it again in tomorrow night’s championship showdown, with a lot of history at stake for either player.

In one corner, you have Djokovic, who has climbed back up the rankings after an elbow injury saw him briefly drop out of the top 20 last year, and is aiming to become the first man to win seven Australian Open titles.

He also has an unblemished record in six previous finals at Melbourne Park, including defeating Nadal in the aforementioned 2012 final and defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win his first Major here in 2008.

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In the other, you have Nadal, who will be attempting to become the first man in the Open Era to complete a double career Grand Slam, having won the other three Majors at least twice but only been able to salute here once, in 2009.

He could have won up to another three Australian Open titles had he; consolidated his 4-2 lead in the final set against Djokovic in the 2012 final, not underestimated Stan Wawrinka, an opponent whom he hadn’t lost to in twelve previous meetings, in the 2014 final, or consolidated his 3-1 lead in the final set against Roger Federer in the 2017 final.

On paper, the Spaniard is the hot favourite, having not dropped a set in six lead-up matches and making a mockery of next-gen players including Alex de Minaur, Frances Tiafoe and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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He couldn’t have performed more impressively than he did in the semi-final against Tsitsipas as he brutally exposed the gap between the game’s best and the up-and-comers.

Now, only one major hurdle is left in his path to a second Australian Open title – Novak Djokovic and his 6-0 record in finals at Melbourne Park.

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The top seed won his first two matches in straight sets, but then dropped one set in each of his third and fourth round matches against Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev, respectively.

The Djoker was then barely forced to sweat in his next two matches, with Nishikori retiring at 6-1, 4-1 in the quarter-final and Lucas Pouille proving no match in the semi-final, which was over by just after 9:00pm local time.

And so, the 53rd installment of tennis’ greatest modern-day rivalry promises to be another epic – in the words of Anthony Hudson, will the sequel (2019) be as good as the original (2012)?

Here is everything you need to know ahead of tomorrow night’s Australian Open men’s final.

[1] Novak Djokovc (SRB) versus [2] Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Sunday, January 27
Not before 7:30pm (AEDT)
Rod Laver Arena

Head-to-head
All matches: Djokovic 27-25
At the Grand Slams: Nadal 9-5
All finals: Djokovic 14-10
All Grand Slam finals: Nadal 4-3
At the Australian Open: Djokovic 1-0

Novak Djokovic’s road to the final
Round 1: defeated Mitchell Kreuger (USA) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
Round 2: defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-3, 7-5, 6-4
Round 3: defeated [25] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0
Round 4: defeated [15] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-3
Quarter-final: defeated [8] Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-1, 4-1 ret.
Semi-final: defeated [28] Lucas Pouille (FRA) 6-0, 6-2, 6-2

Rafael Nadal’s road to the final
Round 1: defeated James Duckworth (AUS) 6-4, 6-3, 7-5
Round 2: defeated Matt Ebden (AUS) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
Round 3: defeated [27] Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-1, 6-2, 6-4
Round 4: defeated Tomas Berdych (CZE) 6-0, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4)
Quarter-final: defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
Semi-final: defeated [14] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 6-2, 6-4, 6-0

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The stats that matter

  • This will be Novak Djokovic’s 24th Grand Slam final (14-9) and Rafael Nadal’s 25th (17-7); at the Australian Open, this will be their seventh (6-0) and fifth (1-3) finals respectively.
  • This will be the 53rd overall meeting between the two men (Djokovic leads 27-25); their fifteenth at Grand Slam level (Nadal 9-5), 25th in a final (Djokovic 14-10), eighth in a Major final (Nadal 4-3) but just their second at the Australian Open (Djokovic 1-0).
  • This is the first one versus two final at Melbourne Park since 2016, but just the eighth overall.
  • This is the first Grand Slam final between Djokovic and Nadal since the 2014 French Open.
  • This is the second Australian Open men’s final in three years in which both players are over the age of 30. The 2017 final between Roger Federer and Nadal was the other.
  • Djokovic is aiming to win a record seventh title at Melbourne Park. He, Federer and Roy Emerson hold the joint record with six titles each.
  • Nadal is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to complete a double career Grand Slam. His only previous title at the Australian Open came in 2009 when he defeated Roger Federer in a five-set classic.
  • Nadal is attempting to win his fourth Major title without dropping a set, but first outside of the French Open (2008, 2010 and 2017). The closest he came to doing this outside of Roland Garros was at the 2010 US Open (he lost one set to Djokovic in the final).
  • Nadal has only won two Major finals outside of Roland Garros in straight sets (Wimbledon 2010 and 2017 US Open).
  • If Djokovic were to lose, he will join Federer and Serena Williams among current players in achieving the “dinner set” (winning all four Majors and finishing runner-up at all four Majors).

Similarities between 2012 and 2019

  • Both men are ranked one and two in the world, respectively.
  • Nadal began his run on the first Monday of the tournament and Djokovic on the Tuesday.
  • Djokovic dropped a set in his fourth round match which was played on a Monday night.
  • Nadal defeated Tomas Berdych during his road to the final.
  • Both Djokovic and Nadal defeated opponents from Europe in their semi-finals.

Prediction
Rafael Nadal in five sets.