Saturday, January 28, 2017

2017 AUS OPEN: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review) #Fedal

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [9] vs Roger Federer (SUI) [17]
This is my prediction post for the men's singles final at the 2017 Australian Open. Last year, I correctly predicted Novak Djokovic would beat Andy Murray in the men's final and incorrectly predicted Serena Williams would beat Angelique Kerber in the women's final. This year, I predicted 1 of 2 men's semifinals2 of 2 women's semifinals, and also correctly predicted Serena Williams would beat Venus Williams in the women's final.

Men's Semifinals Review: How The Finalists Got Here
Roger Federer (SUI) [17] d. Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [4] 7-5 6-3 1-6 4-6 6-3.  Matchups do matter. Despite being ranked 13 places lower and not having played a tournament in over six months, the end result was that Roger's 18-3 head-to-head advantage was the decisive factor in the 35-year-old winning this match against his countryman, despite blowing a 2-0 sets advantage and ending up needing too outwit Stan in the fifth set. He had never lost to Stan on a hard court and this streak continued. Stan is a notoriously slow starter, but even I was surprised by how much better he got as the match progressed. Despite (or maybe because) the fact that I am a huge Federer fan, I was actually rooting for the younger Swiss to win this match because Wawrinka has already demonstrated that he can beat Nadal in a major final (just three years ago) while Federer has never beaten Nadal in Australia despite playing three times in big matches (2014 and 2012 semifinals and 2009 final).

Rafael Nadal (ESP) [9] d. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [15] 6-3 5-7 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-4.  This was another match where the overall head-to-head of 7-1 in favor of Nadal might have been determinative but simultaneously did not reflect how close the overall contest was. This was 4 minutes shy of nearly 5 hours of high-quality tennis from both players. In the fifth set, Dimitrov was in trouble in multiple service games but he also forced Nadal on the defensive as well. The key moment was in the 8th game when Nadal went down 15-40. Dimitrov was too passive on these breakpoints, deciding to play solid tennis instead of go-for-broke (although, to be honest, it is not clear if the result would have been any different because Nadal played these points as if they were match points, which they effectively were.) After failing to break, Nadal was able to break Dimitrov in the 9th game and served out the win, needing three match points to do so.

Men's Final Preview: Who Will Win
Although I am very excited that Federer is in his 28th major final (17-10) the fact is he is playing against someone who he has not beaten in a 5-set major in over 6 years and has never beaten in Melbourne. The two are playing in their 9th major final and Nadal leads 6-2, with the two losses coming on grass at Wimbledon. While Nadal is playing in his 21st (14-6) major final it must be noted that in non-clay major finals he is 5-6. In fact much of the overwhelming 23-11 head-to-head lead the Spaniard enjoys is because nearly half the matches the two have played (15) have occurred on his best surface, clay. That being said, Nadal still leads Federer 9-7 in outdoor hard-courts. The only surface where Federer leads Nadal is indoor hard-courts, so hopefully the roof gets closed (this is unlikely to happen). Federer is trying to (finally) win his 18th major, while Nadal is trying to win his 15th and become the first man in the open era to win each Grand slam twice.

Despite Nadal being the favorite I still believe that if Federer plays his best tennis and Nadal plays his, Federer will win. I think it is unlikely that we will get the best tennis out of them, and perhaps the 2008 Wimbledon final is a refutation of my belief, but that is why I'm a Fedfan and now Rafanatic. Regardless, I know that sleep be damned, I will be up at 3:30am EST watching the match rooting for #TeamFed.

MadProfessah's pick: Federer in four sets.

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