Novak Djokovic ended 2015 as the top player in men’s tennis once again and this year he is off to the same start as he prepares to take on Andy Murray (pictured) in the Australian Open Final (3.30am ET, Sunday).
The 28-year-old Djokovic, undisputed world No. 1 and best player in men’s tennis, has been on top of the world for years now and has shown himself to be the most dominant force in the game. While it took some time in this tournament for Djokovic to get fully into form, his semifinal match against Roger Federer served as a reminder that as far as owning the sport’s top spot goes, no one is good enough to top him right now.
The Australian Open’s defending champion began his quest for his sixth Australian Open and 11th Grand Slam with a trio of three less than competitive matches against Chung, Halys and Seppi. In these early matches, Djokovic didn’t even drop a set. It wasn’t until his fourth round match against Gilles Simon, that Djokovic faced his biggest challenge of the 2016 season.
Simon, the veteran Frenchman and 14th ranked player in the world, took Djokovic the distance as the pair swapped set victories. Simon played an incredible match and had opportunities to beat Djokovic but at the end of the day, the Serbian was the better player. Djokovic won the fifth set and since that match has breezed through the open.
He defeated No. 7 ranked Kei Nishikori in straight sets and was at peak form against Federer, winning the first two sets 6-1 and 6-2. Federer did manage to take a set off of Djokovic but it was a moral victory for the sport’s winningest athlete. As he has so often in the pair’s recent rivalry, Djokovic emerged victorious, earning his place in yet another final, his 10th in the last 14 majors.
His opponent meanwhile, once again reaches a major final doing so with some of his best play in the past few months. Murray easily dispatched his first two opponents in Zverev and Groth before dropping his first set of the tournament against Sousa. In the fourth round, the world’s No, 2 ranked player took down Aussie favorite Bernard Tomic and got the better of David Ferrer in the quarterfinals. He met Milos Raonic, Canada’s top ranked player and No. 13 in the world, in the semifinals. Murray was the sportsbooks’ pick to make short work of his opponent, but it turned out to be his toughest match of this Australian Open.
Raonic and Murray battled all the way through five sets with the young Canadian even taking a 2-1 set lead after the first three. Murray proceeded to win the next two, holding serve and breaking Raonic several times. Murray’s veteran presence and poise lifted him to the victory, but against Djokovic it certainly won’t be that easy.
The Djokovic-Murray Rivalry Renewed
While not as storied a rivalry as perhaps Djokovic and Federer or Federer and Rafael Nadal, Murray and Djokovic have had their battles with the Serbian coming out on top more often than not. In fact, Djokovic leads the head to head with a commanding 21-9 record. However in tour finals, Grand Slams included, Djokovic only holds a slight 7-6 lead over Murray.
In the five slams the pair have met in, Djokovic has won three of them, all of which have come at the Australian Open. Murray’s two wins, representing his only career majors, have been at the US Open (2012) and Wimbledon (2013). Only twice have their major head to heads been decided in straight sets as well.
Djokovic and Murray go way back, with their rivalry having formed an important part of the careers of both men. The two are just one week apart in age and grew up on the circuit together, both training and playing juniors at the same time. While the two engaged in their longest period at the top, they played in three of four finals against one another. At that time, the two were respectively, the two best players in the world, a distinction that once again is the case.
2015 Australian Open Take Two!
In 2015, the last time Djokovic and Murray met in the finals of a major, Djokovic emerged on top, defeating his opponent in four sets. And no, you haven’t stepped into a time machine, but 2016 looks like it may tell the exact same narrative. In fact, this is the third time in the last four Australian Open tournaments that the champion will be decided between either Djokovic or Murray.
The real question at this point is not regarding how good Murray is or isn’t or how good he could be, rather it’s about Djokovic and the legitimate question of if he is beatable. After defeating Federer, Djokovic looks in fine form. He is the best at returning serve in the world and his entire game looked just about flawless. Murray too has looked good, but when Djokovic is on the way he has been, there is almost no stopping him.
There is a reason why Djokovic has won nine of the last 20 majors and why he has been a finalist in 15 of those 20. Djokovic is an incredible player and his style is simply better than anyone else in the game. He is the world No. 1 for a reason and that reason is the fact that there is no opponent, not Federer, not Nadal, not Stan Wawrinka, that can beat him on a consistent basis.
Australian Open Tennis Final Betting Pick Verdict
So my betting picks prediction is the same that is has been since before this tournament even started. It’s Djokovic and it’s not really a stretch to see why. He’s the better player between himself and Murray on an average day but right now, Djokovic is peaking at this tournament. He is into his best form and when Djokovic is on such as the way he showed against Federer, there is no stopping him.
I won’t go so far as to say that 2016 is going to be another year of Djokovic but given the run he has been on, reaching at least three of the major finals in four of the last five years, it’s not crazy to suspect that the best in the world will continue to dominate the four Grand Slams.
- Take Djokovic, a short-odds -550 moneyline favorite, to win another Australian Open Final in four sets. With that moneyline betting line too prohibitive, the advised pick is to bet on Djokovic to win with a correct set score of 3-1 @ odds of +250 (that’s 5/2) with Betonline Sportsbook. That prediction is a shorter price with both 5Dimes and Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & 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.