Djokovic Into Australian Open Final; Medvedev v Tsitsipas SF, Who’s The Pick?
by Sean Randall | February 18th, 2021, 2:53 pm
  • 9 Comments

What ab tear? A week ago there were some serious doubts of the health of Novak Djokovic after sustaining what he called a muscle tear to his abdominal region.

Well, it’s miraculously healed (or, more likely it was never a tear).

Regardless, the Serb played his best match of what has been a tougher-than-expected tournament for him, blowing out the Cinderella story Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 Thursday night at the Australian Open.

Djokovic had the groundies working, the serve was solid and other than a blip in the second — he let a 5-1 lead slip — it was vintage Novak who outclassed the world No. 114.

Whatever injury he has (if at all), he’ll now have two full days off to rest it further before the Sunday final. So that’s all good news for the man who has never lost in Melbourne once he gets to the semifinals (now 17-0).

“I felt as best as I felt so far in the tournament tonight,” said Djokovic. “Physically, mentally. I was hitting the ball very well, mixing the pace. Didn’t give him the same looks at all. Always kind of kept him guessing and served well when I needed to get out of trouble, late in the second set.

“I’m just very pleased with the performance. It came at the right time, before last match in a Grand Slam. Being in this situation many times, I think helps kind of gather all the necessary elements for me to peak at the right time, which is happening again. I’m obviously very happy about. I’m also happy that I have two days off now. Recovery is still the priority.”

For Karatsev, what a week, already what a year. Few had ever heard of him and now he’ll be firmly implanted in the Top 50 and who knows how much higher he goes. He reminds me of a Stan Wawrinka. Someone who can bully the ball around the court. And he made the most of his chances, coming from two sets down to shock a tight Felix Auger-Aliassime and then getting the injury from Grigor Dimitrov. Lucky? A little bit, but you have to finish the job, and he did.

So who’s Novak going to play in his 9th Australian Open final?

DANIIL MEDVEDEV vs STEFANOS TSITSIPAS
Not a surprise match-up in the semifinals. Medvedev has been very strong and he comes in having won 19 straight matches (11 against Top 10). And he just blew out his buddy Andrey Rublev who I thought would pull the upset on the quick courts — that never happened.

Medvedev has been flying around the court, creating havoc and in the warmer conditions, he must be a nightmare to play. Imagine facing a 6-foot-6 backboard in the heat!

As for Tsitsipas, with Rafael Nadal’s back being a question mark, many picked him to be the favorite to come out of this quarter. Rafa turned out to be OK, but if not for two bad overheads in that third set breaker, he would be sitting in this semi not Tsitsipas.

But credit to the Greek. He hung in there, stayed really strong on serve and came up big in the fifth right when he needed (recall he can up just short at the French in a similar situation to Djokovic). Rafa will rue this one for years. I don’t think he’ll have a better chance at another Australian Open. Not at his age.

So Tsitsipas comes in off a five setter and he had one last week against Thanasi Kokkinakis, but he should be fit since he did have a walkover from my final pick Matteo Berrettini who was one of the many players this week suffering from ab issues.

Head-to-head, this one has gone the Russian’s way 5-1 and I’m leaning it will be 6-1 after tonight.

Medvedev is the better mover, more experienced (he’s been to a Slam final) and by far the more in-form. He’s rock solid in every department.

Tsitsipas might have the higher ceiling and the more firepower, but he doesn’t have the consistency needed in a best-of-5 to beat a backboard. Unless Medvedev blows it like Rafa did in that breaker, Medvedev should come through. But because of Tsitsipas’s flare and variety and the fact he’s got so many big wins, it’s going to be tough.

That said, 19 straight wins and a 5-1 head-to-head are just too strong of a trend. I think with fans back, that should help Tsitsipas with the Greek crowd, but then again it could give added fuel to Medvedev who seems to feed off that negativity. Hard to say. But it should be a fun match.
The Pick: Medvedev in 5

ESPN will have live coverage starting a 3:30am ET for those who are awake. And it’s a good one to get up (or stay up) for!


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9 Comments for Djokovic Into Australian Open Final; Medvedev v Tsitsipas SF, Who’s The Pick?

chofer Says:

I’m old enough to have seen this sport for almost 40 years now.

My favorite player has been an underachiever: Miloslav Mecir.

I’ve always have a weakness for crative players, so I’d probably had built a Frankenstein; give me McEnroe from the torso up and Mecir from all below.

For all these years cognoscenti had been toutin X player as “the next Mecir” (Murray has been called that by the Brit Press when, in fact, he has been Mats Wilander all along) Daniil Medveded is actually the one who fits the Big Cat shoes best.

He may not have the elegance Mecir possesed (always in balance to hit the shots around his belt line) but you have to assume, inevitably, that with the power strings we have now, it would be next to impossible to catch a shot so “clean”. And no. Federer is not a goood example, as he rarely pulls out a “Mecir”, meaning he won’t be scuba diving shots out of his reach like a mad dog. He simply takes the ball too early to condescend to such “humiliation”. He can defend, certainly. He just won’t appear in the picture uncombed.

That’s also the Tsitsi-fly “problem”. He saves his stretching out for his explosive movement, much like Roger. If he thinks he won’t get to the shot, he won’t run.

Mecir didn’t “seem” to run at all. He materialized at the ball like a disturbing ghost. Reading the opponent’s shot even BEFORE they leave the strings. When that seldom happened, he would used his long steps -contradicting every tennis manual of adjusting your feet with short, quick tiny steps- to scramble and hustling his shot back, usually with low, well-placed passing shots and head-scratching, last minute change of directions.

Whe he sliced, he barely bend his knees. He placed his shots too low anyway. And, when inspired, also too deep.

Unlike Medvedev, chronic back problems had him serve second serves instead of first ones. And resorting also to the underarm when needed. Aside form being too soft-headed for the constant battle, probably the reason he couldn’t serve out Lendl for his life, and his actual two shots at Grand Slam glory.

But, all in all, he had an uncanny knack for being a disruptor. A player who did it all with his soft hands, superb legs and an incredible talent for having a milli-second more than any other player to hit the ball -including the great McEnroe- made possible by his otherwordly footwork. Hence the Big Cat nickname.

You couldn’t possibly tell where the heck the ball was going after it hit the strings. Neither did the supreme intelligence of Wilander, a player he often out-thought and out-foxed.

Which leads me to Medvedev. The closest thing I ever witnessed to Mecir’s abilities.

Did you notice, aside of his court positioning, how can he possibly be so inside the baseline in a rush after his second shot? How he makes two steps and is already at the net? How his limbs seem to strech out like the Rubber Man’s limbs to catch the impossible get? Is he human? Or a dancer?

Did you notice, much like Mecir, how the ball seem to “freeze” a second before he hits it? How’s that possible?

I won’t blame you if you don’t. His talent is so deceptive
it has made Tsitsipas calling it “boring” and Djokovic look for air after a relatrive short rally by his own standards.

What he did to Rublev is another example. After an exchange of 40 plus shots -which Medvedev lost- he wore him down enough to get him out of his mind -and the match- for good.

It is unnerving and extremely uncorfortable for any player trying to figure out where the ball is going, if it lands too deep or too short to burn your feet enough, and if you catch it, you’re probably already knee deep in the ground -a la Radwanska- to respond in any way remotely agressive.

But, to me, is extremely fun to watch. Much like Mecir did to the bunch of Swedes that populated the top ten at the time -they used to call him “the Swede killer”- he dumbfounded and outsmarted the steadier players out there. Djokovic, beware.

He also was capable of absorbing the power of the big hitters and redirect the ball at will. It was not his lack of firepower the culprit of his lousy record with Lendl. It was his head and his lack of serve.

Medvedev may not look as elegant and “vertical” in the courts as Mecir. Mecir took the ball on the raise and while certainly Medvedev CAN do that, the long, albatross-like backswings are at odds with that way of hitting. That’s why he positions himself so far off. It gives him time. But he sure can serve better and use all his other tools to make his rival feel like a fool.

I think he has more talent down below his belt that anyone around his age. McEnroe already likes him best and I can see why. He reminds him of the tennis of “yore”. One played at half-speed but using all spins available and one you really need to thought it out to win.

If he can get rid off of Tsitsipas in under 3 hours, he’ll be fine for the finals.

If not, he’s already a hell of entertaining to watch for me anyway.


Dave Says:

Tsitsipas can’t afford to after 3 sets against Medvedev. He will need to get his teeth into the match sooner. This could easily be a routine 3 setter if he doesn’t figure out something soon.


Dave Says:

Can’t afford to catch fire after 3 sets


Dave Says:

I can’t believe I woke up at 1:30am for this. I wanted to see a good match. Instead, Tsitsipas hasn’t even shown up. His one handed backhand has been a liability. His return game needs to improve. And trying to bail out of long rallies, donating points to Medvedev is never going to work. He’s self destructing now in the 2nd set. Maybe it’s time to go back to bed here.


Van Persie Says:

This match will be done in 3. I expected a more competitive Tsitsi though…


Van Persie Says:

I am not very optimistic for my guy, Nole, on Sunday but hope he will be able to fight and to make it very competitive, even if he loses. Looks like Med is really able to win the title.


Giles Says:

Come on Med! Kick the faker’s butt! 😈😈😈😈


Daniel Says:

Djoko in AO is almost like Nadal in RG, until he loses a final here, he is the undisputed favorite and so far invencible in this courts final, crowd or no crownd.

Djoko for AO #9 and 18th Slam.

I remember after 2016 when the Big 3 were stuck without a major for 2 years: Fed was 17, Nadal 14 and Djoko 12. Nadal won 6 since, Djoko about to do the same. He is a year younger and he will be heavy favorite in Wimbledon (with Fed fading seems he will rule lthere for a while still) and USO (less than Wimby), plus Rg behind Nadal.I believe now the safer bet is to say he will finish on top as Grand Slam leader board. Togehter with his #1 reords, which he will virtually break wiht this AO win, plus Masters and overall dominance, the conclusion will be obvious, GOAT. Also if Olympis hold this year he can achieve evertyhing. And he is closer to a 2nd career Slam than Nadal is with his apparently vudu in AO.

But the way Nadal is still playing is hard to guess how many more RG he will get.


Dave Says:

Daniel,

I still think Nadal is the favourite to finish with the most Slams. I look at this final as a must win for Djokovic. And one of the only ways to stop Nadal at the French is if Thiem somehow gets the 2 seed so that Nadal will need to play Djokovic and Thiem back to back. But it’s looking like Medvedev will be the number 2 seed with very few points to defend in the coming months. This year is a pivitol year in the slams race. If Medvedev wins on Sunday, the confidence this will give him will be huge and start to change tennis to a degree.


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