Novak Djokovic v Daniil Medvedev - it’s the final many predicted to take place on Rod Laver Arena in 2021. The solidified King of Melbourne Park and the ruthless Russian - a face off fans around the world have wanted and a match that is more than worthy of a Grand Slam final.
Djokovic holds a 63-3 record at Melbourne Park since 2011 and Medvedev is on a 20-match winning streak, as well as having 12 consecutive wins over top-10 players – it is hard picturing either player losing on Sunday night. No player is better equipped to beat Djokovic at his own game on his favourite court than Medvedev.
Both players are a model for consistency. Both players are brick walls. Both players are at the top of their game.
So, what sets them apart?
“[Djokovic] is the favourite because… [in the] eight occasions that he was in the semi-finals, he won the tournament… I'm the challenger, the guy that challenges the guy who was eight times in the final and won eight times. I'm happy about it,” said Medvedev after his semi-final win.
He's right, it would be foolish to not have the World No. 1 slightly ahead of the Russian, due to Djokovic’s experience.
Despite not being favourite, if you dig a little deeper into the Russian's statements, there is more to it.
Medvedev likes the fact that he’s going into the match as the second fiddle. The World No. 4 is the best at playing mind games on the ATP tour, he knew exactly what he was doing when he labelled himself as the “underdog.” It suits him, he’s taken the pressure off himself and can now launch a scathing attack on the Serb.
“I have nothing to lose, to be honest,” Medvedev said.
"I know that to beat [Djokovic] you need to just show your best tennis, be at your best physically maybe four or five hours, and be at your best mentally maybe for five hours.”
Medvedev will certainly take it up to him mentally, but Djokovic will be ready.
The two-time defending champion says he has no plans to simply hand over the title and let the next generation take over.
Djokovic has most definitely had his work cut out for him this past fortnight, as he has been rocked by an abdominal injury and a five-set tussle.
Despite an injury, Djokovic has still maintained his dominance on Rod Laver Arena and shows no signs of slowing down.
“Being in this situation before many times I think helps me kind of gather all the necessary elements for me to peak at the right time, which is happening again,” said Djokovic.
It is evident both players are ready for a no holds barred battle.
Djokovic has a slight edge in the head-to-head, holding a 4-3 advantage. Despite this, Medvedev claimed their most recent meeting at the 2020 ATP Finals, 6-3, 6-3.
Both players have the strokes and firepower to claim victory, but only one can win. As previously mentioned, both players are like brick walls, who hit minimal unforced errors.
So, on the physical side of the match, will one player need to take a risk to oust the other? Or will they both stick with their game plan?
Yes, the battle will be a hard-hitting affair, wrought with exceptional offence and disciplined defence, but it’s not going to be in the physical tennis where the winner will claim victory.
It’s going to be a mental game.
Both players can whack the ball around the court, but the champion will be defined by their ability to thrive under the pressure of competition.