Tonight in Melbourne, it’s the 50th chapter between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for a spot in the Australian Open title match. In the Friday night semifinal, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem will battle for the right to play one of these legends.
So we got four Top 8 players in the semis and of course either Djokovic or Federer will again be in the final against a new finalist.
Backing up, in a mild surprise last night Thiem took apart Nadal. Thiem simply out-muscled Rafa who, on hard courts, continues to get caught in bad court positioning and the Austrian made him pay. Rafa also still has those struggles closing out sets, closing out matches. If he serves out that first set, I think he wins. He didn’t, then failed in the second and then the climb was too great. He also was miserable on serve in the breakers. At 33, the clock is ticking and don’t see him getting this title again.
As for Federer, the guy is basically Houdini. Somehow he clawed from 8-4 down in that final set breaker to beat John Millman. Then the seven match points he saved was incredible. Roger’s got nine lives, does he have any more?
Djokovic has looked the best of any of the men. He dropped that set to Jan-Lennard Struff, had some eye problems against Milos Raonic, but otherwise he has played as advertised.
The big surprise of the tournament has been Alexander Zverev who has quickly fixed his serving woes in a blink. It’s been a long time coming, but after two very solid wins over Andrey Rublev and Stan Wawrinka, he’s finally in his first Grand Slam semifinal which good chance to go deeper. Just an amazing turnaround for the 22-year-old.
Other things I noticed was that Nick Kyrgios is an absolute marvel. Like a Marvel super hero. I know he’s in Rafa’s head, but he played exceptionally well, hanging toe-to-toe off the ground with the world No. 1, and that’s after a 5-set win over Karen Khachanov. Now imagine if he had a good coach, some discipline and regimented training.
Daniil Medvedev hasn’t won a 5-set match (0-6 I think he is now) and that’s going to be a problem. I can’t remember the last time someone won a Grand Slam or got to No. 1 with such a poor record in five set matches. And if he keeps losing them – I guess he won’t have to play another one before the French – that’s going to be a serious mental hurdle to overcome.
Among the disappointments, the young Canadians, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, are the top of the list. It was Milos Raonic instead getting the attention, reminding everyone who the man up North really is. My semifinal pick Borna Coric was also a bust. He was was gone in the first round by Sam Querrey. But that quarter did blow up, and who would have believed that Sandgren had seven chances to be the one to get through.
And of course we’ve had so many long matches, so many final set tiebreakers. And I agree with most, the 10-point breaker is awesome! I hope other Slams adopt the rule.
On to our first semifinal.
Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer
The good news for Roger Federer is that if he wins tonight, he’ll have two full days to rest of the final. The bad news is that he’ll have to beat Novak Djokovic. And based on all his tennis he’s played and this new groin issue, Roger’s going to have a lot more than two days to rest.
Federer survived Millman, survived Sangdren but I don’t see him surviving a fresh, fit Djokovic who is just six sets from more history.
Stranger things have happened, but even a healthy Federer might not get over the Djokovic hurdle. Roger did just beat Federer last November, but that’s a quick court, indoors, and best-of-3 with not at much on the line.
Rod Laver Arena is Novak’s favorite court, where he plays his best, so I expect his best tonight.
Federer will have to serve really well and go for broke. That means unloading off both sides. He won’t want to get into long rallies or long games. Just attack, attack, attack. A Hyper-aggressive attitude. Get the crowd involved and make Novak think a little.
But money doesn’t buy everything and it’s tough to see Federer buying a win tonight.
The Pick: Djokovic in three
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