The top two seeds in the men’s Australian Open draw will meet in the final on Sunday morning.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have combined for seven Australian Open titles in their decorated careers so far, with Djokovic winning six and Nadal winning once back in 2009. The Spaniard has also been runner-up on three occasions.
These two all-time greats have built a rivalry of sorts since their first meeting nearly 13 years ago. Surprisingly, they have only met once at the Australian Open, though, with Djokovic winning a classic, five-set final back in 2012.
Overall, Djokovic has the edge too having won 27 of the 52 meetings. He has dominated Nadal away from the clay in recent years. Nadal has not beaten the Serbian on hard court since the US Open final in 2013 – Djokovic has won 12 of their 15 meetings since then.
This will be their eighth Grand Slam final meeting. Nadal has won four of the previous seven. That doesn’t tell us a great deal, it’s hardly like they are going to be spooked by the big occasion.
Nadal has been close to perfect so far. He has not dropped a single set, and only been taken to a tie-break on one occasion. The next closest anyone came to taking a set was a 7-5 to clinch his first round match against Australian James Duckworth.
There’s a case to be made that Nadal is serving as well as he has in his entire career. There have been no signs of rustiness after an absence post-US-Open. The price on at least one tie-break is worth considering at 2/5.
Nadal made light work of Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals. The Greek youngster knocked out Roger Federer earlier in the tournament but was unable to get anywhere near Nadal. Tsitsipas won six games in the entire match and was blown away as he lost the final set 6-0.
There have been suggestions that Nadal is playing his best ever tennis. That’s a bit of a reach, considering a favourable run to the final. His serve has been excellent though, and we will see if Nadal is reaching new heights when he faces Djokovic.
Djokovic dropped sets in the third and fourth rounds. The quarter final was effectively a rest day for the six-time Australian Open champion, as Kei Nishikori retired after winning just two of the first 12 games.
His semi-final, like Nadal’s, was an astonishing display of dominance.
Lucas Pouille won four games in Djokovic’s straight sets victory, as the Serbian hit 24 winners and just five unforced errors. Pouille had the best Grand Slam performance of his career and was completely outclassed.
The pair have combined for 31 Grand Slam titles. They are the only two players in the open era to play 52 matches against one another.
Djokovic is looking to become the first player ever to win seven Australian Open titles. Nadal has won 17 Grand Slams despite not even competing in nine.
History will be made on Sunday, though a repeat of the 2012, record-breaking epic is unfortunately not possible because of the introduction of the super tie-break.
While it’s unlikely, and almost impossible, for the match to last nearly six hours, a five-setter is probable given the standard of tennis we saw from the two finalists in the semi-finals. Over 4.5 sets is a good price at 11/5.
Nadal and Djokovic have both overcome long injury absences. Their return to the summit of the men’s game is a reminder of their greatness.
They are on a different level to the rest of the sport right now – this is the perfect final matchup between two of the best players ever seen.
If these two can replicate their semi-final form, we could be in for one of the best Grand Slam finals ever.
A five-set classic is almost an expectation. Despite Nadal’s superb form over the past two weeks, Djokovic’s superiority on hard courts is impossible to ignore. The Serbian is 3/4 to win a seventh Australian Open crown.
TIP: Over 40.5 games @ 5/6