Australian Open 2019, 4th Round: Novak Djokovic vs Daniil Medvedev: Preview and Prediction
The Serb is looking for a record-extending seventh Australian Open title, whereas for the young Russian, reaching the fourth round here in itself is new territory. Their two previous encounters have both been won by Djokovic.
So, the gulf in their rankings, head to head records, and their past performances in this tournament suggest a lop-sided encounter on the offing. But a closer look at the way they both have performed in the first three rounds would suggest that we may be in for a much closer contest.
For a top seed, it is unusual to face tough opponents in early rounds, but that is exactly what Novak’s draw has thrown at him. After a relatively easy encounter against the world number 119 South African Mitchell Krueger, Novak ran into the former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the second round itself.
In a rematch of their 2008 Australian Open final, Djokovic did get the better of the Frenchman in straight sets. But it was an extremely competitive match, where his serve came under immense pressure from Tsonga as he was broken twice in that match.
He had another tough match against the next-gen Canadian star Denis Shapovalov, which went to four sets. Though he won the final set of the match 6-0, he would not be happy with his performance in the third set which he lost after being in a position to win the set and the match in straight sets.
He was apparently distracted by the lights used during the match, and he let the off-court distractions get the better of him in that third set. He will have to guard against any such distraction or loss of focus against another future tennis star in the form of twenty-two-year-old Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev had a breakout season last year and has looked in imperious form in the first Grand Slam of the year. By reaching the fourth round, he has already achieved his best result yet at this tournament. But from the looks of it, he certainly has it in him to go further. Fellow youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas’s shock win over Roger Federer today would also inspire him to produce a similar result against another legend of the game.
In his first three rounds, Medvedev won each match with ease in straight sets, including his third round match against the twenty-first seed David Goffin. His service game and return game are both in top shape, and he has lost his serve only thrice in the tournament so far, all against Goffin, while breaking his three opponents a whopping eighteen times.
The only chink in his armour so far has been his comparatively unimpressive second serve. There is a huge gulf in the quality and impact of his first and second serves. Against Goffin, he won only 37% of his second serve points.
For Medvedev to have any chance against arguably the best returner in modern tennis, he would have to ensure that he gets a high percentage of first serves in, and then hope that Novak’s level drops off a bit.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in 4 sets.