I applauded in my previous article the colour and excitement that the current 32 qualifiers will bring to the Australian Open when it commences on 8 February.
After over 300 singles and doubles matches, we are down to the final match of the 2020 Australian Open – the men’s singles final.
Second seed Novak Djokovic will start as the prohibitive favourite to land a record eighth title at Melbourne Park when he comes up against Dominic Thiem in Sunday night’s men’s championship match.
After seeing the likes of Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev and Stan Wawrinka fall before the semi-finals, Djokovic’s odds of winning a record eighth title Down Under multiplied, and it’s no surprise that he has again made it into the summit match here.
Apart from dropping the third set in his first-round match against Jan-Lennard Struff (marking this the first time he’d lost a set in a first-round match since 2006), the Djoker has otherwise been flawless as he showed why he has been the most dominant player in Melbourne for well over a decade.
This included defeating the big-serving Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals, going into which the Canadian hadn’t dropped a set nor his serve in his first four matches.
Then, in the 50th instalment of the Djokovic versus Roger Federer rivalry, the 32-year-old came from 3-5, 0-30 down in the first set to win it in a tiebreak en route to defeating the Swiss maestro in straight sets at a Major for the first time since the 2012 French Open.
Standing in the way of the Djoker, a record eighth Australian Open title and a return to world number one in the rankings is Dominic Thiem, who many believe is the best hope of ending the Big Three’s stranglehold on the Majors.
The Austrian advanced through to his third Major final and first at Melbourne Park by outlasting seventh seed Alexander Zverev in four sets in a match that lasted nearly four hours in the second semi-final.
The 26-year-old dropped the first set and was at the brink of falling behind by two sets to one in the third set, but saved two set points to take it in a tiebreak before also winning the fourth set in a tiebreak to advance through to his first Australian Open final.
This followed on from his epic quarter-final victory over career nemesis Rafael Nadal, which ended the Spaniard’s hopes of not only winning a second Australian Open title, but also equalling Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam men’s singles title.
He also showed nerves of steel to come from two sets to one down to defeat Australian wildcard Alex Bolt in five sets, while he also needed four sets to get past American Taylor Fritz in the third round.
Advancing to the final has seen Thiem become the first man or woman from his country to do so at Melbourne Park, beating the semi-final effort that Thomas Muster achieved in 1989 and 1997.
And while he trails Novak Djokovic by 6-4 in the overall head-to-head, Thiem can boast a winning record at the Majors, winning two matches to one, winning in the quarter-finals of the 2017 French Open and the semi-finals of last year’s French Open.
Additionally, he also won their most recent meeting, a three-set thriller at last year’s ATP Finals en route to the championship match, which he then lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 26-year-old now has the chance to become the first man born in the 1990s to win a Major title, which would end a streak of 62 consecutive Majors won by men born in the 1980s dating back to Roger Federer’s second Wimbledon title win in 2004.
It would also end a streak of 13 straight Majors won by men aged 30 or over dating back to Stan Wawrinka’s win at the 2016 US Open (he was then age 31).
This contrasts to the women’s side of things, in which there will be a sixth consecutive champion born in the 1990s (or later, in the case of the 2019 US Open), and 11th in the past twelve Majors.
And so, the stage is set for what could be either a changing of the guard in men’s tennis (which would come as a relief to the many fans who are probably sick of seeing the Big Three continue to dominate), or the continuation of Novak Djokovic’s dominance at Melbourne Park.
Here is the all-important information you need to know ahead of the 2020 Australian Open men’s singles final.
When: Sunday, February 2, 7:45pm (AEDT)
Where: Rod Laver Arena
All matches: Djokovic 6-4
At the majors: Thiem 2-1
In finals: First meeting
Last meeting: Thiem won 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), round-robin, 2019 ATP Finals.
Round 1: defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3, 7-5, 6-2
Round 2: defeated Alex Bolt (AUS) 6-2,5-7, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-2
Round 3: defeated  Taylor Fritz (USA) 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4
Round 4: defeated  Gael Monfils (FRA) 6-2, 6-4, 6-4
Quarter-final: defeated  Rafael Nadal (ESP) 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-6 (8-6)
Semi-final: defeated  Alexander Zverev (GER) 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4)
Round 1: defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 2-6, 6-1
Round 2: defeated Tatsuma Ito (JPN) 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
Round 3: defeated Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
Round 4: defeated  Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Quarter-final: defeated  Milos Raonic (CAN) 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1)
Semi-final: defeated  Roger Federer (SUI) 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-3
The stats that matter
Novak Djokovic in four sets.