128 men and 128 women started two weeks ago with dreams of being called Australian Open singles champions this year. We are down to just two of each. I will grade the other top players later this week. For now though, the focus is on the final matchups.
Women- (1) Serena Williams vs. (7) Angelique Kerber
Head to head- Williams leads 5-1
How they got here- Unlike last year, Serena’s march through this Grand Slam draw has been very straightforward. She has been in no real danger. In fact apart from a tight straight sets win in the first round and a close first set against Maria Sharapova in the QFs, she has not even been pushed. She made my pre event pick Aga Radwanska look like a junior player in the semis. Her serve has not been the weapon we are used to, but she has been explosive with her movement and rock solid off both the forehand and backhand wings. She is locked in on tying Steffi Graf’s modern era record of 22 Grand Slams. Kerber on the other hand has needed a Herculean effort to get to her first major final. She was down match point in the first round and had to dig deep to get past two time Aussie Open champ Victoria Azarenka in the QFs, A player she had never beaten in five previous tries. She has been a human backboard for two weeks and deserves to be here,
The matchup- Obviously, Serena is a big favorite here, but I do not see a blowout. Kerber has one win over Serena, one more than most. She plays better against tougher competition. Her lefty serve and defensive skills can frustrate Serena who will no doubt feel the pressure. It would not be a Serena Williams run through a major without at least a little drama, but I expect Serena to drag herself across the finish line, maybe on sheer will alone. Prediction: Williams in three sets.
Men: (1) Novak Djokovic vs (2) Andy Murray
Head to head- Djokovic leads 21-9
How they got here- Djokovic loves Australia. That has not changed. The five time Aussie champion has raced through the draw. With the exception of a five setter in the round of 16, he has demolished everyone. He beat Roger Federer so bad in the semis that for the first time, I think Roger’s time may have passed. The fact that Murray has reached this point to set up a rematch of last year’s final is a minor miracle. He has dealt with a lot. Actually that is a gross understatement. A wife back home in the UK ready to give birth any moment, the hospitalization of his father in law who was on site coaching Ana Ivanovic during the tournament, and two five setters Obviously, he is playing well, but it is fair to wonder what he has left.
The matchup- Two guys that play a very similar style here. Great movers who can go from defense to offense in one shot. Djokovic is just playing the style significantly better right now. He is just a machine. Murray has been so close so many times down under. He will have to wait another year. I have never seen a player play as good as Djokovic is right now. It does not matter who is on the other side of the net. Prediction: Djokovic in 4 sets.
The finals will be on Saturday and Sunday morning at 3 AM on ESPN. Ladies first up. Re airs at 9 AM on both days. Enjoy.