Seeking his 17th Grand Slam, Novak Djokovic returns to the Australian Open Final 2020 looking for his second consecutive title and record-extending eighth championship at the year’s first major. His opponent, Dominic Thiem, will be looking for his first major win. The two are set to meet in a grand slam final for the first time (3:30 AM ET Sunday).
The Australian King
The first grand slam final of the year has arrived and it unsurprisingly features a familiar face in Novak Djokovic. Following Djokovic reaching his first-ever grand slam final at the 2007 US Open, the upstart tennis player won his first major at the Australian Open in 2008. Djokovic wouldn’t return to a major final until 2011, once again at the Australian Open. That year marked the year of Djokovic. The now 16-time major winner, Djokovic won three of the four grand slams in 2011 as well as started a streak of reaching the finals in five of six majors.
Djokovic won the Australian Open for three straight years starting in 2011 and then won another two-in-a-row in 2015-16. During this time, Djokovic also reached six consecutive major finals while winning four consecutive titles. Injuries, inconsistent play and coaching changes led to a bit of a lean period for Djokovic as 2017 marked the first time since 2011 that Djokovic didn’t win a major or even reach a major semifinal. Towards the end of 2018, he came back with a force, winning Wimbledon, the US Open and beginning 2019 with his seventh Australian Open crown. Djokovic also won Wimbledon in 2019.
A lot is always made about Rafael Nadal’s record-shattering 12 titles at the French Open, a mark that is the most by any player at one single major. While Djokovic’s seven titles on the hard court of the Australian Open aren’t as impressive or as dominant as Nadal’s, they are still worth mentioning because consider this: Djokovic didn’t win his first major until 2008 and in the ensuring 11 years, he’s won 16 grand slams and reached 25 major finals. That’s an incredible track record and shows that over the last span of 10 or so years, there may not be a better all-around tennis player than Djokovic. As we enter 2020, Djokovic looks poised to consider his success. However, it is a new decade and perhaps that means that a new age of tennis stars is upon us.
2020: The Decade of New?
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won over half of the major championships in the last 10 years. All three are over 30 years old. Prior to the Era of the Big Three, it was almost unheard of for tennis players to win one major post the 30-year-old mark, let alone as many as these three have and they aren’t done yet. While Federer may seem closer to the end of his career with each passing major, Djokovic and Nadal appear they have much more left in the tank, especially when it comes to clay court season. One would be a fool to count Nadal out. Djokovic, in his first major of the year, is in the midst of a renaissance not a regression.
So that begs the question, if these legends of the sport are still hanging on, what will become of the current generation in this decade?
It’s hard to imagine that the Big Three will continue to reign supreme for the next 10 years when all of them are well into their 40s. Who knows? Maybe Nadal will just play the French, maybe Federer will reserve his energy for Wimbledon, perhaps Djokovic will get to a point of just playing the hard courts. The longevity of these stars is remarkable but it has meant that there are generations of tennis players whose careers have essentially come and gone without a major title to their name.
There is a lost generation that often gets referenced, those guys who came up right when Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were in their prime. There is the potential for a second lost generation, one that Dominic Thiem could be at the cusp of. Now 26, Thiem is making his third major final and first outside of the French Open. Over the past few years, Thiem has gotten close and it’s clear his talent is real. As with the others in the lost years, Thiem’s lack of success has come at the hands of the Big Three. On Sunday, it could be the same result.
What if Thiem does it? What if he becomes one of few outside of the Big Three to win a grand slam within the past two decades? In 10 head-to-head meetings, Djokovic only has a 6-4 lead over Thiem. In fact, Thiem’s four victories have come in their last five meetings, including twice at the French Open and in their most recent head-to-head at the Nitto ATP Finals. This was Thiem’s first win over Djokovic that came on a surface other than clay. So going into this meeting, the younger Thiem has to feel some level of confidence that the moment won’t be too big for him.
There is no guarantee that if Thiem wins on Sunday, that he will win again. As the rest of the lost generation can tell you, sometimes winning just one major against the Big Three is a spectacular feat. But Thiem’s talent is there and if he can get it done, it seems the future is bright for the young Austrian.
Our Preview’s Australian Open Tennis Final Predictions and Picks Verdict
Entering the finals, Djokovic is favored by 5.5 games with a total at 39. Backing Djokovic looks a safe bet, much as it has been for years. Don’t be so sure. These are our Australian Open Final predictions:
- An upset feels brewing so our pick is to take Thiem to win the first major of his career and kickstart a new decade of tennis success. Bet Thiem @ +300 (3/1) to win on the moneyline with Bovada or 5Dimes, two of the best American-facing sports betting firms.
- For the second of the picks, look for the over on the 39-game total @ -109 with Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.