Saturday, January 31, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs. Andy Murray (GBR) [6] 
This is my post previewing the men's final at the 2015 Australian Open. Last year I incorrectly predicted that Rafael Nadal would defeat Stan Wawrinka in the men's final of the 2014 Australian Open. This year I correctly predicted that Serena Williams would beat Maria Sharapova in the women's final and also correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals2 of 4 women's quarterfinals2 of 2 men's semifinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

Men's Semifinals Review: How They Got Here
Novak Djokovic
 (SRB) [1] d. 
Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [4] 7-6(1) 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-0.  After two years where these two provided scintillating tennis at this tournament this time the match-up failed to live up to the hype. Both players were surprisingly flat and out of sorts, both hitting more errors than winners. Djokovic was -22 (27 winners to 49 errors) while Wawrinka was even worse, at -27 (42 winners but 69 errors). Most observers expected a fifth set again, but no one could have expected that this time that fifth set would be a bagel won by Djokovic (instead of last year's 9-7 win by Stan and the 12-10 win by Nole in 2013). Wawrinka clearly just ran out of gas in the end, finally succumbing to the pressure of defending his surprise title from last year.

Andy Murray (GBR) [6] d. Tomas Berdych (CZE) [7] 6-7(6) 6-0 6-3 7-5Last year's finalist Nadal was expected to be in this semifinal, perhaps playing Roger Federer again but instead Andy Murray was able to benefit by beating Nick Kyrgios (who beat the person who eliminated Federer in the 3rd round) while Berdych played the match of his life to demolish Nadal in straight sets (including a rare bagel set!) in the quarterfinals. Despite having a career head-to-head over Murray, Berdych was unable to play his best tennis, while Murray continued his re-energized play, not panicking after he lost the first set tiebreak and taking advantage of a lull from his opponent to bagel him and use that momentum to cruise to victory.

Men's Finals Preview: Who Will Win? 
This must be the first time in a long time that both finalists have won a bagel set in their immediate previous match played. Although Djokovic is the World #, has a 15-8 career head-to-head lead (including winning all 4 matches played on hardcourts in 2014) and seven major titles to Murray's two I give Murray a very good chance to win this match. The Brit has a 5-4 lead in tour finals and the two are 2-all in their four major finals (2011 Australian Open, 2012 U.S. Open, 2013 Australian Open and 2013 Wimbledon) with each of them alternating victories. Murray is 2-5 in major finals overall while Djokovic is 7-6 and in particular is 4-0 in Australian open finals.

For most of the tournament Djokovic played like he was unbeatable, not losing a set through the first five rounds, and demolished a top 10 player like Milos Raonic. However, what I saw in his match against Wawrinka is pretty troubling. If that Nole shows up, I am confident that Murray will win. Murray has lost two sets to reach the final, but both were tiebreakers against very good opponents (Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych) and Murray won every other set he played. The stats indicate that Murray is playing slightly better than Djokovic overall, with 58 more winners than errors (compared to Djokovic's +54). I agree with Murray that it will be an upset if Murray wins this match, but that's what happened last year. Maybe we can have two years of surprise champions?

MadProfessah's prediction: Murray.

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