Does the “Big Three” continue their dominance in Grand Slams, or is this the start of a “changing of the guard?” That is the big question entering the Men’s Australian Open Final. Second-seeded Novak Djokovic looks to extend his record for most Australian Open titles to eight. It would also be his 17th Grand Slam title, moving him just two shy of Rafael Nadal and three back of Roger Federer for most all-time. Djokovic’s opponent is fifth seed Dominic Thiem, who is making his third appearance in a Grand Slam final. However, this is Thiem’s first trip to a final outside of the French Open. In each of the past two years, he has lost in the finals to Rafael Nadal.
Here is the path that each player navigated through to reach the Australian Open finals. (odds courtesy of FanDuel)
- First round: def. J. Struff 7-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1
- Second round: def. T. Ito 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
- Third Round: def. Y. Nishioka 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
- Fourth Round: def. #14 D. Schwartzman 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
- Quarterfinals: def. #32 M. Raonic 6-4, 6-3, 7-6
- Semifinals: def. #3 R. Federer 7-6, 6-4, 6-3
- First round: def. A. Mannarino 6-3, 7-5, 6-2
- Second round: def. A Bolt 6-2, 5-7, 6-7, 6-1, 6-2
- Third Round: def. #29 T. Fritz 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4
- Fourth Round: def. #10 G. Monfils 6-2, 6-4, 6-4
- Quarterfinals: def. #1 R. Nadal 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6
- Semifinals: def. #7 A. Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 7-6
Novak Djokovic (-360) vs. Dominic Thiem (+290)
It was a foregone conclusion for many heading into this tournament that Novak Djokovic was the man to beat. Given how he has dominated through the first six matches, no one would argue it is his title to lose. Djokovic was compassionate in his post-match words after the semifinals. He explained how he knew Roger Federer played hurt, and he gave him credit for gutting it out. Whether he was severely hindered or not, Djokovic’s performance was masterful. He hit 31 winners compared to just 18 unforced errors. The match took a little more than just two hours.
However, the straight-set win did not come without its drama. Djokovic was down 1-4 and 0-40 in the first set before clawing all the way back. Novak admitted that if he did not fight off those three break points, the match could have been entirely different. Federer also had a chance at 5-3 to serve for the set, but Djokovic’s top-notch return game provided a timely break. This is proof of how quickly Djokovic can flip the switch and dominate even the best players in the world.
Dominic Thiem has had an impressive run of his own. We should start calling Thiem “king of the tiebreaks” as he has won each of the last five tiebreaks he has played. That is something that should give him confidence against a player the caliber of Djokovic. If he can simply hold serve, Thiem has to like his chances in tiebreaks given his success in them of late. Holding serve against Djokovic is easier said than done. Thiem did not serve particularly well against Alexander Zverev. His first-serve percentage was just 67% for the match. He was broken five times and faced 14 break points. He will need to serve much better in the finals to have a chance.
Djokovic is no doubt confident no matter who his opponent is. However, he subconsciously might have rather faced Zverev, as Thiem has owned him of late. It may be surprising to learn that Thiem has won four of the last five meetings with Djokovic. However, three of those wins came on clay, a surface Thiem is a master on. Djokovic owns a 3-1 head-to-head record on hard courts. In all honesty, none of that may matter given how well Djokovic is playing at the moment. He is a perfect seven-for-seven when reaching an Australian final, and is the overwhelming favorite to make it eight-for-eight.
Djokovic also enjoys the advantage of having a full extra day’s rest to prepare for the final. The younger Thiem has a quicker turnaround and has also been on the court a lot more than Djokovic through the tournament. The -360 odds may be too steep for many to lay with Djokovic to win outright. Thus, to return better odds we will look deeper into the set betting lines. Thiem has been no pushover in matches with Djokovic of late. We will give Thiem enough respect to win one set, before Djokovic’s dominance proves too much.