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Australian Open 2021 men's final: Novak Djokovic vs Daniil Medvedev preview, head-to-head & prediction

Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic
Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic
ANALYST
Modified 19 Feb 2021
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Match details

Fixture: (1) Novak Djokovic vs (4) Daniil Medvedev

Date: 21 February 2021

Tournament: Australian Open 2021

Round: Final

Venue: Melbourne, Australia

Category: Grand Slam

Surface: Outdoor hardcourt

Prize money: AUD 80 million

Match timing: 7.30 pm local time, 2 pm IST

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Live Telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | India - Sony Six | UK - Eurosport Player

Novak Djokovic vs Daniil Medvedev preview

Novak Djokovic’s enormous success Down Under has made him synonymous with the Australian Open itself. On Sunday, the Serb will look to strengthen the relationship even further as he bids to win a record-extending ninth title in Melbourne Park.

Standing in Djokovic’s way would be fourth seed Daniil Medvedev, the first Russian to make the final in Australia since Marat Safin in 2005. Safin emulated Yevgeny Kafelnikov and lifted the title that year, and a lot of Russian hopes would be resting on Medvedev’s shoulders this Sunday.

On current form, there are no two better players on tour than Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic has fought through intense pain and incredibly tough matches against Taylor Fritz, Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev. The Serb has physically not been at his best this year, but he has still managed to keep his 100% semifinal record in Melbourne intact.

Novak Djokovic soaking in the crowd
Novak Djokovic soaking in the crowd's adulation
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Daniil Medvedev, meanwhile, is on a 20-match win streak, having last faced defeat to Kevin Anderson at the 2020 Vienna Open. Since then the Russian has won the Paris Masters, ATP Finals and ATP Cup, and now looks poised to win his first-ever Major title.

More impressively, Medvedev has defeated every active member of the top 10 during this streak, including Novak Djokovic. (He hasn’t faced Roger Federer since the Swiss has been on the sidelines).

In Melbourne, Daniil Medvedev has won all but one of his matches (the only exception being the third-rounder against Filip Krajinovic) in straight sets. In the quarters and semis, the Muscovite was barely troubled by Stefanos Tsitsipas or Andrey Rublev - two players who have been in fine touch themselves lately.

Against Tsitsipas, Medvedev was nearly untouchable on his serve, winning a whopping 88% of his first serve points. The 25-year-old served 17 aces in the match, while racking up 46 winners compared to just 19 for the Greek.

Daniil Medvedev was almost flawless in both offense and defense on Friday. But his task on Sunday will be far tougher, as he faces one of the most complete players in tennis history.

Novak Djokovic has never lost a final at this tournament, and has only twice been taken to five sets (2012 and 2020). And while Djokovic may have shown a few weaknesses against Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz, that was largely due to the fact that physical issues were hampering his natural play style.

The Serb declared that he was felt perfectly fine against Aslan Karatsev on Thursday, which showed in his game. Djokovic didn't give more than a whiff of an opportunity to the qualifier, who succumbed in straight sets.

Novak Djokovic vs Daniil Medvedev head-to-head

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Novak Djokovic leads Daniil Medvedev 4-3 in the head-to-head. At Grand Slams the Serb is 1-0 up, having defeated Medvedev at Melbourne in 2019.

But the Russian has won three of their last four meetings, out of which three were played on hardcourts. Daniil Medvedev recently defeated Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals, winning 6-3, 6-3 in the round-robin stage.

Novak Djokovic vs Daniil Medvedev prediction

Daniil Medvedev reacts after winning a point against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Daniil Medvedev reacts after winning a point against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

This match-up is arguably the best example of 'an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object'. And such is the quality of their game that both the players could be labeled with either of those two terms.

A fully fit Novak Djokovic is next to unbeatable at the Australian Open, and it now also seems the Serb is no longer bothered by his abdominal injury. Not only did Djokovic play some flawless tennis against Aslan Karatsev, but he also showed noticeable improvement in some areas of his game.

Djokovic has served phenomenally well in Melbourne this year, racking up 100 aces so far in the tournament. The World No. 1 has been regularly finding the corners with his serve, and will severely test Medvedev’s return on Sunday.

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Daniil Medvedev, meanwhile, has lost his serve just eight times in six matches. He has dominated the proceedings with his mammoth first serve, and he will look to do the same in the final.

But Djokovic is undoubtedly the best returner on tour, and he will likely pose several questions of Medvedev's serve. The Russian would also have to be wary of Djokovic’s slices and low mid-court returns.

Medvedev's forecourt game is one of his most prominent weaknesses. The 25-year-old doesn't like being invited to the net, and that would be particularly problematic against a passer as good as Djokovic.

That said, Medvedev can do some damage to Djokovic with his own strengths - like stretching the opponent wide through his sharply angled cross-court shots. But the key for the Russian would be to close out the points once he has cornered Djokovic on one side of the court, which is easier said than done.

Novak Djokovic after beating Aslan Karatsev
Novak Djokovic after beating Aslan Karatsev

Starting strongly against Djokovic is absolutely essential, as is sustaining energy in the latter stages of the match. The Serb often hits his peak levels when the contest reaches the business end, so Medvedev will have to make sure he suffers no let-up in concentration.

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All that said, the Russian is arguably the only player who can out-Djokovic the Serb. If Daniil Medvedev gets going on Sunday, he could hand Novak Djokovic his first-ever defeat in the finals of the Australian Open.

Prediction: Daniil Medvedev to win in five sets.

Published 19 Feb 2021, 17:55 IST
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