Novak Djokovic will attempt to defend his Australian Open title when he takes on Dominic Thiem in the final later today at Melbourne. Will the Serb make it his eighth title at the Australian Open or can the Austrian player clinch his maiden Grand Slam win? Here’re our editor Stan Boone’s predictions for tonight’s encounter.
- Country-wise List of TV Channels showing Australian Open 2020 live
- Djokovic v Thiem stream, head to head
Expect a Gritty Battle to Finish
The last time Djokovic played at the Australian Open final, he dropped two sets in the entire tournament to reach the final where he took on Rafael Nadal. While he was the favourite in that one, Djokovic was expected to be tested by the fighting Nadal but it turned out to be a one-sided, non-contest. Djokovic just eight games in that final against Thiem and clinched his seventh title at the Australian Open.
Doubt we will see a repeat of that showing. Sure, Djokovic is an overwhelming favourite in this one too with bet365 offering a mere 1/4 for his victory but it might not be as straightforward.
Look at the last two times Djokovic and Thiem played each other. While Thiem won both – and he has won three of their last four and four out of five if one excludes exhibition events – the more pertinent point is the manner in which the match panned out. Thiem edged out Djokovic in the ATP Finals in a final set tie-breaker last year after having needed five sets and a 7-5 in the final set at the French Open as well.
Even at the Madrid Masters in 2019, where Djokovic won in straight sets, both sets went into tie-breakers. Expecting more of the same between these two.
Thiem Needs to Avoid Tie-Breakers?
Despite Thiem holding a 4-1 record against Djokovic over their previous five matches (not including the Kooyong Classic), the Serb has won four of the previous five tie-breakers he’s played against the Austrian.
At this Australian Open itself, he has won three of them and in 2020, Djokovic is 6-0 in tie-breakers, with wins over Kevin Anderson, Denis Shapovalov, Rafael Nadal, Jan-Lennard Struff, Milos Raonic and Roger Federer in tie-breakers. In the last two of these, Djokovic lost just a point apiece in those tie-breakers.
While Thiem’s record in tie-breakers has been equally brilliant this season, having gotten to 10 of them and won eight, he will need to take his chances before the sets get into the tie-breakers.
Stats Dictate Djokovic to Keep Down the Rallies but Longer Ones Might Not be a Bad Idea
Djokovic has won 57.3% of his points when the rallies have been four shots or less as opposed to Thiem’s 53.6% while five-eight shots have yielded in 55.6% wins for the Serb as opposed to a mere 50.6% for his opponent. It’s only when the rallies go up to over eight shots that Thiem holds a slight edge in the Australian Open, having won 62.3% to Djokovic’s 61.4% (according to the official ATP stats here)
Still, there is one other factor Djokovic will want to consider here. Djokovic has lost just one set in the tournament and that came very early in the competition while Thiem had an early five-setter against Alex Bolt, and back to back, energy-sapping four-setters against Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev.
The world number two also had an extra day off after his semifinal while Thiem was left to play his match against Zverev on Friday night. The longer the match goes, it might start favouring Djokovic more and more, and it’s not like the Serb hasn’t done well in longer rallies – 61.4% is an awesome number.
Thiem, on the other hand, could look to shorten the rallies but will that help the Austrian?