Tennis fans around the world should witness two intriguing matches this weekend in both the men’s and women’s finals of the Australian Open. Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic may be the favourites, but they both need to be at their best to claim the title.
Naomi Osaka vs. Serena Williams would have made for a more high-profile Australian Open final, but anybody who remembers last year’s US Open semifinal between Osaka and Jennifer Brady shouldn’t be too disappointed that this is the championship match in Melbourne instead.
That semifinal in New York, ultimately won by Osaka in three back-and-forth sets, had full-blooded shot-making and stubborn comebacks from both players.
Coming into the Australian Open, Osaka has grown even more confident in her ability to beat any opponent, and come back from any deficit. In the fourth round, she saved two match points and won the last four games against Garbiñe Muguruza, and in the semifinals she was clearly the better player against Serena.
As for Brady, after her breakout 2020, the 25-year-old was due for a fall back to earth and a regression to her normal level. Instead, she’s shown that her meteoric rise last summer was no fluke. As Brady says, the more she hits against the top players, the more she realises that they can’t do anything with the ball that she can’t do.
On Sunday as eight-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic faces off against the most confident man in tennis, Daniil Medvedev.
On the one hand you have Djokovic, who owns a 63-3 record in Melbourne since 2011. On the other hand, you have Medvedev, who will ride a 20-match win streak into the final, accompanied by 11 consecutive wins over Top-10 players, Djokovic included. Medvedev is one of the few players who can administer Djokovic a taste of his own medicine.
Grand Slam glory is on the line, but so is the unofficial title of the best backhand in the world. Djokovic’s return will likely go down as the best ever. He found success against Medvedev at the 2020 ATP Cup by applying immediate pressure on his return.
If Djokovic puts on another return-of-serve clinic, he should be able to sink his teeth deep into Medvedev’s service games. This could cause the Russian to tense up, and perhaps go for too much too early in the point.
No player is better equipped to defeat the world No. 1 right now than the Medvedev, but betting against Djokovic on Rod Laver Arena is just not a good idea.