So one finalist is set for the Australian Open title Sunday, his name is “Ruthless Rafa”, because that’s what Rafael Nadal has become. More on that below. But first, today or tonight, we’ll determine who’ll face Nadal on Sunday and it’s between Novak Djokovic and Lucas Pouille.
Let’s get to it.
Novak Djokovic v Lucas Pouille
I’ll just start out by saying I don’t give Pouille much of a chance here. He’s had a decent draw up to this point. Milos Raonic can be tough, also Borna Coric (mini Djokovic?) who was my pick to make to the semifinals, but he’s not had a “wow” win like a Stefanos Tsitsipas or Danielle Collins or last year Hyeon Chung have had.
They are wins over good players, just nothing extraordinary that would signal he pull off the upset today.
Obviously with Pouille, the difference has been new coach Amelie Mauresmo. The former champion has turned someone who was 0-5 in Melbourne into someone who has gone 5-0 this week. He’s hitting his backhand better, returning serve well, cutting down on errors and returning like a monster. The kid does have a lot of game it’s just a question of harnessing it. And Mauresmo has done that so far.
But in this match against Djokovic, which is surprisingly their first meeting – Djokovic is just better in every department and he’s more experienced and it’s best-of-5. So unless Novak has an off day, I just don’t see any place where Pouille can make inroads.
And subtly, Novak agrees.
“With the quality of the tennis that he possesses, he deserves to be definitely at the top 15, maybe top 10 of the world. He’s got that quality and potential, no question about it,” Djokovic said of Pouille.
He’s a “quality” player. He might be a Top 10 guy. That’s all code for he’s not elite, doesn’t have any major weapons and is not anyone who is going to win multiple Slams. And he’s right.
This should be a good, comfortable match-up for Novak. Pouille does have an excellent backhand, but he shouldn’t be able to blast Novak off the court.
So like I said, unless Novak hits the skids, this should be a fairly straightforward match. I think Pouille will make it fun – he’s a good shotmaker, he did beat Nadal in a US Open thriller a few years ago – but too much Djokovic tonight.
The Pick: Djokovic in 3
Now, back to yesterday. The bigger story.
I thought Stefanos Tsitsipas would give Rafa a run and boy was I wrong. That was an evisceration.
The Greek had zero read on Rafa’s serve and all but threw in the towel dropping the last nine games of the match.
Bad night for Stefanos, great night for Rafa. That’s what happens sometimes.
As for Rafa, he’s looking mighty scary with that new serve. And the more free points he gets with it, the more dominant he gets. And…And…And… Perhaps the longer he can stay in the game. Think about that: shorter points = less wear and tear = longer career.
So I really like the direction Rafa’s heading and the way he’s playing and hitting that serve. That 18th Slam and second career Slam is looking well within reach now, even if Novak is across the net on Sunday.
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