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TTI Talks: The Melbourne Finale (Part II) – #Men

After a high-quality straight-sets win by World No. 1 Serena Williams, all eyes turn to the men’s event, where there’s even more déjà vu: top seed Novak Djokovic faces off against childhood foe and full-grown rival, Andy Murray. The two have met in two other Australian Open finals – three total, with the Serb winning each time. The Scot survived a much tougher bottom half, one that featured Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, to reach his first major final in two years. Djokovic looked far below his best in a maddening five-set semifinal against defending champion Stan Wawrinka, but leads Murray 15-8 in their head-to-head. Who will come out on top to cap off another Australian Open?

The TTI Staff weighs in with their predictions:

NICK

Novak Djokovic has had Andy Murray’s number at the Australian Open, and I expect the trend to continue Sunday.

Since beating Djokovic in the 2012 US Open final, Murray has lost seven of their last eight matches. The only match Murray won in this time span was Wimbledon in 2013. Their last seven hard court matches have gone the way of the Serb.

Djokovic looked pretty pedestrian in his semifinal against Wawrinka – despite winning in five sets – while Murray played some outrageously good tennis to get by Tomas Berdych in four. I don’t foresee those semifinal matches having much of an impact on the final, but if they do replicate those efforts, Murray will surely be lifting the trophy.

At the end of the day, I think Djokovic is too sturdy and too consistent. He’s proven time and time again that he can wear Murray down from the back of the court; while the Scot looks much better than he did last season, I don’t think he’s going to have enough game to win three sets off Djokovic in this final.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets

RENE

You guys. How is anyone supposed to predict this?

Murray has played very consistent tennis throughout the tournament. Yes, he dropped sets to Grigor Dimitrov and Berdych, but even in those two sets, he didn’t look awful by any means. This is the best the 2013 Wimbledon champion has looked since, well, then.

Djokovic, by contrast, seemed in relative cruise control this fortnight – that is, until yesterday’s “Nightmare by the Yarra.” In a match that was the nadir of the second week of MEH-lbourne, the Serb went through large patches of the three hour, 30 minute “epic” looking like a befuddled version of his 2010 self.

As many people put it, it was the most confusing performance of the World No. 1 in a very long time. If that Djokovic shows up, Murray might as well spend the first two sets playing Mario Kart in the players’ lounge of Rod Laver Arena – and still win rather comfortably.  I’m absolutely convinced the quadruple Australian Open champion will perform a lot better on Sunday.

Or at the very least, he should.

The question is just by how much he’ll up his level and whether Murray will turn up for the occasion.  Even though he lost all four hard court meetings with Djokovic in 2014, I’m picking the World No. 6 to win his third Grand Slam title.

Prediction: Murray in four sets

JEFF

This was the final I predicted, but not necessarily the one I had hoped for.

Among the “Big Four” match-ups on the ATP World Tour, Novandy presents the least contrast in styles, which usually results in long, passive rallies.

Given Djokovic’s poor form in his semifinal (um, ZERO fourth-set winners from the World No. 1?!?), it’d be a fair choice to go with Murray. However, I have to stick with my pre-tournament pick of Djokovic as the champion. Murray won’t be dictating as heavy and deep as Wawrinka was, which will give the Serb ample opportunity to apply pressure and maybe hit a winner or two.

Though they are tied at 2-2 in Grand Slam finals, Djokovic’s wins have both been at the Australian Open, and I expect him to get through Murray once again.

Prediction: Djokovic in four sets

JANE

Djokovic should have busted through his semifinal on Friday, having come in with what should have been clear confidence. He hadn’t dropped a set the entire tournament. But his rhythm was off. He committed 60% more errors than winners, and fussed with his box throughout.

Not a centered No. 1 seed.

He was spent after the five-set win, which seemed to stem more from mental anguish than physical exertion. However, he got the “W.” Murray, on the other hand, played his best tennis at the end of his four-set semifinal over Berdych. Murray’s intent was sharp. His instincts sparked his every move, mentally and tactically. His belief is at an all-time high.

Murray and Djokovic have met three times in Melbourne, with the latter sweeping all three – two finals and a semifinal – but the last came in 2013.

Even with that dominant record, Murray stands out as the pick to win his first Australian Open title, and third major.

Prediction: Murray in four sets

VIKA

These two often bring out…something in each other.

….I’m not quite sure what that is.

If both players come into this match playing like they did in the semifinals, Murray could claim the third leg of the career Grand Slam sooner rather than later. However, I wouldn’t expect Djokovic to be dwelling on his semifinal slog all that much, considering he’s, you know, still here.

The Australian Open has been Djokovic’s most successful major, and it’s going to be a tough ask for Murray to unseat him at “his house.” But for whatever reason – whether it be wanting to insert himself back in the conversation, silence the doubters re: his Mauresmo hiring, some other third thing, or D) none of the above – Murray’s seemed like a man on a mission during this fortnight.

Despite Djokovic’s dominating head-to-head, the Scot knows what it’s like to take him down in Grand Slam finals – including ones that go the distance.

Prediction: Murray in five sets

DAVID

Okay, here’s how I think it’s going to go down.

Look for a long rally to begin early.

Look for another one six hours later – after the first one ends.

If Djokovic is still alive 12 hours later, I see him taking the title.

Prediction: Djokovic in five

Who do you think will win tonight’s final? Sound off in the comments!

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